208. URANIUM FROM SEAWATER (PART 2)
Continuing from the previous article (#207)...
Quantoken brought up some issues about U238 and U235, so first let's get clear on that point. These are the facts:
- Natural uranium (yellow cake) is made up of 99.3% U238, and 0.7% U235, and only the latter is directly fissionable. So quantoken is right that a kilogram of uranium harvested from the sea contains only about 7 grams of U235, which is the actual fuel in a conventional reactor.
- Reactor fuel is comprised of 3-5% U235.
- The following illustration shows what 25 tons of reactor fuel (3-5% U235) can do (click to enlarge):
- "One ton of natural uranium can produce more than 40 million kilowatt-hours of electricity. This is equivalent to burning 16,000 tons of coal or 80,000 barrels of oil." Source
More detail on the economics is provided by a Russian website, which has an English translation of a technical report by the JAERI group. This report gives a detailed cost analysis for a system capable of meeting one-tenth of Japan's electrical power needs, and concludes:
The recovery cost was estimated to be 5-10 times of that from mining uranium. More than 80% of the total cost was occupied by the cost for marine equipment for mooring the adsorbents in seawater, which is owning to a weight of metal cage for adsorbents. Thus, the cost can be reduced to half by the reduction of the equipment weight to 1/4.So high costs come from an unexpected direction: construction of mooring. The paper describes the issues:
Each of the recovery systems investigated here is based upon using a layered adsorbent in the form of polymeric nonwoven and mooring in seawater after insertion of such adsorbent into a stainless steel cage. As a result, about 80% of cost is for mooring even though costs very according to the mooring method. This is due to construction spending for mooring the large mass of adsorption beds. This adsorbent has a specific gravity equivalent to that of seawater and has no net weight within seawater itself. However, weight of the metal cage occupies the majority of the weight of the adsorption bead of Figure 4, so weight is particularly imparted in seawater only by the metal. For example, in the case of the chain-binding method after pulling up, it is estimated that mooring cost declines to 62% if weight of this adsorption bed can be lowered by 50%, and mooring cost declines to 42% when weight can be lowered to 25%. Therefore uranium recovery cost may possibly be greatly lowered if a light cage material is used in place of the metal mesh of stainless steel. Also since this adsorbent was obtained in a length-wise continuous cloth-like form, if a method of mounting other than the assumed insertion into a cage as shown in Figure 4 is used (e.g., if a method is adopted of supporting the multiple adsorbent sheets streaming in the current), then an entirely different method would be is used for mooring than that utilized here.Clearly this technology, while totally practical and proven, is at a very early stage of development, and costs could be slashed in a number of obvious ways (i.e. piggybacking the equipment on other moorings like offshore windmills, switching the cages to a plastic with a specific gravity closer to water, or anchoring the sheets with light, high-strength fibers rather than cages and ropes).
Also, even assuming that we use the JAERI system as is, with a worst case uranium price 10 times that of land mining, uranium oxide comprises only a small fraction of the retail price of electricity. It accounts for 32% of the cost of nuclear fuel (Source), and nuclear fuel only comprises 20% of the total cost of nuclear power plant operation (Source). Thus uranium accounts for at most 6% of the final electrical bill. So if your current electric rate in the U.S. is $0.08/kwh, a switch to sea uranium would raise your electric rate to about $0.12/kwh. That's hardly an "end of civilization" price rise, and indeed is still just half the current retail price of electricity in Japan: $0.25/kwh (Source).
The above shows that cost will not be a significant barrier in harvesting uranium from seawater. So how much is out there? A lot:
Thus the amount of uranium in seawater was calculated and the results showed that the Black Current off Japan carries approximately 5.2 million tons a year. This amount is equivalent to the earth's remaining inventory of this ore. At present, Japan consumes about 6,000 tons of uranium per year. So even if only 0.1 percent of what flows along Japan can be recovered, the domestic demand for uranium can be supplied, and that is why I have continued to propose taking advantage of the uranium in seawater as an energy resource. Source
-- by JD
Hi JD ...
Seems you found the russian site before I had a chance to post it.
It is important for people to realise the significance of using uranium (from any source) inside breeder reactors.
The 6000 tons that Japan currently consumes (are you sure about this number? it seems a little bit low) are used in a horribly inefficient manner. Reprocessing will only allow one to utilize an additional 0.25% of the energy potential of a given amount of uranium. Even with reprocesseing we only unlock <1% of the potential of the fuel. Going to breeder reactors (of the Monju / Phoenix type) will increase the energy we gain by a factor of 60 (sixty). And the MSBR can potentially increase the utilization efficiency by a factor of x120-140.
People need to consider the implication of these numbers ....
In a nuclear industrial ecology setup the energy generated by 6000 tons would be equivalent to the energy unleashed by 360000-840000 tons of uranium in a LWR setup.
Currently the global nuclear industry consumes 68000 tons of uranium to generate 6-7% of the total primary energy (this includes contributions from nuclear, fossil fuels, wind, hydro, biomass etc). If used in a breeder reactor setup 68000 tons would generate 3.6 - 8.4 more times the total primary energy of this planet.
Even if the GenIV reactors never achieve a high thermal output (needed for thermochemical rather than electrochemical hydrogen production), the energy output would so great that even a silly liquid hydrogen carrier makes sense.
A final note to anyone reading this: please do not interpret the preoccupation with uranium from seawater as an indication that we are running out of uranium. We are not: this earth has not been adequately explored for the metal. It is so common, and the geologic mechanisms responsible for the creation of the ore are so common place that there will be plenty of Uranium in the land. If we are interested about the environmental impact of our mining activities (even with ISL methodologies, Uranium mining has a non-negligible impact) we should strive to minimize our consumption through conservation, efficiency (i.e. breeding) and why not do an honest environmental impact study of "uranium fishing". If it turns out to be an environmentally more benign method we should go for it (irrespective of the cost).
One has to be skeptical to your URL source you quoted. They certainly have an agenda to promote nuclear energy since that's their business. Look at the number they give you, 25 tons of nuclear fuel only produced one ton of radioactive waste after re-processing. Isn't that amazing. It's too good to be true.
