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Energy Does It All
The Most Urgent Problems
The claim that nuclear power can solve our biggest problems may sound far fetched but let me share my thoughts. Before the predictions of harnessing the atom for power, as far back as 90 years ago, any such claims of energy providing solutions may have seemed dubious. What’s changed since the advent of nuclear reactor design circa 1950 is a shift toward what’s called Gen IV designs where reactors now have potential to be specifically used for applications that, up until now, required fossil fuels to provide economical production. Figuring out ways to use the byproduct heat, stimulates the imagination. It has the potential to provide numerous solutions where either heat or electricity can be applied in areas that previously were too carbon intensive and costly to satisfy new emerging clean industrial standards.
1. Ocean pH and Ocean Warming
Part of growing up over the last 60 years included, for most people, watching nature specials on TV. We caught some spectacular scenes of underwater life that demonstrated how wondrous and alien-like life in the oceans can be. More recently the internet has added vast numbers of video clips and images. One of my more memorable recent visual moments was that of the adorable tiny creature known as the Sea Butterfly also called a Pteropod. One of the endangered species caused by the oceans absorbing CO2 and changing the pH balance.
The world of home video and advances in photography have brought us high resolution and brilliant images bringing the incredible world of underwater sea life to large monitor screens. The sad part about it is that we are seeing much of this life for the first time and yet their very existence is seriously under threat of extinction in the near future.
We never imagined that during our growing up days that we had been contributing to the decline of the oceans. Over the last sixty years there has been a serious decline of ocean diversity at continuously accelerated rates. Extinctions have taken place at an alarming rate. Coral graveyards exist where life once thrived. Pteropods, Krill and Plankton are quickly disappearing. We really do have a tendency to ignore things we can’t see unless we are told they pose a direct threat. The reality is that we have it backwards. Not only are we causing climate change but we are a direct threat to the oceans. We are the invasive species. Seeking more and more energy as cheap as possible unfortunately comes at a cost to the environment because it leads to coal usage. This unfortunate choice rather than nuclear power has become a destructive invasive habit. The nearly zero risk of radiation is a very small problem by comparison. And we add to the problem with our overindulgent lifestyles. We have become pests of the Earth.
As a result of increased carbon dioxide caused by human consumption there are three things affecting near-surface life. 1) Warming, 2) acidification and 3) reduced oxygen called deoxygenation. The creatures affected most, initially, are tiny but vital to the food chain. But just as important their life cycle provides natural carbon sequestration.
Warming of the Oceans
The most obvious effects of ocean warming will be the loss of ice and therefore the creatures who thrive in these icy regions. Polar bears and penguins will go extinct.
Warmer seas also lead to melting from below of polar ice shelves, compromising their structural integrity and leading to spectacular shelf collapses. Scientists also worry that warmer water could interrupt the so-called ocean conveyor belt, the system of global currents that is largely responsible for regulating Earth’s temperature. Its collapse could trigger catastrophically rapid climate changes.
Warm seas increase the spread of invasive species and marine diseases. Temperature changes affect stability. Ecosystems that become warmer enables species or bacteria to thrive where they were once excluded leading to migrations and species extinctions.
Acidification is the Twin Tragedy of Global Warming
Ocean acidification is caused by the abundance of carbon dioxide in the air that flows from both land to coastal waters and through the air via various complex behaviours eventually absorbed into the ocean. Coal emissions and other carbon dioxide sources have already begun a mass extinction of sea life that, if left unmitigated, will potentially cause human starvation and societal collapse to countries that have become dependent on seafood.
These ocean extinctions will happen due to the increased ocean acidity and higher ocean temperatures with both being caused by carbon emissions. The harm we have been causing has barely registered in human consciousness. We can’t recognize our own neglect. We fail to see that we can make a difference by the policies we support and the habits we develop. Our perspective about energy in the west is out of touch. We have an abundance of energy, food, commodities, gadgets, etc. and going without them is rarely a concern. In the U.S. and Canada getting employment or finding a place to live is within reach for most people, especially the educated. People raised in the west are largely unaware of how different our abundance of energy compares to the hardship in places like China, Brazil, India and Africa. They are unprepared for the kind of hardship that will eventually happen in the west too.
The outcome we all gamble with is human extinction itself. This prediction, however dark, is necessary to discuss, even if the prediction turns out to be an exaggeration. Science leads us to conclude that serious consequences will bring severe hardship for much of the planet. The hardest hit will be the poorest most populated countries. Environmentalists are saying these countries must cut back on fossil fuel usage yet our economy still depends on fossil fuel while we largely ignore nuclear power. It’s not acceptable to allow future generations to pay for our neglect nor expect emerging developing countries to sacrifice their standard of living just to avoid fossil fuels.
Ocean pH is Now 8.1 – What is pH?
To get an idea of how bad current pH levels are you need to understand what pH means.
pH has a scale that ranges from 0 to 14.
14 is the most basic (alkaline) and 0 is the most acidic. An example soap is basic (pH of 9 or 10). Lemon juice has an acidity pH of 2.2. The pH scale is logarithmic so a small change is quite significant. Pure distilled water has a pH of 7. But the oceans need to be above 7 on the alkaline side to sustain life. The closer it gets to neutral or acidic in the lower numbers, the worse it gets for sea life.
