(Thermo)Nuclear Base Load Energy Soon?

As you unwittingly wait to board Ebola Air, let me distract you with a more palatable, albeit philosophically related, subject.

Sustainable energy means wind and PV (Photo Voltaic). Other possibilities don’t work enough to make a global dent. (At least not yet, by a long shot.)

Except maybe for tidal and current power, used in Europe since the Middle Ages (exploitation of sea currents is tested on a grand scale in Europe presently; a related possibility would be to use thermal differences in the ocean; but barnacles are a problem).

Solar thermal is controversial: it occupies so much space, zap birds, insects, etc.. Its one advantage is that the energy, heat, can be stored overnight. Geothermal works only in very few, small places (elsewhere it generates earthquakes for reasons similar to fracking).

Hydroelectric is sustainable only in conjunction with nuclear (to refill the reservoirs… Although don’t tell that to California’s empty dams).

The riddle of wind and PV, is that they work only occasionally: one needs base load power. When the sky is black grey with little wind, and it’s very cold, and it lasts for weeks, in a typical Euro weather in winter, a marais barometrique, one needs power. This is the so called “base power” (it’s supposed to be around 40% of peak demand).

Dishonest pseudo-ecologists have, in practice, pushed for fossil fuels base power (because they hate “nuclear energy”… not that they know what it is). All too many (pseudo) ecologists claim one can fight the CO2 built-up catastrophe, while having a fossil fuel base load.

That cannot work: any fossil fuel infrastructure added to the grid cost a fortune, billions of Euros and, or Dollars, for just one plant (typically with a cost around 3 billion). So one cannot add such a plant to not use it. Once built, it will be used (especially if a third of the grid capacity is made of them!)

And there is no, nor can there be, for theoretical reasons, Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). CCS is another lie. Herds of noisy pseudo-ecologists have been lying about the coming of CCS. (CCS works only in half a dozen very special places: it’s typically re-injected right away where it came from, a gas field.)

Real ecologists such as yours truly, know that there is just one ecologically correct possibility for base load energy that can be imagined at this point: nuclear power, new nuclear power. That’s what has to be developed to replace fossil fuel base energy. As I said many times, second (or the identical third) generation nuclear power plants were, are, military in disguise (they produce Plutonium, crucial for bombs). So, just on non-military-nuclear-proliferation grounds, they should be shut down.

There are plenty of fission techs that could be made safe and fruitful (including some burning nuclear waste).

And then there is thermonuclear fusion.

In nuclear fusion, light atoms combine into stable forms (mostly Helium 4) and release excess energy. There no nasty waste (as this comes from heavy nuclei). However 80% of the power is as a neutron flux. In the 1920s, it was guessed that fusion generated the power of stars.

In the 1950s, tricks were found to use the X ray light of a plutonium bomb to compress thermonuclear fuel, and heat it up to get a short, but mighty fusion: the H bomb. The first one was much more powerful than expected.

The old joke is that controlled, sustainable thermonuclear fusion has always been, and always will be, the energy of the future. However, we generate roughly 10,000 times more fusion (per unit of fuel) as we did in the 1950s (this is roughly as good a progress as the famous “Moore Law” of the doubling of the power of computer chips, every two years, but at a tiny fraction of the cost: it cost trillions to develop computer chips).

Table top sustainable thermonuclear reactors are for sale. Nuclei are accelerated, using electric attraction, collide, and fuse. Those reactors generate neutrons (neutron beams can be used for all sorts of application, including medical). At this point the efficiency of these reactors is insufficient for gainful power generation (but it’s imaginable that tweaks  to this tech could generate much more energy than it uses).

Numerous fusion concepts are being developed (although not enough). The giant ITER uses the safest technology, where a thermonuclear fuel plasma is confined by exterior magnetism. But numerous alternatives are studied.

The University of Washington, and others, claim to have made a breakthrough: computers studies would show that one can tweak the geometry of the thermonuclear fuel plasma chamber in such a way that the plasma itself would generate the magnetic field bottling it away from the walls.

That does not mean that ITER is useless. Just the opposite: ITER is developing new materials to resist the mighty thermonuclear fire… which all thermonuclear reactors will have to use.

Even the famous Skunk Works of Lockheed Martin is working in the aptly named “Revolutionary Technology Programs unit” on what it calls the compact fusion reactor (CFR). At this point, it’s a containment vessel the size of a business-jet engine.

Lockheed believes it will be small and practical enough for interplanetary spaceships, transoceanic ships and city power stations… Or even fusion power aircraft (fission nuclear-powered aircraft were tested 50 years ago). It speaks of a very quick development program, with a new proto-reactor type every year.

The world economy is faltering, in great part because the global Return On Investment (ROI) of fossil fuels is quickly getting worse.

The subsidies for fossil fuels are enormous: up to a trillion dollars, worldwide, each year.

Ecologists should push to have a small fraction of this directed towards clean, safe nuclear energy. There is no doubt that a crash program on Thorium could give efficient plants within ten years (China will have a plant next year; the problem with Thorium is not whether it can work, but simply a question of regulation and ROI; understandably private industry is leery to launch itself without governmental support).