The real story is completely different. Anything that comes in close distance to highly radioactive material, they absorb the neutrons and they also become highly radioactive. It's like contageous. So at the end you have much more than the original radioactive material to deal with.
Here at my place we have a nuclear reactor which has run it's design lifetime, and needs to be disposed with. The whole reactor has become radioactive. So they have to solidify it by injecting huge amount of concrete into it, forming a solid piece of junk of 7000 tons. And they need to find a place to ship this junk to. After much huzzle they find a location in Virginia willing to take it. The transportation is another headache, they can't ship it over land, because even though it is solidified it is still radioactive and may contaminate the environment even just pass by. So they have to ship it over the ocean. And they need to build a railway from the nuclear power station to the harbor just to ship this huge piece of junk. And all and all. After spending 700 million dollars and the reactor has not been moved an inch, and they eventually gave up and have to let it just sit on its original location.
To calculate the cost of nuclear energy, you not only need to calculate the cost of mining and manufacturing the fuel rods, and building and operation of the station. You also need to count in the cost of disposing the waste and it's harm to environment. The radioactivity lasts tens of thousands of years before subduing in dosage. One generation enjoys the benefit of the electricity, but the next 20 generation will have to suffer living next to a harmful radioactive pile of waste.
Not to meantion that there are inheritant risks like Chernoble or Three Mile Island. Accidents like this will continue to happen in the future despite your best effort to reduce the risks.
When you count all these in, the electricity generated may not be enough to pay for all the clean up, for paying for the health problem caused by leaked radiation, damage to environment, etc. Nuclear energy is unworthy when you consider all the costs.
Not to meantion that we live in an era of terrorism. Any wider adoptation of nuclear technology and wider availability of nuclear material and equipment could only increase the chance that a terrism group may obtain, or even manufacture by themselves, and detonate nuclear devices.
If wider adoptation of nuclear technology resulted in greater chance of nuclear terror, such that it results in one major US city be wiped out, which would not otherwise happen. Then the cost is too much to bear and the whole venture of nuclear technology is not worthy pursuing.
Frankly I think national leaders of the world should get together and figure out a way to gradually dismantle the whole world not just of nuclear weapons, but of all nuclear technologies, equipments and materials. All existing stock piles of Uranium should be dis-solved and dissipated into the ocean, so that no person on earth could obtain a single gram of U235 any more.
I may be a bit extreme but that's the only way of guaranteeing a safe world that can survive the next one thousand years. Although unfortunately I do not see that could happen any time soon. Unfortunately it could take a few cities be wipe out, before people wake up and realize how dangerous nuclear technology could be, and could be stolen, and become determined to wipe out all nuclear stuff from possession of all human beings.
JD is blessed by being one of those who looks for solutions. It is merely a matter of personality and disposition.
In some eras of history, humans desperately need problem solvers like JD. In other rare, almost nonexistent eras, there is a shortage of problem seekers. Some people are doomseekers, drawen to visions of doom regardless of the actual status of the real world.
You need to get up to speed with nuclear tech. The reason breeder reactors do away with most of the waste is because they utilize it as fuel. So no miracle there - physics at work. And the waste needs to be contained for a few tens of years. The reactor you have close to your work is a LWR, and no fuel reprocessing is done => no wonder there is waste.
I have to point out that there are other strategies to decomission a reactor. The one that you mentioned (letting the reactor stay there) is the most sane one. The exterior of the building itself is NOT radioactive; only the interior that used to harbour the core is. And this radiation does go down after a few decades not after 20 generations.
One other point: I have used numbers from the Storm paper. These numbers incorporate the emboddied energy of the active extraction process. A passive extraction process will have significantly less energy cost => numbers will be much more favourable .
Similar to most anti-nukers not only have you gotten the science wrong, but you are misrepresenting reality. Since I did provide links to peer reviewed journals to back my claims, why don't you do the same?
The 20 generations part is just a lie.
I get so confused when a "doomer" talks about nuclear power being dangerous......It holds a special place in my mind right up there with alcohol swabs before lethal injections.....
I really don't like nuclear energy at all, precisely because of the ease of committing terrorism against the reactors. However, I acknowledge it's probably going to become a lot more common and if so then seawater is a more environmentally friendly way to get the uranium than mining it.
Also, doomers who worry about peak uranium frankly make me laugh. Even without breeder reactors and seawater, it's 60 years away. Do you have any idea how different the world will be in 60 years? Do you reckon solar power will still suck in 2066? It's right up there with Australia's environment minister Ian Campbell: "coal will still be our primary energy source in 80 years". The shortsightedness of these people is so unbelievable it screws up my brain!
You're wrong in assumming technology will progress in the next 60 years as it has during the last 60 years.
The available evidence indicates true technological innovation - apart from advances in information storage and processing - has grinded to a halt.
Ancedotal evidence supports the guy's theory as well. Think about it: with the exception of the internet the life of the average American in 2005 is no different than it was in 1975:
1. Get up, drink coffee
2. Drive to work in an ICE vehicle
3. Take an elevator up to an office
5. Drive home
6. Watch television
7. Go to sleep
8. Repeat again
Most of the great innovations were invented over 30-to-40 years ago. For instance:
1. The computer: 1940s
2. The microchip: 1970s
3. The home computer: 1980s
4. Antibiotics: 1940s
5. Airplanes: 1905
6. Cars: late 1890s
7. The internet: 1968
8. The phone: 1800s
9. Putting a man on the moon: 1969
If you look closely, you'll see that technological innovation and per-capita energy production correlate almost precisely.
Sorry to burst your bubble kid, but the future is going to be more like the past than your Star Trek fantasies
The Masked Lemming
Even most of the energy alternatives were invented over 50 years ago. Nuclear energy in the 1940s and solar cells in 1950s.
It's taken 50 years for nukes to provide what, less than 5% of our overall energy consumption and virtually none of our transport energy? Solar is at what? 1/10th of 1%?
I'm going to be laughing my ass off when we've only got electricty for 8 hours/day and you fools are still posting here "look at all these great new technologies coming on line!!!"