The oceans have been absorbing carbon dioxide at an accelerated rate. Estimates are between 25% and 40% of all airborne CO2 since the beginning of the industrial age. The current ocean pH level is still considered basic(alkaline). When you hear that ocean acidity has gotten worse it simply means that the pH has moved lower on the scale closer to the acid levels below 7.
The current ocean pH is 8.14.
Wikipedia says back in 1751 it was 8.25. That change is 0.11 which might seem small but actually in logarithmic terms it is quite large. That represents a 29% increase in hydrogen ions. It is estimated that at current rates by 2100 it will reach .3 to .5 which would be as low as 7.64 pH. Hydrogen, which happens to be the smallest atom is the ingredient that makes water acidic by forming a compound. When carbon dioxide (CO2) combines with hydrogen it becomes carbonic acid. Once the ocean reaches a pH of 8.1 it kills shelled creatures that are vital to the food chain.
The tiny sea snails called Pteropods (sea snails or sea butterflies) are threatened with extinction in as few as 20 years at the current rate of acidification, deoxygenation and warming. They are an important food source for all larger species such as pacific salmon, whales and different kinds of ocean birds.
Liming of the Oceans
The average pH is now half way down toward the extinction point. Ocean acidity hasn’t been this high (lower pH) in 200 million years. Hydrogen, which happens to be the smallest atom is the ingredient that makes any liquid acidic by forming a compound. When carbon dioxide (CO2) combines with hydrogen it becomes carbonic acid. Carbonic acid once it reaches a pH of 8.1 kills shelled creatures that are vital to the food chain.
One proposed solution to ocean acidity is to extract a lot of lime by heating up limestone. Adding lime to the oceans is a proposed solution to use a natural cycle to sequester carbon from the oceans. The idea of lime is that it is rich in calcium and magnesium and the Energy abundance from dedicated nuclear reactors could provide heat needed to fix acidity by producing enough lime, when added, it would allow creatures who need the calcium to absorb it into their skeleton. The formation of their bones and shells naturally extracts the carbon from the water. When they die they take the carbon with them to the ocean floor. The ideal reactors would be the proposed modular factory made kind similar to what we see occurring in the assembly of the jumbo jet or shipbuilding industry. The molten salt reactors will provide an ideal versatile application-specific power source that can also double as an electricity provider where needed. This would be the first commercial application-specific reactor design to come into the market. Canada’s Terrestrial Energy and the American Thorcon are both ideal candidates.
We emit more than 30 billion tons of CO2 per year, and have an inventory of more than 1.5 trillion tons already in the air. About 1/3 has yet to be dissolved, acidifying waters. Limestone is about 1/2 CO2 and 1/2 lime. Heating it separates them and we get a ton of lime + a ton of CO2 using ~300kWHrs of heat energy.
The following quote is from Alex Cannara who has researched the subject of reversing the effects of CO2. The least invasive and ecologically friendly way to mitigate ocean acidification is described in a document he shares among his peers.
“Limestone consists of about 1/2 CO2 and 1/2 lime. Heating 2 tons of limestone separates them and we get a ton of lime + a ton of CO2 using ~300kWHrs of heat energy. So, if we’re thinking we’re going to use a lot of CO2 from lime making, we’re dead wrong — not enough for chemicals and vehicles is too small.”
“We thus must sequester the CO2 from limestone, permanently, as some groups in Iceland & WA are researching. That gives us a ton to sequester for every 300 kWHrs we make available to heat the limestone we mine. If we just compensate for our present amounts, >30 gigatons of CO2 emissions, we need to generate, with no emissions, 300 x 30 billion = 9000 GWH/year with 0 emissions. That’s 9 teraWatt Hours, or half of the entire world’s present power use.”
“If we want to start biting into the 1500 gigatons already emitted, with ~500Gt already in seas, then we obviously need to generate a bit more to process a bit more limestone, etc.”
“Carbon-neutral fuels for aircraft are probably unavoidable, but all other vehicles must be moved without emissions.”
“Therefore, we must sequester nearly all the CO2 that comes out of limestone at the rate of 1 ton per 300 kWHrs and 2 tons limestone input. Trying to capture CO2 from air, in which it’s not ~50% (as in limestone), but 0.04% is ridiculous, to quote Harry Potter.”
Dr. Cannara is essentially saying that the drastic situation calls for drastic action. It’s not enough to simply stop emitting carbon. The current ocean chemistry is not hospitable to life.
It is also important to consider that warmer oceans means less carbon absorption. Warming of the planet includes increased warming in both the air and sea. Another tipping point will occur when the ocean temperature is too high to accept more CO2. Since water temperature and reduced oxygen are also factors that are negatively affecting ocean life this is not a positive outcome. But we humans will start seeing more greenhouse effect as a result.
Trying to remove it from coal-stack exhaust, which is mostly nitrogen, may be good if the energy is available, but still a far less effective method than getting CO2 from limestone, where it was naturally sequestered long ago, and putting it back into CO2 absorbing rock permanently, while using the lime to counteract more recent emissions that are dissolving in oceans. We’re simply using the natural process of the lime cycle that’s been implemented by life forms for millions of years.
To supply the heat needed for the liming process will require a lot of energy. Nuclear energy happens to be the cleanest and most economical way and currently the only way to meet the required energy needs to create enough electricity for the kilns typically used for such operations.
Unfortunately, we’re now in a war on carbon that could have been avoided, had nuclear power been allowed to grow, as JFK instructed in 1962.