It increasingly looks that thermonuclear fusion is a plausible alternative for base load energy, sooner than one expected even six months ago.

And now please immediately board Ebola Air. Although it does not look like it, the same mindset that will help fix Ebola, is the exact same one which calls for thermonuclear fusion. The virus, indeed, has probably mutated, to become more easily transmissible. That is pure selection of the fittest (virus) at work.

In the matter of Ebola, as in all the big issues regarding civilization, there is only one optimal way out, the same as for the European Union construction: think, solve, progress, up, up and away!

Patrice Ayme’

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12 Responses to “(Thermo)Nuclear Base Load Energy Soon?”

  1. Matthew Arnold Says:

    I was just reading a piece on new MOX breeder plants in Russia – http://rt.com/news/188332-mox-nuclear-fuel-production/ – and pondered, Patrice needs a new article on nuclear energy. I had just read your previous post 15 mins or so ago, very timely…

    Although I disagree on one point: all subsidies to fossil fuel industries should be diverted, or matched $ for $, into future fuel research.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Agreed Matthew, agreed… We apparently have ESP online… The USA, with a paltry $50 billion in direct fossil fuel subsidies is among the rare countries which can make a thermonuclear or new fission tech effort (although China and India are making determined efforts, the absence of direct efforts by the West is pathetic; specialists in France say they would have had ITER done ten years ago, had it been just a French effort… Tore Supra, also at Cadarache, was the first thermonuclear torus to achieve plasma confinement for minutes (six)… ten years ago.

      Some fuel research (algae fuel) was massively conducted by the Pentagon, and the Republican Congress got very angry… Algae fuel absorbs CO2, it’s a form of solar energy… Planes, including the F18s, and the A380 have flown on it.
      PA

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Very interesting link.
      I was against breeders in France. Not enough territory (Super Phoenix was next to the Rhone, half way between Geneva and Lyon). But Russia is a gigantic territory. I am a bit agnostic on the subject. This sort of breeder breeds Plutonium, and that’s supremely dangerous, esp. in Putin’s hands. But then, of course, it’s a lot of non-CO2 energy for ever…

      Breeders for the Thorium tech breed U233, and that’s impossible to militarize, and the waste is short lived. So that’s totally OK.

  2. dominique deux Says:

    The whole nuclear power issue is completely in the hands of high priests and prophets, on both sides. Sane analyses are buried under sediments of knee-jerk nonsense. Well… keep trying, what else?

    Pseudo-ecologists – ignoramuses who swoon at the sight of a baby seal but could not spell “ethology” – are such a hindrance I half suspect they’re at least in part in the employ of the fossil fuel parasites. Unwittingly, of course – doing anything wittingly is beyond their reach. And what they lack in grey cells they more than make up in vocal cords.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Yes, it would be really hilarious that some of the pseudo-ecologists get financed that way. This surfaced recently in the Silicon Valley. Some of the multi multibillionaires who camp as high priests of ecology, a small part of their general love of man (philanthropy), were revealed to actually finance the worst CO2 deniers. By hundreds of thousands a year. Each. Some of the finacing is in the billions. The stories got quickly buried.

      See: http://valleywag.gawker.com/facebook-and-google-disavow-the-vile-climate-deniers-th-1638572328

      There is no doubt that some of the entire nuclear lobby is financed by the fossil fuel lobby. (I came across the financing in the last few decades, but forgot the details; it’s clear that some lavish hysterical anti-nuclear sites are extremely well financed. And that includes placements in “SEARCH” engines…)

  3. Patrice Ayme Says:

    {Sent to LfD}

    We don’t need this, we don’t need that. OK, even Putin may agree. And I agree too. But the Devil is in the details.

    And the details don’t work. Yes, geothermal is a great idea. It has been tried, all over. Ask the good people of Basel; quakes. The company quaking Basel had to stop.
    Geothermal is not much better than frack that way.

    Yes, nuclear is bad. But that’s because the reactors used in japan or the USA use only 1% of the energy. The rest is called “waste”… And stored (what for? War?) Actually that “waste” could be burned again.

    Nuclear tides sounds good, but is basically dishonest; we never had such a thing. Even in Fukushima (a completely idiotic plant, where 4 reactors melted down or got destroyed because of a tsunami), we still have to see people die.

    Fossil fuel kills at least 7 million people a year. Fukushima: zero. Burning fuels, 20,000 people killed, each day. How good is your bio-fuel, Mr. Old Lamp Lighter? We don’t need no Old Lamp. I use LEDs.

  4. Patrice Ayme Says:

    [Sent to LfD.]

    Returning to land means what? Early Neolithic? Pre-Neolithic? In both cases, we need to reduce the world population by 7 billion.