The Masked Lemming
you confuse lifestyle and technology.
let's extend your analogy
in the past 50,000 years man,
2. performs labor
4. engages in recreation
5. drinks water
6. returns home
8. repeat again.....
not neccessarily in that order but, really this technology has ended thing is really ridiculous.......you say nothing significant excluding the internet.....i don't think you fully grasp the significance of that on it's own.
humans are emotional creatures of habit, and comfort, you confuse psychological neccesity for a familiar lifestyle with the non-expression of technological innovation......
oh, and one more thing.....you said
"I'm going to be laughing my ass off when we've only got electricty for 8 hours/day and you fools are still posting here "look at all these great new technologies coming on line!!!"
That goes right along with that doomsayer "I told you so" fantasy that all doomsayers from all walks of life dream about having fulfilled....
"Not to meantion that we live in an era of terrorism"
Irrational fear of terrorism is a pet hate of mine. How many total people in the western world have ever died because of terrorism? I have no way of accurately estimating the figure, but I imagine it would be in the low tens of thousands. Now consider how many total people in the western world have ever died because of auto accidents.
Without doubt, cars are a far greater threat to human life then terrorism can ever be.
It’s ridiculous that people are preoccupied with the remote possibility of a terrorist attack when all around them there is constant death from everyday evils such as cars, drugs, firearms and junk food.
Terrorism is nothing. Far greater dangers are embraced by Westerners each day.
"Then the cost is too much to bear and the whole venture of nuclear technology is not worthy pursuing."
The cost being too much to bear didn’t stop the auto industry from taking off, or lead and CFC’s to be pumped into the atmosphere at deadly levels. These are things that are guaranteed mass death and destruction, yet we consider it worth the cost. Is the tiny chance of a nuclear meltdown enough to stop the pursuit of electricity for years to come?
Well its simple then, get rid of all the cars and we won't need the nuclear anyway! lol Two death trap problems solved.
Actually as I've said before we are the limit of technology. Practicality and fear factor will govern a lot innovation in the future, which will then morph into law. You only have to look at the current fear over GM food, nanotech, nuclear, surveillance technology, cloning, genetic engineering and so on. There are only so many things that are genuinely useful for humans too and at a certain point, whatever the plans scientists have, technology will become a threat rather than a tool. Perhaps if governments and individuals didn’t use it for their own ends the fear factor would be less.
@ The nuclear promoters. Do you think it's acceptable for Iran to have to technology? And if not why not? Answers which stick heads in sands are not acceptable.
The masked lemming; thanks for the links about technology “peaking”. Lets look at a couple of quotes from them:
"He uses an arbitrary list of about 7000 events that have no basis as a measure of innovation. If one uses arbitrary measures, the results will not be meaningful."
"A more direct and detailed way to quantify technology history is to track various capabilities, such as speed of transport, data-channel bandwidth, cost of computation," he says. "Some have followed exponential trends, some have not."
Drexler says nanotechnology alone will smash the barriers Huebner foresees, never mind other branches of technology. It's only a matter of time, he says, before nanoengineers will surpass what cells do, making possible atom-by-atom desktop manufacturing. "The resulting advances seem well above the curve that Dr Huebner projects."
Looking at the growth of nanotechnology and artificial intelligence, Smart agrees with Kurzweil that we are rocketing toward a technological "singularity" - a point sometime between 2040 and 2080 where change is so blindingly fast that we just can't predict where it will go.
Sorry to burst your “return to the dark-ages” fantasy, but technology is indeed increasing exponentially. We have barely scratched the surface of what will be possible.
"I'm going to be laughing my ass off when we've only got electricty for 8 hours/day and you fools..."
And I’m going to be laughing my arse off (all the way to the bank) when we are doing things with tele-communications and I.T. that people haven’t even conceived of yet, while doomers are being left behind because they focused on preparing for the dark ages and Mad Max.
You're wrong in assumming technology will progress in the next 60 years as it has during the last 60 years.
Yes, that is wrong. It will progress a lot more in the next 60 years than in the past 60 years. I'm sorry, this post will be a bit long, but I just have to set the record straight.
Let's look at the examples you provided:
1. The computer: 1940s
Compare the pace of development of the computer in 1940-1950 to the pace of development today. It is much, much faster.
2. The microchip: 1970s
Have you ever heard of Moore's law?
3. The home computer: 1980s
Again, see points 1 and 2. There is no better example of exponentional tech progress than the computer. See these figures:
4. Antibiotics: 1940s
Have you heard of antivirals? They were only invented 5 or 10 years ago, and almost nobody had heard of them before the bird flu scare. That is as big an advance as antibiotics, if not bigger. I am investing in the company that invented them, which is called Biota.
5. Airplanes: 1905
I grant you that progress on airplanes has been a bit sluggish of late, but it's picking up again with the drive for more fuel efficiency. Have you compared the A380 to the Wright Flyer?
6. Cars: late 1890s
Have you ever driven a car that was mad ein the 1890s? Have you seen the Audi A2? Or the Toyota Prius and the Honda Civic Hybrid? What about the Hypercar? Have you read my post on EVs? Have you seen self driving cars or Personal Rapid Transit? I believe that urban car use has had its day anyway (see www.carfree.com) but you can't deny that some pretty incredible innovation is going on.
7. The internet: 1968
Do you know anything about the original internet? All it could do was transmit very short text messages. It was a highly secret military project. Compare that to todays internet. Now think of the current internet advances — 5 years ago dialup was standard and ADSL and ISDN were extremely rare. Now you can get broadband for $10 a month and they're launching ADSL 2 which gets to 24 MB/S. Video content will soon become ubiquitous. A few years ago it took half an hour just to load a trailer.
8. The phone: 1800s
Within 10 years the phone will become extinct because of http://www.zdnet.com.au/reviews/coolgear/electronics/0,39023382,39174840,00.htm. And what about mobile phones? 10 years ago nobody had one. 5 years ago they were all in black and white ... now it's almost impossible to get one without a colour screen and a camera.