Unfortunately many of the tiny aquatic animals such as plankton and coral are hypersensitive to small temperature changes.
Coral bleaching is one of the consequences. Temperature change slows coral growth, making them susceptible to disease which can devastate ecosystems that are sustained by coral reefs.
Krill reproduce in smaller numbers at higher temperatures. This can also seriously disrupt the food chain.
The reduced oxygen is referred to as “anoxic.” This condition has not happened in the oceans for millions of years when mass extinctions ocurred. Regions called “dead zones” currently exist in over 400 locations around the world from the east coast of the United States to the Black Sea to New Zealand.
When Phytoplankton disappears so does a major oxygen source. They produce more oxygen than the land. What we don’t realize is that the ocean makes up a huge part of the life support system of the Earth. 99% of Earth’s livable space is the oceans. It should not come as a surprise that 80% of breathable oxygen comes from plankton.
Fish like the Blue Marlin are known for deep diving. In warmer areas like Guatamala and Costa Rica they have been observed to be staying closer to the surface to avoid suffocation due to the lower oxygen content of the deeper water.5-1-3
Sea levels are affected by melting ice from icebergs, ice caps, land ice and glaciers. Rising sea levels affect coastal habitats, disappearing shoreline, coastal erosion and disrepair from storms. “Sea level has risen 4.5 cm from 1993 to 2008 at a rate of approximately 3 mm/yr.” 5-1-4
Expanded water molecules from temperature increase also plays a role in sea rise.
Higher ocean temperatures create stronger and more frequent tropical storms, hurricanes and cyclones. These stronger storms not only affect human habitats but wildlife habitats and the more frequent storms mean less time to recover.
Generating electricity contributes 31% of carbon dioxide and transportation is a close second at 27%. That means that human activity has a lot to do with CO2’s creation. The chart on the right indicates part of the reason why CO2 is the main focus of controlling climate change. But we can’t ignore that, although methane is 14% of the total content, it is 25 times more powerful in trapping heat in our atmosphere.
2013 sources of CO2 by sector in USA
World Greenhouse Gases by percentage
In 2014 it was estimated that 40 billion tons of CO2 were released (~36 billion metric tons).
Will It Continue?
As the oceans increase in temperature they lose their ability to absorb carbon dioxide. This is another tipping point we must expect and try to prevent. The only way to reduce ocean temperatures is to dramatically reign in our emission of greenhouse gases. However, even if we immediately dropped carbon dioxide emissions to zero, the gases we’ve already released would take centuries or longer to level off temperature increases.
2. Weather Extremes
How energy policy is getting it wrong. – It’s about reliability
The “all of the above” policy chosen by President Obama is far too simplistic. With more extreme weather events happening all the time now keeping within the required indoor temperature depends on whether electricity is available. Thinking about the naive environmrntalist who is seduced into believing that renewable energy can do it all worries me. What happens to a community that depends totally on wind or solar when the weather does not provide enough wind or sun. Here’s where energy abundance can save lives from freezing cold or over heating.
What is Baseload Power?
Baseload power is something we take for granted. Power that is available twenty-four-seven. If you follow the news you will notice some regions (that frequently experience weather extremes) have been fighting to eliminate nuclear energy (their main sources of baseload power) and replace them with renewable energy. Nuclear energy, coal, natural gas, oil, wood and biofuel are all source of baseload power. They all contribute energy around the clock where-ever they are used. Yet if we are to eliminate CO2 we need more nuclear power, not less. Places like California, Germany, Wisconsin and Quebec have all shut down perfectly good nuclear reactors.
Nuclear energy comes from a fuel that is not fossil-based, is of relatively low cost, and is abundant. U.S. nuclear energy plants use a low-enriched form of uranium (U-235) for fuel. Canada can function on low enriched fuel with their enhancement of using heavy water. Uranium is a relatively abundant element that occurs naturally and that is about as common on Earth as is tin. In 2002, 16 countries produced more than 99 percent of the world’s uranium, with Canada and Australia counting for about half of the world’s production.
Recently it has been reported that we can effectively extract uranium from ocean water. In fact there is so much of it that all of Earth’s needs could be met until the Earth ends it’s remaining 7.5 billion years.5-2-1
Compared to natural gas, uranium is relatively low in price and is less sensitive to fuel price increases—only 0.2 cents of the overall production cost is due to the cost of uranium, while 83 percent of the cost of electricity from gas is due to the cost of natural gas. It does not take much uranium to power a plant from a volume standpoint: one pellet of uranium—the size of the tip of an adult’s little finger—is the equivalent of 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas, 1,780 pounds of coal or 149 gallons of oil. Nuclear energy is not dependent on unstable foreign suppliers; North America has abundant sources of uranium.
Nuclear plants are not vulnerable to weather fluctuations or climate conditions. These large units, which run for extended periods, supply electricity—called “baseload generation”—day and night, often only shutting down for refueling every 18-24 months. (note: CANDUs can refuel without shutting down) While nuclear plants are as environmentally clean as plants driven with wind and solar power, nuclear plants do not rely on wind conditions or on the sun shining to do their jobs, and they occupy much less land based on comparable generation output. Continued plant modernization means there is no such thing as an “old” plant.