  5. Paul Handover Says:

    Patrice, your reply is most valuable. Even more so when I consider what I will be writing about on Thursday and Friday. Which is essentially about the claim from the co-founder of The Weather Channel, the meteorologist John Coleman, that the change in our climate is, essentially, a natural phenomenon.
    Paul Handover
    October 27, 2014 at 15:47

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Reply

      “Climate change natural”? All right. All my thermonuclear torpedoes are ready to sink that John Coleman. “Natural” means nothing. We are “Natural”.
      And we are not talking “climate change”, we are talking CO2 CURVE.

      How big is Mr. Weather Channel’s house?

  6. Patrice Ayme Says:

    Mother Nature will reduce the population Patrice.. Along with our continued Wars, and Man-made germ warfare of that I am sure. We seem hell bent on reducing the population, so I shouldn’t worry too much!

    How are you proposing to reduce it?..

    I am sure you are a very intelligent soul Patrice and I wouldn’t even want to compare myself on an educational level with your good self.. I am merely a soul who observes and works with Nature..

    You said.. WE.. ” In both cases, we need to reduce the world population by 7 billion.” Who is WE? Those in power who make sure the haves have plenty while they look on and see Nations starve.. Or is it the pharmaceuticals who are poisoning us anyway with pills and antibiotics as our own immune systems become none existent?

    We are a species like any other on this planet.. Except we think we Own the planet.. We are mere Ants in the scheme of things! and we have seen nothing yet as to our planet evolves..Whether we evolve along with her is dependant upon how we ALL of us live with Nature and each other.. We are still such a primitive race of beings.. And Have much to learn.. We may think we are technologically advanced.. But in essence we are Killing ourselves with pesticides, radiation, additives, not to mention all the contaminated foods that are pumped full of goodness knows what..

    And why would WE want to reduce the population other than to have More for ourselves? I am sure you can and will give me the answers to this one.. 🙂 I would expect nothing less..

    You asked a Question Patrice so I will answer it.. I said ” I still think Mother Nature will force us ALL to return to the Land Paul “.. Your question was ““Returning to land” means what? Early Neolithic? Pre-Neolithic? In both cases, we need to reduce the world population by 7 billion.”

    I mean if Mother Nature has a Mega catastrophe that affects our Modern Day world of living, they our way of living will have to revert back to the Old ways of being.. meaning we will need to learn and live in harmony with the land.. ie growing our food, co-operating and sharing and a more communal frugal way of living..

    But you see for most such a catastrophe would be the end of their world.. Because no one today would live like that.. It would be chaos.. because the human race would fight for what they wanted and take it from those that had it..
    Early Neolithic! or Pre-Neolithic Maybe! either way we would become Savages!..

    While I can not change World Events.. I can live my own life more frugal.. I can recycle and conserve and grow my own food..Which I do..
    There are lots of things as individuals we could do.. But for the most part ‘we’ (being the collective) We turn a blind eye and think its not our problem.. Maybe it soon won’t be.. But one thing is for sure.. This planet has been going for billions of years.. And I am sure she will keep on going for a few more billion.. Now whether or not Mankind will still be a species upon it.. Well that’s any ones guess!
    Many thanks for asking the question..
    I just hope as I know you too like to express your opinion and I respect you have yours.. You also respect that this is mine..

    Namaste..
    Sue

    Sue Dreamwalker

    October 29, 2014 at 06:24

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Thanks you for the very long answer, Sue. I made a mistake of a type which I usually succeed to avoid: my sentence had a dual meaning.
      What I meant to say was: ““Returning to land” means what? RETURNING TO the Early Neolithic? RETURNING TO the Pre-Neolithic? In both cases, we WOULD need to reduce, TO SEE THE WORLD POPULATION COLLAPSE by 7 billion.”
      So my comment was meant to be sardonic.

      What the planet does is our business, and we can inflect it. We have to. As I show in a detailed example in “Total Plutocracy” my latest example and in several others on Google (including one Saturday), only a few hundred individuals take all the decisions.

      This is unfair, and very foolish. If we just go and cultivate our garden, we are shirking our responsibilities. Mine is to show the mental landscape. But others, even if they can’t follow all the reasonings, ought to get involved.

      I struggled mightily, giving 2 years of my life to get my friend Obama elected. If I had known what happened, I would not have done this. Now I think we should all push for direct democracy. That means, in particular, LOCAL democracy. We can all push for this.

      So we can, and we HAVE to change world event. Or a world we really don’t like will eventually come knocking.
      PA

  7. Patrice Ayme Says:

    Sent to Ian Miller Blog
    https://ianmillerblog.wordpress.com/2017/07/05/liquid-fuels-from-algae/

    I give you an A+ for correct effort! I used to talk (I’m just a talker, not a doer…) about algae fuel a lot. And hydrogen… But right now the peer reviewed journals have published articles (one from the 94 year of Goodenough, inventor of practical Lithium Ion batteries when he was at Stanford…) which claim considerable progress on Lithium GLASS batteries: fast charging, 3 times energy density, not flammable, no expensive armor, etc.)

    If the breakthrough on batteries gets confirmed, the future will be mostly batteries and electricity… Except for planes, and even then, with existing battery tech, Airbus has a program for a mid-range airliner…

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