9. Putting a man on the moon: 1969
Manned space travel was waylaid by the transistor (allowing for cheap unmanned communication satellites) and the end of the cold war. It's a victim of technological progress, not proof against it. Also, have you seen SpaceShipOne? You can now buy a ticket into space for $250,000. 5 years ago it was $20, 000, 000! There is an airline called Virgin Galactic. It shows clearly that NASA is a dinosaur who is crippled by the political necessity of building huge inefficient rockets to please its many contractors.
You also seem to categorize information technology as something which happened a long time ago and whose essential form has remained the same since then. Computers, the personal computer and the internet (which are essentially the same thing) don't belong in the same category as the car, the airplane or even the telephone, which have all remained a box with wheels, a box with wings and a box with a handset and numbers on it. Digital technology is not a single invention, it's a category for a huge range of inventions whose impacts on our lives are constantly increasing. Think of these applications:
1. Portable email
2. The digital camera
3. Computerized banking
4. The portable videophone
5. Internet delivery services and online shopping
6. Cheap, accessible music and video production technology
7. Virtual musical instruments
8. GPS and spy satellites
9. Blogs (such as this one) and digital content distribution
11. Biometrics and digital security
12. Grid computing (allowing for very cheap supercomputers)
13. Digital television and radio
14. Ubiquitous, cheap flatscreen displays
Put together, these things amount to as big a revolution as the one caused by cars, airplanes and the telephones ... and their effects are still changing and capabilities accelerating as a result of increasing computer power.
Also, countless innovations in materials science have been made possible by computer simulation ... you can include these too.
Of course, if you want to measure technological progress by the number of new, distinct objects and events (car, airplane, antibiotics, moon landings) then it's not increasing exponentially at all. But if you lok at the actual quantity of advances it is quite certainly speeding up.
And then there are other major advances that you completely left out, all of which have been made in the past couple of decades, such as those in medical science:
1. Bionic ear (1980s)
2. Mammalian cloning (1990s)
3. The sequencing of the Human Genome (1989-2003, finished 2 years ahead of schedule)
4. Organ implants/skin grafts
5. Laser eye surgery/artificial sight
6. Antivirals (1990s)
7. Artificial insulin (1982)
8. Stem cell research (2000s)
9. Cancer vaccines (2005)
10. In Vitro Fertilization (1978)
In other words, we have made diabetes a manageable disease, made previously incurable cancers curable, found a way to kill viruses in patients who are already infected, found a way to make babies without having sex, found a way to give people perfect vision, found a way to clone animals, and found a way to bring back the hearing of deaf people. And that's only original technologies, and distinct advances. If you look at the improvements in targeted chemotherapy, antibiotics, speed of vaccine development, IVF, hip replacements, anti-inflammation drugs, brain surgery, etc., these have advanced far more in the past two decades than ever before. All these things were pretty damn significant for the people who had them.
And then there's energy. Let's look at the energy options available to us in the 1970s, when the first oil crisis hit:
1. Nuclear power
2. Solar/wind power (very expensive)
4. Gas and coal
No wonder they were so worried. Now let's look at how those technologies have come along since then:
* Nuclear power has become a lot safer and breeder reactors and uranium from sea water are now within reach. Nuclear could have provided all of our energy needs by now if it wasn't for fears about safety (which are justified, in my opinion).
*Solar/wind power has advanced exponentially, as you can see from this graph. Wind is now cost-competitive with coal, and solar is not far off; the cost of both has plummeted since the 1970s. Plus, there are flying windmills and the nanotech/organic polymer solar cells I have written about, which within 5 years will cause another price crash for solar power, and in a decade or two will finally make it a feasible home energy source for the majority of people. We have also come up with solar towers like this one and other thermal solar stuff.
3. See above. Cheap fossil fuels have really stifled progress on renewable energy, and with the high oil prices in the last two years the sector is already booming. If oil had been more expensive and politicians more interested, we could have a significant chunk of our energy from renewables by now. It was the plan back in the '70s but it got waylaid. Not this time.
4. Gas and coal have not really advanced that much, but that's my point. They're dinosaurs. They suck. Although somethings have changed: we use a lot more gas, we're looking at clean coal, we've found a lot more of both of them and we now understand global warming.
Now lets look at the entirely new renewable energy inventions since 1980:
1. Biomass electricity, including biogas, landfill gas, biodiesel, vegetable oil, crop wastes, etc., which was feasible but practically unheard of by then and now accounts for a sizeable amount of electricity.
2. Hydrogen technology, while still inadequate for mainstream deployment, has made enormous leaps; we can now produce it, store it and make electricity from it much better. It's already used commercially in fuel cells for large buildings, and in the ENV motorbike.
3. Other assorted renewable energy technologies like geothermal, tidal power, ocean heat differentials, solar ponds, etc.
4. Huge strides in fusion energy and people like Blacklight Power who claim to have free energy (a household heater commercially available in 2 years ... we'll see ...)
5. Electric cars and hybrid cars
6. Thermal depolymerization
7. Renewed interest in liquefied coal
8. Carbon sequestration (theoretically)
And the ozone layer has been repaired and acid rain has been solved by getting the sulfur out of coal before burning it .....
And then there's entirely new fields of research whose impacts are only just beginning, and will dwarf anything we've seen so far:
1. Nanotech materials. We're just seeing the beginning with self-cleaning glass and rollable solar panels. This will allow amazing new products and materials far stronger, cheaper and more environmentally friendly than what we've got now.
2. Molecular nanotechnology. It's still 20 or 30 years away but it'll eventually allow things to be disassembled and reassembled indefinitely and make diamonds as worthless as manure.
3. Nanotech healthcare, which in 40 or 50 years will allow us to continually regenerate our bodies as they degrade and prolong our lifespans immensely.
4. Artificial intelligence ... I'll leave this one alone because conventional models of the future do not work when there is an intelligence smarter than humans (50 years away, conservatively)
5. Cloning of human organs and body parts. This is coming much sooner, maybe within a decade. It means you can have replacement body parts grown for you without waiting for donors and without fear of rejection.
6. Convincing virtual reality. This depends on how you define convincing, of course, but in 10 to 20 years we'll have fully immersive VR environments which will make travelling to work less important.