Although the oldest existing U.S. commercial plant went online in 1969 (In Canada 1971), there is no “old” nuclear plant. Systems are constantly upgraded or replaced to ensure all plants operate with the highest reliability. Additionally, nuclear power plants are valuable assets to their owners because their initial license period can be extended. The initial license period of 40 years can be renewed for an additional 20 or more. This means that operators have incentives to keep their plants in top operating shape and maintain safety margins.
Hurricanes, tornadoes, freezing rain, sudden rain-induced floods, dry spells, heat waves, cold spells, blizzards, you name it we have seen an increase in extreme weather.
Hurricane Sandy, Katrina, Hazel
My earliest memory of a hurricane was Hurricane Hazel in 1957?. If you were one of the unlucky ones your home was flooded and in a few cases whole households swept away.
Hurricanes and tornadoes have been striking in the usual places but also in places you don’t normally hear about. In 2009 three unlucky Americans from Oklahoma were fishing at a cottage in Georgian Bay, Ontario. Not unheard of, but strangely ironic, a tornado caused the deaths of three friends, away from their tornado ridden home turf, when the entire cottage was dragged into the water by the severe freak weather.
The Growing Need for Cooling and Heating
As two opposing movements grow, we are seeing on one hand the West’s preoccupation with renewable energy which is poised to bring us blackouts, and on the other hand the East’s and the developing world’s quest to modernize and gain economic freedom. As a result we are seeing, ironically, more usage of fossil fuel for energy. Both situations are bringing about the growth of coal and natural gas.
Another contradiction is that places like Toronto and New York are seeing the Polar Vortex that shifts erratically where cold weather occurs. We are witnessing places like Toronto getting zero Celsius weather and Yellowknife having 22 Celsius. This puts a demand on electricity at times when they are not accustomed.5-2-2
The West has a preoccupation with wind turbines and solar panels which are proving to provide far less power than was once predicted. The shortfall of power from their unreliability has forced some countries such as Germany to build more coal plants and mine for more coal, especially since the shutdown of several nuclear reactors. The US has a president promoting coal as well as the Natural Gas crusade in the name of energy independence.
India and China have been proliferating numerous comparatively cheap coal plants for decades in an unprecedented effort to bring the poor out of poverty.
Summer 2006 Issue (Energy Reality)
We get some spectacularly cold January and February weather in Canada and northern parts of the U.S. We need to heat our homes to survive. We have been getting freak winter storms in recent years. My story was before the worst cold but still pretty bad.
Diary of an Ice Storm Blackout (from Energy Reality Blog Dec 23/14)
Toronto needs reliable power.
Apply pressure at all gov. levels to upgrade.
Recent power outages are outrageous.
I’m not sure what is worse. Sitting alone at a table for two in a very noisy bar waiting for my phone to charge or going home to a dark apartment with a flashlight and candles.
I am sitting at one of the noisiest bars in Toronto. I am here on a Sunday night two days before Christmas because the power is out for the 4th time in 3 years. Yet this lively bar, across the street from where I live has had all its power all day. Why do the stores along Bloor on both sides all have power? The power infrastructure in Ontario is seriously out of date.
The temperature is hovering around freezing but will get colder tomorrow. Many of the locals have so much ice on their cars that they gave up on de-icing. I spoke to Steve Foster, my new friend from Barrie, who has power yet 300 thousand others need to wait a few days while Christmas is around the corner. Steve said Barrie has no visible power lines (meaning they have been wisely buried underground). Why we continue to suffer 19th century style inconveniences has to do with mismanaged government at all levels.
Extreme weather is no longer a freak event. We should expect these events to happen. I see no reason why we should suffer or worse, have our lives threatened. The cold, if not prepared for properly, can be lethal.
We also need to update our power facilities so that they don’t flood in extreme weather like what happened July 2013. What is really ironic is that I’m sitting right across from a wall of 100 year old enlarged black and white photos of my neighbourhood. If it was 1913 I might have electricity right now.
1913 – King and Yonge – Toronto
Jacques Boissinot/CP PHOTO
How much business is lost on account of power failures?
How much business is lost on account of power failures?
Each year the US loses over $100 Billion due to power failures5-2-4. Ontario’s losses must be in the $billions. Besides robbing us of our rights to normal comforts we also lose business.
Our power infrastructure is also expensive and less reliable because we are forced by law to include wind and solar energy into our grid. We need to subsidize the unreliable, “natural gas” dependent so-called “renewables” because of a perceived need for an “all of the above” energy mix. Our energy bills are higher because of this idealist yet proven-to-fail method of powering the grid has become the norm.
Germany now has the highest electricity rates in Europe because they have decided to go “green” and discontinue nuclear energy. Germany has been forced to increase the building of coal plants to make up for the lost nuclear energy. Italy will face the same consequences. Just like California who shut down San Onofre Nuclear Plant over irrational fears over a possible accident their energy bills have gone sky high. An interesting fact is that the worst ice-storm in Ontario’s history did not affect the nuclear plants at all.
It is always a good time to put pressure on all three levels of government to upgrade our power system. i.e. put power lines underground and make the power stations flood proof and allow new build of nuclear to replace the plants that will be decommissioned because of age. However refurbishing nuclear plants have been very successful in Ontario.
(end of blog post)
3. Nuclear Energy and Energy Efficiency
The usual argument in favour of reduced energy consumption is the reduction of fossil fuels that create the energy. There are several things that appear environmentally friendly but when you follow the energy source they provide little benefit in carbon reduction. The electric vehicles are to some an environmental dream but in reality they are only beneficial if they are charged with electricity produced nuclear energy or hydro.
