Posts Tagged ‘Sustainable Energy’

(Thermo)Nuclear Base Load Energy Soon?

October 16, 2014

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’

Stealth Climate Deniers

April 1, 2014

The United Nations 300 top climate scientists from all over the world, came up with an alarming climate warming report: the warming is fully on, and its weird effects are showing all over, with changes in winds, the strongest hurricane ever, by a long shot, and even paradoxical situations, such as local cooling offshore, from twice stronger trade winds, causing a high pressure ridge, and a massive drought in the American West. (OK, it’s me observing the latter, not the UN, but it’s true nevertheless!)

There are two types of deniers: the grotesque ones, paid to say CO2 is good, climate has always changed, it’s not warming up, and getting more acid, and anyway, both are good. And then there are the stealth deniers.

50 Billion Tons Of CO2 Equivalent Gases Dumped In Earth’s Atmosphere, Per Year

50 Billion Tons Of CO2 Equivalent Gases Dumped In Earth’s Atmosphere, Per Year

[Observe the important role played by Methane. Although CH4 does not acidify the oceans as CO2 does.]

Stealth deniers are within, say, the media of the USA itself, under an unassuming form. The New York Times wrote several anti-deniers editorials. And yet, the Times itself is ambiguous, at best, about whether there is a CO2 problem.

Take the otherwise honorable Paul Krugman at the New York Times, the self glorified “Conscience of a Liberal”: Krugman talks to no end about providing “liquidity” to his friends the bankers and about the abysmal, pathetic pseudo-reform called Obamacare. That’s socio-economy for Krugman. (Obamacare is a dismally unimpressive tweak in the American greedy health care system that Obama himself, nowadays, tries his best to sabotage!)

However, Paul Krugman, blessed be his name, and all too many economic pundits in the USA, never, ever, talks about the most major economic issue of our times, the necessity to effect a massive transition towards sustainable energy.

By talking obsessively about minor economic issues (success! Obamacare now covers 2% of the population of the USA, 4 years after being passed into law! Sadness! Banks starving for free money so they can’t leverage, and play futures and dark pools as much as they want!), Krugman avoids the most serious of our times, and any times before those. Namely, the poisoning of the Earth, while most of the planet’s effective activities are starving for energy.

Yet, such a transition would provide with millions of jobs in the USA alone (a small and partial energy “change” in Germany provided officially with 400,000 jobs; it is a lame change, as it shot down futuristic nuclear energy solutions, though).

So what’s going on? Comments of mine making this observation were censored at the New York Times. Actually, the New York Times (supposedly left, liberal, with a conscience, blah blah blah, etc.) is shilling for fracking. “U.S. Hopes Boom in Natural Gas Can Curb Putin… by sending our surplus natural gas to Europe and Ukraine in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG), the United States …stiffen resistance to Vladimir Putin’s aggressive behavior.

Forget that the United States currently lacks a capacity to export LNG to Europe… until the 2020s… Just focus on the article’s central reportorial flaw: it fails to identify a single reason why future American LNG exports (which could wind up anywhere) would have any influence whatsoever on the Russian president’s behavior.”

Instead, the economic main stream of the USA is going full steam ahead, fracking away. The fracking is causing huge leaks of methane. It’s also impossible to speak of the USA and omit its main factory, China. The tandem of the USA and the PRC are into ever more desperate fossil fuel production. USA coal production is now sent to Germany and China… Giving a biting irony to Obama’s notion of fracking gas playing the role of a “bridge fuel“. A bridge, across the oceans, to disaster, indeed.

Ever More Fossils Burned, Most Of Them, Now.

Ever More Fossils Burned, Most Of Them, Now.

(Meanwhile the short sighted Obama proposes to reduce thermonuclear fusion research by 17%, in 2015, while giving the rich a gift of $7,500, each time they buy a car from the 7 billion dollar boy, Elon Musk; thermonuclear fusion is the one and only long term hope for sustainable energy; all other energy sources, except geothermal, which does not work, are derived from thermonuclear fusion!)

Another point I have made for years: at some point, exactly, the methane tipping point, massive amounts of methane will be catastrophically released from the oceans. Methane is already massively released from USA fracking, and from the oceans. Catastrophic release will involve tsunamis, and greatly accelerated warming. (That has happened in the North Atlantic, 7,000 years ago.) It will start suddenly. It could start tomorrow.

The media of the USA is culprit of not emphasizing that the climate problem is, first of all, an economic catastrophe, and opportunity to smash out of an unsustainable past dominated by fossil fuel plutocrats. But then most of the Main Stream Media in the USA is owned by plutocrats, partial to the present order of things, including the energetic order.

Anyway, as usual, it was an irritating pleasure to be censored by the Times: this way I know what New York plutocrats really care about, where they fear truth the most. It’s a sort of radar to detect malfeasance.

Patrice Aymé


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SoundEagle 🦅ೋღஜஇ

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Artificial Turf At French Bilingual School Berkeley

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Patterns of Meaning

Exploring the patterns of meaning that shape our world

Sean Carroll

in truth, only atoms and the void

West Hunter

Omnes vulnerant, ultima necat

GrrrGraphics on WordPress

www.grrrgraphics.com

Skulls in the Stars

The intersection of physics, optics, history and pulp fiction

Footnotes to Plato

because all (Western) philosophy consists of a series of footnotes to Plato

Patrice Ayme's Thoughts

Striving For Ever Better Thinking. Humanism Is Intelligence Unleashed. From Intelligence All Ways, Instincts & Values Flow, Even Happiness. History and Science Teach Us Not Just Humility, But Power, Smarts, And The Ways We Should Embrace. Naturam Primum Cognoscere Rerum

Learning from Dogs

Dogs are animals of integrity. We have much to learn from them.

ianmillerblog

Smile! You’re at the best WordPress.com site ever

Defense Issues

Military and general security

RobertLovesPi.net

Polyhedra, tessellations, and more.

How to Be a Stoic

an evolving guide to practical Stoicism for the 21st century

Donna Swarthout

Writer, Editor, Berliner

SoundEagle 🦅ೋღஜஇ

Where The Eagles Fly . . . . Art Science Poetry Music & Ideas

Artificial Turf At French Bilingual School Berkeley

Artificial Turf At French Bilingual School Berkeley

Patterns of Meaning

Exploring the patterns of meaning that shape our world

Sean Carroll

in truth, only atoms and the void

West Hunter

Omnes vulnerant, ultima necat

GrrrGraphics on WordPress

www.grrrgraphics.com

Skulls in the Stars

The intersection of physics, optics, history and pulp fiction

Footnotes to Plato

because all (Western) philosophy consists of a series of footnotes to Plato

Patrice Ayme's Thoughts

Striving For Ever Better Thinking. Humanism Is Intelligence Unleashed. From Intelligence All Ways, Instincts & Values Flow, Even Happiness. History and Science Teach Us Not Just Humility, But Power, Smarts, And The Ways We Should Embrace. Naturam Primum Cognoscere Rerum

Learning from Dogs

Dogs are animals of integrity. We have much to learn from them.

ianmillerblog

Smile! You’re at the best WordPress.com site ever

Defense Issues

Military and general security

RobertLovesPi.net

Polyhedra, tessellations, and more.

How to Be a Stoic

an evolving guide to practical Stoicism for the 21st century

Donna Swarthout

Writer, Editor, Berliner