So as you can see, Masked Lemming, technology may be a mixed blessing, but it's definetely not slowing down, at least not in terms of its real-world impact and potential applications. If you want more proof of this, compare the abysmal track record of Paul Ehrlich and his fellow 70s doomsayers with the absolutely flawless predictions Ray Kurzweil made in 1989 for 1999, and again in 1999 for 2009. They've all happened or are happening as we speak.
Oil depletion and natural degradation are really serious problems and we can't have a blind faith in technology to solve them ... improved efficiency (aided by technology), along with conservation, will have to play a role. But if there's one thing for certain, technological progress is speeding up. This both excites and scares me, and ensuring that we get the benefits and avoid the risks is a far more important issue in the long run than Peak Oil.
Sorry about this very long and off-topic post but I just wanted to set the record straight a bit. :-)
Also Wildwell, I agree with you that nuclear energy is not really a good idea. But I doubt we're at the limit of technology, even if nanotech and biotech are not actually necessary for our survival.
I see the fear of these advanced technologies as a good thing, it gets people to think seriously about them and increases that chance that they will be developed responsibly. The real dangers are at least 20, 30 or 40 years away, so the more we debate them now the more likely it is that they will be developed and applied responsibly. They are manageable if it's done properly.
The most important thing, I think, is world peace. Look at the atom bomb - it was developed by the Americans because they were afraid the Germans would get it, and then the Russians developed it because the Americans had it, and so forth. If WWII didn't happen it wouldn't have been developed for a lot longer and when it did happen it would have been done with careful debate and consideration. The more peaceful the world is the better we'll be poised to get the massive humanitarian and environmental benefits without the risks.
See the website by the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology's director Mike Treder, www.incipientposthuman.com.
The nuclear promoters. Do you think it's acceptable for Iran to have to technology? And if not why not? Answers which stick heads in sands are not acceptable.
Good question WW. I believe (correct me if I'm wrong) that the non-proliferation treaty gives Iran the right to enrich uranium, and therefore they are operating within international law in doing so. For that reason, I support their position. The law is the law.
There is also a double-standard operating in the mid-east. If it is a danger to Israel for Iran to possess nuclear weapons, then it is likewise a danger to Iran for Israel to possess nuclear weapons. All parties should all be held to the same standard. To do otherwise will breed further resentment and violence. If it's not okay for Iran to enrich uranium, why is it okay for France or the UK to enrich uranium?
I think we're going to have to get used to lots of developing countries turning to nuclear energy. Otherwise, we are going to have to deal with either: a) massive coal burning, or b) electrical blackouts in developing countries, which will have their own unsavory side effects.
Finally, if the middle eastern countries aren't allowed to run nuclear power plants, they'll just keep burning their oil and gas, and make the transition harder than it has to be for everyone. We'll all be better off if those fossil fuels are used for more important tasks than generating electricity.
If wider adoptation of nuclear technology resulted in greater chance of nuclear terror, such that it results in one major US city be wiped out, which would not otherwise happen. Then the cost is too much to bear and the whole venture of nuclear technology is not worthy pursuing.
If the lights go out, there is a 100% chance of mayhem, misery and senseless death. The degree of damage would dwarf the destruction of a major US city. Nuclear terrorism may be dangerous, but it's not even remotely as dangerous as wide-scale permanent power blackout. You have to calculate the costs both ways, quantoken, and then compare them.
One more comment about Iran:
A nuclear armed Iran may not necessarily be a bad thing. Once you've got nukes, you've got to factor getting nuked into your calculations. As W.S. Burroughs says, "Armed society is polite society". I think the record of history shows that nuclear weapons deter conflict, not promote it.
Congratulations for missing the point. First up, I never said that’s it for technology, what I said is we are rapidly getting to the points where SOME technology is becoming a liability. I know all you sci-fi types are keen on all this AI, everything at a push of a button type stuff, the trouble is human nature is hard wired and hasn’t improved in millions of years. The wars are still going on, crime is an epidemic levels and in many places the quality of life is actually falling, not rising: Too much law, too much surveillance, too much urbanisation, too much communication, too much traffic, too much pollution, the threat of terrorism, too many people, the breakdown of the family, of morality, the rising of debt…My standard of living is already going down, rapidly…This so other people can make money or gain power. I promise you, it will end in tears because this planet has no empirical evidence that anyone has every played by the rules, it’s not stop war, shite, and more shite.
Now some of these technologies are good, some of them when mixed with others are a security and human nightmare. I mean the ‘centre of responsible Nanotechnology’ sounds like a bloody oxymoron. As if to say, well, it’s potentially quite a scary science in the wrong hands, buy hey we promise to play the game. The naivety of some people never fails to amaze me. As Roland says though most of the dangers are 20-30 years ways, although we have potential significant problems now.
So going back to the original question, that of nuclear proliferation, which is classic technology in the wrong hands:
‘The law is the law’…Old military saying, rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men. In other words, people have played with the rules for their own ends since the beginning of time.
‘If it's not okay for Iran to enrich uranium, why is it okay for France or the UK to enrich uranium?’…Well, because the UK and France don’t have links to terrorists who are quite prepared to make a name for themselves, even if that means blowing themselves away (Q: London, New York) on the make-believe that they will be getting their leg-over with multiple virgins on the other side – cos it says so in a book. I don’t believe any of this war for oil nonsense.
One thing I do agree with is we are going to have to get used to nuclear scares, dodgy bomb making programs, satellites spying your every move. Later chips under the skin, ID cards, advanced AI, nanotech, biotech, cloning, bioweapons, advanced avionics….Add a bit of free energy in too (if such a thing exists), that’s give a perfect way for some people that are a bit pissed off to club together with the new ultra convenient digital networks, to nuke the major cities of the world. I dunno whether it’s escaped your attention, but there’s a lot of pissed off people out there and those with strange beliefs. How anyone can look forward to it god only knows! Have you ever had any contact with the security services? I know people that have, a lot of them are very disturbed people on what might happen.
There is nothing in this for me at all, apart from sleepless nights worrying about loved ones, conscious that the populace is being monitored in their cars, the street, their accounts and that’s just the start. The quality of life has already gone down the toilet.