Required indoor temperature control can be better controlled with improved upgrades to air leaks and insulation. Home fortification also makes sense in view of an increase in powerful storms.
Energy abundance will not only save lives from freezing cold or overheating but eventually end energy poverty.
Highest temperature ever recorded on Earth was 59 C. 54 C occurred in August 2015 Middle East in Bahsra.
The toll on health is complicated by disease and clean water shortages.
The costs of damages from hurricanes and other events.
What is arguably the most controversial fact when discussing renewable energy is that Nuclear Plants use Uranium. Uranium is viewed by many as the demon ingredient by those who don’t investigate the facts. It has been a concern in the recent past that we will run into Uranium shortages. But now we have a technique for extracting Uranium from seawater. This makes it renewable for as long as the Earth shall live.5-3-1
4. Water Scarcity
Water, like air, is a limited resource on the planet. It is logical that we keep it free of pollution as much as possible. But we are witnessing severe droughts with record high temperatures springing up all over the world. Droughts mean there are shortages of water for basic household living, industry, public spaces, sewage etc. Typically droughts follow extreme temperatures.
Over 30 U.S. states are now very close to drought conditions. California needs to ration water and there are legal restrictions on how often they flush their toilets. Texas is now the driest region.
The Green Blue Book by Thomas M. Kostigen is a guide to saving fresh water. In the book you will see dozens of estimates of how much water is used in the process of getting various products to market to wisely handle how to conserve fresh water.
Water Supply and Water Quality
Exploration of underground wells began and the water table became widely used. Groundwater is normally replenished by rain. Many American states depend heavily on groundwater. Water usage has been strained and is not being replenished fast enough both from overuse and dry spells. Fracking has started to affect the water quality5-4-2 nationwide in the United States.
Drought in California
California has a number of farms that require large amounts of water. Being on the ocean makes desalination seem like an obvious solution. But it is a power intensive process and for both economic and environmental reasons we want the production of fresh water to be clean and affordable. However, desalination has been a part of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant’s desire for their own fresh water until drought became a serious need. Additional supply was in the plans to supply xxx homes. Oddly the NIMBYs (groups who say “not in my backyard”) and other special interest groups interfere with solutions from taking place. Israel successfully turned their economy and well being by building water desalination plants. When Americans settled in the interior there were vast areas that had no access to water. They learned to access the water table which is now in danger of drying up. Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant, the last Nuclear plant in the State of California has been producing fresh water through a reverse osmosis process. General Electric runs the plant.
You can supply 2.5 million people with fresh water using a 200MWe reactor to desalinate ocean water.
Droughts / Flooding
The World Health Organization says that floods are the natural disasters having the greatest impact on human health. The activities of the climate summits puts on a humanitarian face. They explore ways to mitigate the effects of climate change. Things like preventing the spread of disease, better evacuation procedures etc. Probably more than finding solutions. One of modern civilizations signs of broken down too little too late solutions.
How can energy stop that? Many people don’t get the seriousness of global warming. The carbon dioxide has already accumulated and is in a constant process of doing its damage. We see it in the form of weather extremes. If we want less drought and less flooding we need to not only stop the rise of CO2 but reverse it. That will require geoengineering.5-4-3
We discussed desalination and we discussed lime creation these are both types of geoengineering but what about our behavior towards responsible sustainable behavior.
Freedom to farm, mine, manufacture, distribute and profit from commerce are factors that have played a role. But we are seeing resources becoming more significant. Climate change has made matters worse. The middle east is becoming a drought zone. Water is scarce.
5. Poverty, Literacy and Population
Smaller gap between rich and poor.
India compared to US.
Aim High presentation by Robert Hargraves (video)
Robert Hargraves makes a convincing argument that MSRs will lower the worlds population by first bringing prosperity and therefore education.
energy=>industry=>jobs=>education=>birth control=>population control
“Oak Ridge first developed molten salt reactor technology in 1958-1976. Thorium fuel is transformed to uranium-233 which fissions, producing heat and electric power at a cost less than that from coal power plants — the only way to dissuade developing nations from burning coal. Thorium produces less than 1% of the long-lived radioactive waste of today’s nuclear power plants. Existing nuclear power plant waste can be consumed. One ton of plentiful thorium costing $300,000 provides 1 GW-year of electric energy, enough for a city. A 5-year NASA-style shoot-the-moon project can complete technology development of this inexpensive, safe, clean power.”
Robert Hargraves’ Aim High. Book on Amazon – less than $10.00
As we’ve been saying, the benefits of building nuclear plants has many parallel benefits.
The number of jobs they provide is enormous. Apart from being clean energy the surplus of heat can be diverted for industrial purposes. Besides providing jobs by creating spinoff industry there is cheap electricity and process heat to be used for the community and industry benefit.
6. Food Supply
Oceans provide 20% of the world’s protein. As discussed, huge quantities of energy are needed to make lime that can reduce ocean acidity.
Mentioned earlier fish that are a significant supply of the world’s food supply may go extinct without mitigation into the ocean’s pH levels. Lowering the carbonic acid content can be done with adding lime and nutrients such as iron that helps algae thrive.
Vertical farms with controlled environments can produce high yields of food. But these farms require a lot of energy. Nuclear is well suited.