So let’s minimise the risks, and abandon some of this crap. The lights aren’t going out any time soon, we need to reconcile the differences between each other (easier said than done I know!) and strive for quality of life not wet dreams so certain people can make money or gain power, because that’s what it’s about. Nuclear is a dangerous technology, we need to minimise the technology as much as possible, and develop the renewable energy. It might cost a few extra pennies but by god the peace of mind will be worth it, and that’s all I’ve ever looked for in life.
"Convincing virtual reality. This depends on how you define convincing, of course, but in 10 to 20 years we'll have fully immersive VR environments which will make travelling to work less important."
You're joking, right?
Regarding the issue of Iran, or the issue of nukes in "3rd world countries": I see no reason NOT to have the technology. If proliferation is such a concern, put all the nuke plants in international parks under International Atomic Energy supervision.
If you don't respect the law, then you don't have any grounds for objecting to crime, or a repressive police state. "Rules are for the obedience of fools..." they'll laugh as they cart you off to the Gulag. I assure you, when it's your rights getting trampled on, you'll be dead serious in standing up for the law.
I don't have any problem with laws controlling nuclear power, provided that they are fair and equitable. I don't like the idea of laws which apply only to darky Islamics, but not to nice white people. That kind of double-standard just fuels more resentment.
Just curious, but what do you advocate as the solution to the Iranian impasse? Would you support an invasion of Iran to stop them from using nuclear energy?
Roland, that was an awesome post, kudos to you. In fact it’s probably worthy of a front page post rather then just a comment – the concept that technology is slowing down is a common doomer concept and deserves to be debunked properly.
Another area of progress worth mentioning is general scientific understanding. We now understand a great deal more about the nature of the universe – both the microscopic and the macroscopic - then we did just fifty years ago. We have extensively studied sub-atomic particles leading to an entire new branch of scientific theory, and we have peered into the vastness of space learning far more then was even thought possible fifty years ago.
Yet some people choose to disregard such remarkable achievements and look at a single technology (like V.R. for example) and think, “nah, technology is not progressing”. How small minded.
To Wildwell, I appreciate your point but notice what I said: "technological progress ... both excites and scares me, and ensuring that we get the benefits and avoid the risks is a far more important issue in the long run than Peak Oil." I'm not saying it's without risks. If the doomers really want to see doom, they're barking up the wrong tree. But just like Peak Oil, there is a silver lining to the cloud.
If you think about it, all conflict is basically a collision of incompatible interests, which is almost always about wanting something you can't have. Nanotech has the potential to create scary new weapons, but it is also able to completely eliminate economic scarcity for everyone on the planet. This will allow states to be independent of each other for all their material needs - which makes you ask what the point of taking over anyone else's country is.
(Note that even islamic fundamentalism is at its root caused by material dissatisfaction; it just happens to be justified religiously)
The other thing nanotechnology can do is create much better commputers, accelerating the development of artificial intelligence. And I subscribe to the belief that unless specifically engineered to be malevolent, AI will probably be benevolent and greatly aid the management of potentially dangerous technologies like molecular manufacturing. Ultimately we'll be able to blend with computers and the problems associated with MNT will be obsolete, because we will have expanded intelligence that is better able to assess risk, solve problems and understand the viewpoints of others. The important thing is getting to that stage safely. Unlike CRN, I believe that developing AI before nanoassembly would probably be a good idea.
So this is why, as I said, doomers who worry about peak gas, peak coal and peak uranium are really being quite ridiculous. They're just looking at one kind of growth, while forgetting the other type, the same mistake Ehrlich made in the 70s. I was trying to get a sense of this across in the post I wrote on POD about the singularity and natural capitalism. You need to treat Peak Oil as a serious long-term problem for a world advancing incrementally from today's, although in real life the world is also changing much faster than any policy makers, butterfly biologists or pessimistic blog lurkers usually suspect (or would do good to suspect).
I've got to say, I'm not quite as assured about nanoassembly as CRN (who think we'll see it in the next 10 years), but I think it's coming all the same. I think that Mike Treder's "uplift" scenario is more likely than the Kurzweilian "nirvana" scenario, and he agrees (odds of 50% vs. 15%). But the uplift scenario is pretty remarkable all the same.
(And no, masked lemming, I wasn't joking about virtual reality. Have a serious look at the CRN website crnano.org, the Mike Treder website, the Event Horizon and accelerating future blogs, and maybe a Kurzweil book, and then make up your mind about emerging technologies).
So anyway, I've already written to Australia's resources and industry minister about Peak Oil, and now I'm thinking of writing again about how factories are going to become obsolete because of nanoassemblers! The poor guy.
Anyway, enough about the singularity from me, I'm screwing up JDs blog with off-topic comments so sorry everyone.
Well you see that’s just the thing JD. I’m one of the most law abiding people out there, but as everyone knows in the real world, less moral people break the rules and well paid people (lawyers, business) look for ways around them. I’m trying to look for an objective solution not pie in the sky wish lists and back of the envelope solutions that will make the problems worse.
‘I don't have any problem with laws controlling nuclear power, provided that they are fair and equitable. I don't like the idea of laws which apply only to darky Islamics, but not to nice white people. That kind of double-standard just fuels more resentment.’
Exactly, that’s why everyone should minimise nuclear power not maximise it, because it is a double standard.
‘Just curious, but what do you advocate as the solution to the Iranian impasse? Would you support an invasion of Iran to stop them from using nuclear energy?’
The Iranians claim they need nuclear for civil purposes. Instead of ramping up R&D on military responses, I’d ramp it up win-win solutions and offer to sell them renewable instead, after all they have plenty of sun out there.
@ES Transmission losses, politics.
As I said, it’s well known than intelligent people aren’t blessed with common sense, and some people’s naivety is astounding.
I agree there should not be a double standard. It is equally dangerous for either Isreal or Iran or USA to own nuclear weapons. Any one is not more dangerous than the other, and one is not less dangerous than the other.
Put political ideaology differences aside, a weapon is a weapon. A nuclear bomb is a nuclear bomb. When it explode it does one thing: killing massive number of people, regardless of politics or regardless whose hand triggers it.
Those of you holding double standards saying some country should have nuclear bombs and some other should not. Are you trying to tell me that Isreal's bombs doesn't kill but Iran's does. Or that Iranian nuclear bombs work more efficiently and could potentially kill more people than American ones? Or are you trying to tell me that some people's lifes are more expensive than other peoples? Are you saying that if we kill one million people in the third world it's no big deal but if one million Americans died from a nuclear attack it is a much much bigger deal?
A life is a life, a weapon is a weapon, a killing is a killing. I do not see how double standard help us.
Honestly, I am just as equally uncomfortable as any one else to see a nuclear Iran. It will be a dangerous threat to world peace. But I have to emphasis that nuclear weapons in other hands: The Pakistanis, The Indians, the Americans, the Russians, are equally dangerous, and could potentially be equally effective to kill.
Some say Iran has connection to terrists, and we don't. First it's true that Iran has various connections with known terrirists. No denial of that. But there is no evidence that Iran is sending a suicider bombing team to American soil, or conducted any big plots against us over the years. If Iran is directly responsible for 9/11 we would have gone to Iran by now.
Second, imagine you are attending a wedding, and suddenly you and a few dozen guests are killed by some explosion. Is that not a terrible thing to happen? Is not that an act of terror? You might speculate it's a suicide bomber, but it could well be a bomb dropped from 30000 feet height. Does it matter which is the case? It doesn't matter to the dead because they are dead before they realize anything. It doesn't matter to the undead because they consider bombers 30000 feet above as terrorists as those more closer by. Yes, to that part of the world, they have a slightly different definition for terrirists.
Finally, some equals the event of an American city be wiped out by nuclear terrior acts to an event of mayhem caused by a massive and long lasting blackout. How could you compare the two. In the event of blackout we just pick up and move on. But do we just sit and mourn the dead after 9/11? We end up killing much more in Afganistan and Iraq.
If there is a nuclear terror event and a US city is wiped out, does any one honest believe Americans will just sit and cry? No! The next thing before any one realize, is a couple Muslim cities will be gone. And then Isreal will be wiped out, but not before it launches all its arsenals and wipe out the bulk of the Islamic world. And you bet out of the chaos there will be some more US cities be wiped out who knows by whom. Violence of that magnitude can and will escalade and it could well spell the end of the civilized world.
Get rid of ALL nuclear stuff is the only thing you can do to be safer. Meanwhile, there has never been and will never be world peace. War, disasters and catastropies are the norm. At least when we fight wars using some more primitive weaponries, we know at least the human race is safer to continue one.
All animals do fight within their own spieces. But most of them, when fight with each other, would use much less lethal techniques than those they utilize when hunting and predating. We humen seem to an exception.
Ditto above, and let’s just have a look as some of the recent quotes from the Iranian leader?
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has courted further controversy by explicitly calling the Nazi Holocaust of European Jewry a "myth".
"They have created a myth today that they call the massacre of Jews and they consider it a principle above God, religions and the prophets," he said.
The European Union and Russia have joined condemnation of the Iranian president's public call for Israel to be "wiped off the map".
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's remark has already been condemned by individual EU states and Canada who all summoned Iranian diplomats for an explanation.
Now he looks like a balanced individual that is fully capable of using AI, nanotech, biotech and nuclear and respecting law sensibly doesn’t he? I think not.
Likewise, can we really trust the western countries who storm into another looking for not existent WMDs? We’ve already had ‘innocent before proven guilty’ removed from certain aspects of English law and new ID cards being proposed. In short there is no evidence whatsoever that humans can handle some of this advanced technology successfully, especially when most of it is for profit not the human good. It’s shifting the status quo between governments and corporations, citizens and other countries. This is a serious mistake that is actually shifting the quality of life down. I’m convinced we’ve had the best and its all downhill from here and nuclear would create more problems than it solves.
Iran has removed international seals from a nuclear facility to begin research defying foreign pressure.
The move ends a two-year suspension of research, and could result in Tehran being referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.
The UN nuclear chief said Iran planned small-scale nuclear enrichment.
So much for law eh JD, looks like
they have just put up two fingers at your ideas?
Many erroneous ideas here ....
We routinely ship electric energy at distances ~1000km with minimal loses. We can do the international parks in Europe (where distances are small). China and US is a different story - but parks under international oversight could deal with the issue.
If someone is not playing ball ... then that someone faces the wrath of the international community. And the countries that are BIG enough (area-wise) already have nuclear weapons so your argument is mute. One should argue we should do away with nuclear weapons all together and I agree 100% with that. Let's not throw the proverbial baby with the NPRs though.
I'm really surprised that you think renewables will shift the power back to the individual. This is a pipe dream and please get in touch with reality. Do you think a 4.5MW wind turbine (this is the evolution of the V90 by Vestas) or a 5MW by GE shifts the power back to the individual? These things are 90 -110 meters high and deploy some pretty sophisticated electronics => no individual can do them at home. The same goes for solar panels ; some pretty sophisticated technology is involved and I do not see many individuals undertaking silicon fabrication in their garage.
Nuclear is no more complicated (conceptually) than any of the other forms of power generation. For christ's shake it involves nothing more than boiling a suitable medium to generate a turbine. I would argue that the power electronics in a modern wind turbine are pretty more sophisticated.
Let me repeat this again:
renewables DO NOT NECESSARILY MEAN that the power goes back to the individuals. If you want to do that, then get involved with politics; renewable energy technology is no guarantee that you will have a more democratic society. In fact in a society where energy is scarce, some people will be outprized and you will have marginalization and other societal ill-effects.
By the way, there is an interesting thread at peakoil.com re: an all solar US grid. The price tag came equal to $26 TRILLION. Nuclear comes to 1/26th of that amount or 1/4th-1/3rd if all the reactors deployed are breeders.
I do not think that the additional cost will do anything to shift the power to the individual, do you?
And it won't be a few extra pennies.
Lights are not about to go out anytime soon BUT we have got to phase out FF. They are contributing to GW and they are about to run out.