MSRs are easily scalable and distributable.
Vertical farms exist around the world and demonstrate that there will be local produce in controlled conditions. With predictions of mass movement into cities because of the uninhabitable rural life brought about by climate change it will become harder to live and even survive. The idea was proposed by architects and some of the ideas were developed by futurists like Despommier. Ecomodernists and visionaries like James Lovelock and Buckminster Fuller have contributed to the concepts being adapted for modern living.
GMOs are another trendy thing to hate.
Half the forests can be saved because burning wood is not needed if abundant cheap energy is available.
Deforestation is affecting CO2. Deforestation is typically done to make more land available for housing and urbanization, timber, large scale cash crops such as soy and palm oil, and cattle ranching. The World Wildlife Fund reports that much of the logging industry that contributes to deforestation is done illegally (about half of it used for firewood).
The use of firewood for heat is essential to regions with no power lines to deliver electricity.
– half of the trees illegally removed from forests are used as fuel
What about the legally removed ones?
-An estimated 18 million acres (7.3 million hectares) of forest, which is roughly the size of the country of Panama, are lost each year (permanently).
-Countries with significant deforestation -Indonesia, Brazil, Thailand, Congo and other parts of Africa, parts of Eastern Europe.
– Indonesia has lost at least 15.79 million hectares of forest land
– 90 percent of continental United States’ indigenous forest has been removed since 1600.
-the world’s remaining indigenous forest is located in Canada, Alaska, Russia and the Northwestern Amazon basin.
-Forest loss contributes between 6 percent and 12 percent of annual global carbon dioxide emissions
-About 36 football fields worth of trees lost every minute
– Deforestation is the second largest anthropogenic (human-caused) source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, ranging between 6 percent and 17 percent. (Van Der Werf, G. R. et al., 2009)
– added water vapor (greengouse gas) is also significant
8. Polar Ice Caps Melting
What about the ice caps and glaciers melting? Can we bring back freezing of the polar ice caps by stopping the CO2? Reverse warming?
The logic here is simple. Fix CO2 problem reduce warming.
Cold water holds more CO2 than warm water. Significance?
Are the polar bears dying or moving south? Polar Bears live in 19 different areas within five countries Canada, the USA, Greenland, Norway and Russia which all share parts of the Arctic Circle. Eight of the those groups are in decline, three are stable and several others have not been observed close enough to say.
Some radical ideas have been suggested such as putting white dye in the ocean to reflect sunlight.
9. Cleaner Air, Cleaner Water
Air pollution kills. What are the worst offenders? Coal burning releases numerous toxins. Mercury, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide (ozone)
One of the worst offenders of air pollution happens where the poor have limited access to electricity and heat. The common indoor air pollution deaths are from burning dung that is processed in square packages at prices much lower than any other burnable fuel.
“The crisis has, however, spurred intense research in water de-contamination techniques. How to ensure tens of millions of people arsenic-free drinking water when their water supply comes from wells, many of them rich in arsenic.”
How many Bangladeshi are exposed to a high level of arsenic? Estimates vary from a low of 28-35 million to a high of 77 million, more than half the population of the country.
The Bangladeshi are being poisoned by drinking well water, usually without knowing it. Only three decades ago health and development experts, and small local contractors, dug between 7-11 million deep tube wells throughout Bangladesh. The experts encouraged the whole nation to drink well water because it was safe. It was free of the bacteria that caused water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea and other intestinal maladies that have long plagued tropical Bangladesh.
Ironically, the people of Bangladesh exchanged water-borne diseases for arsenicosis. In the 1970s public health specialists and government policy-makers did not think of arsenic. It was only in 1993 that the “clean” well water was discovered to contain dangerous quantities of the poison.
Arsenicosis can cause skin cancer as well as cancers of the bladder, kidney and lung, and diseases of the blood vessels of the legs and feet, and possibly diabetes, high blood pressure and reproductive disorders.
WHO’s most recent guideline for a maximum amount of arsenic in drinking water recommends 10 parts per billion (ppb). That was in 1993 when it was lowered to that level from 50 ppb. A new guideline is anticipated in 2003. But most water that is drunk in arsenic affected areas in Bangladesh has substantially higher levels, frequently far above 50 ppb.
Arsenic-contaminated water is not restricted to developing countries. In the western states of the United States of America about 13 million people drink arsenic-tainted water, albeit less contaminated than the well water in Bangladesh. Australia, too, has arsenic-contaminated water. So do Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Hungary, Mexico, Taiwan (Province of China), Thailand, Viet Nam, and the eastern areas of India in Bengal.
“Unfortunately,” says WHO sanitary engineer, Hiroki Hashizume, a Japanese expert on arsenic, “it is virtually impossible, with present measurement techniques, especially in the developing world, to measure quantities below 10 ppb. When drinking water guidelines or national standards are established, careful attention has to be paid to analytical capability, arsenic removal technology, etc., to ensure that the levels are really achieved. Since the principal health gain comes from targeting those most exposed to arsenic poisoning, using an intermediate target of 50 ppb, until a lower target can be achieved, would already improve people’s health given Bangladesh’s limitations.
“Another unfortunate and complicating fact about arsenic poisoning,” Hiroki Hashizume adds, “is that it generally takes from seven to 10 years, sometimes longer, for the disease to be recognized. When it finally is, it may be too late to treat.”
water treatment in wells and rivers etc.
Preparing, planning and training staff will be a priority for health and welfare. Their priorities need to be ready since the diasters are increasing and really happening.
Prevention and mitigation of the actual weather extremes and can only happen by reversing the damage humans have done. Taking a shot at reducing CO2 will be a major challenge and geoengineering will be needed.
10. Preventing Resource Wars and Mass Migration
Poverty explains why such civil discontent is tied to freedoms and rights abuses. The Arab Spring was triggered mostly by human rights abuses but a lesser known cause is the record high temperatures. The uprisings, protests and battles spread rapidly. Yet you would think that the wealth of some of the middle eastern countries would be able to provide for their countries what is needed. Clearly class, privilege and religion matters. Priorities by governments serve the privileged like many places.
How Abundant Energy Can Lessen Wars, Militarization and Terrorism
In The Middle East Israel has set the standard for a state of the art desalination facility. They unfortunately have chosen fossil fuels to power the facility.
But most of the middle east needs desalination plants. Nuclear power provides the way.
Defense, Budget, Weapons
Weapons will be less needed if the earth has less overall problems.
The logic here is simple. Abundant, low cost nuclear energy from nuclear reactors such as MSRs will provide more independence for nations making them more self sustaining. Weapons will be less needed if the earth has less overall problems
Chapter 5 covers the history of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy in parallel.
When you read about wars a lot of speculation about the purpose behind the wars is given but often missing the real cause of wars. There is no doubt that war provides profits and cash flow for USA and Russia. When places like Syria, Iraq and Turkey enter into regime wars we know that the guns, ammunitions and other weapons have two main suppliers.
Terrorism is rarely justified but its roots lie in the discontent of citizens feeling abused, restricted, dominated or enslaved.
We have been having fewer battles with the military in recent years but this lull is probably temporary. The real shortages are just starting. Water, oil, food, electricity, jobs, farm land, commodities and lifestyle is mounting as frustration increases.
We have seen the “weapons of mass destruction” as a fabrication to invade Iraq. The Gulf wars happened for several reasons.
Interesting bit of history on how nuclear plants can be dual purpose.
There was the now closed Stade Nuclear Power Plant in Germany that provided heat to extract salt from sea water.5-10
More recently and still active, but to be shut down in 2025, is the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant Desalination Plant.
Note that Stade excess heat was used to extract the salt
however in the case of Diablo it is electricity that powers the pumps for reverse osmosis using membranes to filter the sea water.
This article explains how it works: https://www.sanluisobispo.com/ne…/local/article39536280.html
11. Industrial Applications
The possibilities for expansion of various industries to will both provide employment and boost the economy when they come into play.
Pulp and Paper is Energy Intensive
Pulp and paper need huge amounts of energy. The U.S. DOE reports, “In 2002, the paper manufacturing industry consumed over 2.4 quads (quadrillion or 1015 Btu) of energy … and represented over 15% of U.S. manufacturing energy use.” (http://www1.eere.energy.gov/industry/forest/pdfs/pulppaper_profile.pdf) Purchased electricity and on-site use of coal, gas, and fuel oil are major costs often needed. With the likely charges for carbon emissions, world demand for energy might surpass available power. Nuclear could clearly come to the rescue.
Steel and Concrete
When the 2030s prove to be booming years of economic growth it will be partly due to Small Modular Reactors being employed as hybrid or dedicated energy or process heat providers for essential industries like steel and coal. One of the false arguments anti-nuclear environmentalists often claim is the idea that supposedly we need to look at the full life cycle of Nuclear Power Plants to get a fair estimate of their carbon footprint. They typically cite the need for carbon intensive construction using steel and concrete. The argument is very weak considering that the energy that would otherwise be needed are also equally carbon intensive, or much worse in the case of wind and solar, on a Kwh to Kwh basis. But at least they understand that concrete and steel require coal for processing. In the case of using scrap metal Electric Arc Furnaces have become popular.
As you may conclude, any high demand electricity process benefits from abundant, clean, carbon-free energy source such as nuclear energy.
Glass, cement, iron, hydrogen, ethylene, styrene,petroleum refineries, low octane fuel for jets, cargo and cruise ships, desalination,
Emission absorbing concrete
Italian company Italcementi designed a kind of cement that is supposedly alleviating air pollution by breaking down pollutants that come in contact with the concrete, through the use of titanium dioxide absorbing ultraviolet light. Some environmental experts nevertheless remain skeptical and wonder if the special material can ‘eat’ enough pollutants to make it financially viable. Jubilee Church in Rome is built from this kind of concrete.
Another proposed method of absorbing emissions is to absorb CO2 in the curing process. Recent research has proposed the use of an admixture (a dicalcium silicate y phase) that absorbs CO2 as the concrete cures. With the use of coal ash or another suitable substitute, this concrete could theoretically have a CO2 emissions below 0 kg/m3, compared to normal concrete at 400 kg/m3. The most effective method of production of this concrete would be using the exhaust gas of a power plant, where an isolated chamber could control temperature and humidity. Even besides the use of advanced additives, carbonation naturally occurs within concrete, thus causing it to absorb CO2 in a process that is effectively the reverse of cement production. While concerns about corrosion of reinforcement and alkalinity loss remain, this process cannot be discounted.
In August 2019, a reduced CO2 cement was announced which “reduces the overall carbon footprint in precast concrete by 70%.”_____”
Solutions and Conclusions
“The free market has a glaring blindspot it ignores the cost of commerce’s destruction or consumption of nature itself, the planet’s common.” – Daniel Goleman – Ecological Intelligence
The common obstacles to fixing all of these problems are a lack of cooperation and a lack of awareness. Turn it around you can say education and unification are missing. We are victims of the intrusion of corporate and elite interests and we have come to learn that our opinion matters if any change for good is at all possible.
The voting system needs reform too because people vote like they bet on the horse races. It should not be the candidate that has the best chance of winning but the candidate that you believe is best for the job. But politicians still care about getting support so if more people express their wishes to make nuclear energy a priority they will start to listen.
One of the least explored topics about climate change is the existing backlog of CO2. That is sort of like credit card debt. Hard to reverse when you’re poor. It sits there like a threat that will possibly force you into bankruptcy. You could view it as the climate change equivalent of bankruptcy. Perhaps it would be more productive to compare it to the national debt. Cutbacks on spending and fixing inflation are the only ways to reverse it. When enough of the CO2 finally converts to carbonic acid passing 8.1 pH you could call that going past your credit limit. The debt ceiling and the cliff come to mind.
The twin tragedies of climate change and ocean acidification are epic problems and they need to be tackled in all ways possible. However we should not exclude solutions at the expense of others but we do need to recognize what solutions are the most effective and focus on them if we can.
Unfortunately we have learned that getting cooperation to work on solutions is very difficult however necessary. With government spending the way it is being strained by weather disasters and the effects of climate change there is more need for cooperation than ever. We are discovering that the fabric of society is being challenged by capitalism and the corporate model because the absence of profit prevents action. Couple that with a widespread western trend of austerity limiting government spending and you have a potent mix of destabilizing influences. The need for cooperation and leadership is becoming paramount.
Affordable emission free energy that is also abundant and reliable comes in only one kind of package right now and that is nuclear power. It can contribute a lot to making these problems smaller. It is affordable and plentiful, reliable energy that can double as industry apps for things like desalinization, lime creation, sewage treatment, low emitting liquid fuels. Nuclear energy is the most scalable and easy to adapt to industrial process as well as electricity. Generation IV reactors have been held back for far too long. They could start within 5-7 years.
77 million have-nots in India use kerosene for lighting their homes. The problem is in rural areas where 44 percent of the households don’t even have electricity.
Energy is so important that in my view failure to engage all people about the future of energy is failure to save the planet.
Chapter Four Footnotes
5-1-2Is Ocean Acidification an Open-Ocean Syndrome? Understanding Anthropogenic Impacts on Seawater pH
5-1-3Climate Change Is Suffocating Large Parts of the Ocean
5-1-4Sea level rise, explained – National Geographic – by Christina Nunez
5-2-3The Conquest of Climate by Will Boivert – Progress and Peril Feb. 23, 2018
5-2-4BLACKOUT:Extreme Weather, Climate Change and Power Outages By Alyson Kenward, PhD, and Urooj Raja – Climate Central 2014
5-4-1The Green Blue Book: The Simple Water-Savings Guide to Everything in Your Life by Thomas M. Kostigen (quote shows on Amazon listing)
5-4-3Why Solar Geoengineering May Be Our Only Hope To Reverse Global Warming – by James Conca – Forbes – Sept. 10, 2019
pie charts from EPA website
Fertilizing the ocean with iron
The ocean as a sink for anthropogenic CO2
As soon as CO2 migrates from the atmosphere into the water, it can react chemically with water molecules to form carbonic acid, which causes a shift in the concentrations of the hydrogen carbonate (HCO3-) and carbonate (CO32-) ions, which are derived from the carbonic acid. Because carbon dioxide is thus immediately processed in the sea, the CO2 capacity of the oceans is ten times higher than that of freshwater, and they therefore can absorb large quantities of it. Scientists refer to this kind of assimilation of CO2 as a sink. The ocean absorbs human-made atmospheric CO2, and this special property of seawater is primarily attributable to carbonation, which, at 10 per cent, represents a significant proportion of the dissolved inorganic carbon in the ocean. In the ocean, the carbon dissolved in the form of CO2, bicarbonate and carbonate is referred to as inorganic carbon. When a new carbon equilibrium between the atmosphere and the world ocean is re-established in the future, then the oceanic reservoir will have assimilated around 80 per cent of the anthropogenic CO2 from the atmosphere, primarily due to the reaction with carbonate. The buffering effect of deep-sea calcium carbonate sediments is also important. These ancient carbonates neutralize large amounts of CO2 by reacting with it, and dissolving to some extent. Thanks to these processes, the oceans could ultimately absorb around 95 per cent of the anthropogenic emissions. Because of the slow mixing of the ocean, however, it would take centuries before equilibrium is established. The very gradual buffering of CO2 by the reaction with carbonate sediments might even take millennia. For today’s situation this means that a marked carbon disequilibrium between the ocean and atmosphere will continue to exist for the decades and centuries to come. The world ocean cannot absorb the greenhouse gas as rapidly as it is emitted into the atmosphere by humans. The absorptive capacity of the oceans through chemical processes in the water is directly dependent on the rate of mixing in the world ocean. The current oceanic uptake of CO2 thus lags significantly behind its chemical capacity as the present-day CO2 emissions occur much faster than they can be processed by the ocean.