Monbiot (who opposes nuclear) recently presented the numbers: a 90% reduction in CO2 is needed before 2030 in order to avoid setting off the runaway warming bomb. Consider the significance of this datum: you would have to reduce ALL emissions by 90%. This means that you have to reduce both coal and oil and NG usage by 90%. How are you going to do that? Can you conserve your way down to renewables and guarantee grid stability at the same time? Are you sure that as warming settles in (and some warming will settle in, this is different from runaway GW) local weather patterns will be such that the wind farm built in 2010 will be in a windy area in 2030? If thermohaline circulation shuts down and Europe experiences a mini ice age in the face of rising temperatures in the Southern hemisphere you would have to generate electricity at an obscene rate. But you are not going to do that to keep the sprawl going, or the economy expanding. You will be doing it to desalinate water (since Hadley Climate Center predicts that rainfall will be severely reduced in the Northern Hemisphere), to heat greenhouses (not to grow flowers but to grow food). I know that various people have been making fun of JD's posts regarding Controlled Environment Agriculture (greenhouses etc) but they need to take a really good look into the papers from the Climate community. Maybe their predictions are wrong , but the consequences of them being right are so frightening that one should at least think about them. I really do not like fearmongering, but an honest decision making analysis involves the consideration of the probability of an event and its consequences. And this calculation scares me more about national ID, cameras, or "terrorists". We cannot control the climate (the futurists would add YET), but we can control our societies. Let's be mature about this particular choice.
I'm afraid you are somewhat misinformed about power systems. It will not be just a random blackout; renewables are not reliable YET to guarantee the stability of the grid. Sure Denmark is doing it, because its grid is tied to the other scandinavian countries (esp Sweden) whose baseload is based on nuke and hydro. Such a grid will be a grid of brown-outs and black-outs ... after a while the devices will be fried and no one will be able to generate electricity. Imagine a permanent blackout .... and this will have the exact same effect as nukes going over the same area (as far as deaths are concerned).
I'm tired of repeating all these AGAIN and AGAIN. We all have to take responsibility for our actions. I'm sure that I cannot convince any of you - so I will remain silent unless stupidities regarding the technical viability of nuclear are spoken. You guys stick with your anti-nuclear dreams; I will be lobbying for nuclear in my workplace and community.
With infrastructure its best not to put your eggs in one basket, this creates a system redundancy risk. Energy parks are not a good idea, apart from the politics to actually get nations to entrust their whole security in such a thing.
You cite £26 trillion as the cost for a solar power United States. In actual fact the cost per kw/h is coming down all the time, new ‘printed’ solar sheets are just around the corner, although with other technology.
And in any case, it doesn’t mean nuclear is scalable. For the hydrogen economy it was calculated that the UK required an addition 100 nuclear stations just for the *current* use of transport. It would be unlikely that one could be erected in less than 10 years, what with planning, man power, technical skills etc nor we could erect more than 10 at once, their just isn’t the workforce. Therefore it would take 100 years to build a hydrogen economy just for transport; this is without all the other requirements such as the current grid and home heating. Which the market is tight prices also significantly rise and I very much doubt nuclear (one you take decommissioning etc into account) is all that cheap.
We can phase out fossil fuels with clean coal and energy efficiency. And taking about being mature and personal responsibility, is there anything more stupid than the $1 flight over 700 miles or the 2 ton SUV for one person? The market has failed to deal with Climate change because it does not attach the right checks and balances; governments in general have also failed to deal with it. So what makes you think Nuclear proliferation and other techs that come with health warnings are going to be any different? An awful lot more should be done with efficiency and personal and industry wide carbon trading is the answer to that, where the polluter pays and those that behave themselves get rewarded with some exceptions.
I don’t drive (through choice) or fly (through choice), you wish to attach significant risks to all our well being so other people can get away with gluttony and irresponsibility at the expanse of the planet and the rest of us, by having large unnecessary cars because heavens above they don’t want to sit near someone else. Well if they want that, they can pay for it, and if that means substantially extra through not adopting nuclear (although I doubt it) then so be it. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility with a little bit of encouragement to get our own solar/wind systems at home, costing maybe no more than £10k or so. That’s not even the price of a decent car these days, so what on earth is the problem?
If the renewable energy is generated centrally it is more than possible to store it, and with the right amount of redundancy in the system the excess can be traded between nations and between households.
When push comes to shove the automotive industry got humanity into this problem, well they can get us out. The rich people (8%) of the planet drive cars. The average car in the UK costs £5000 per year to run. For £200 per head we could have free public transport (1/50thth of the cost – all revenue plus all costs of the complete system added together and divided by 60 million) and you could double or triple the system and still be paying a fraction of the cost...So I don’t buy any of the pleading poverty stuff either.
There are more than enough solutions about without everyone jumping into the nuclear lifeboat.
And the other thing ES, I have to pay £120 a year in this country for the 'luxury' of having a television. There's no reason why they government couldn't sell of the BBC and get every household to put £500 into a compulsory renewable energy scheme for the long term interests of everyone and the climate. A distributed renewable energy scheme would then be fitted for everyone, using the internet, and when it’s paid for we can all sit back and get clean free electricty with an ongoing smaller maintenance charge.
We're saved!!!! We're saved!!! We're saved!!!
Quick, somebody forwared this post to the DOE and the DOT so we can get our whole infrastructure refitted to run on this stuff.
What's your ETA on how long it will take to get this out on the market JD?
My guess is few months, maybe a 3-4 years tops.
I'm going laugh my ass off at those doomers when we're all driving cars powered by uranium from seawater a few years from now!
"Likewise, can we really trust the western countries who storm into another looking for not existent WMDs?"
Why don't you just come out and admit it? You hate America. That's the only reasonable explanation for why you would ask such a silly question.
1)When will coal peak?
2)Are you aware that "clean coal" has more issues than nuclear?
3) What is the energy payback time of solar panels vs wind vs nuclear?
4) What is the carbon budget of nuclear vs solar vs wind vs "clean coal"?
@WW - @TML
Where did I say anything about using uranium to power cars?
Since both of you guys took the time to answer my post, why don't you address the main point? The one concerning climate change ... but I see that the number 90% failed to sink in.
is it possible to get rid of the masked lemming? all he seems to do is taunt people the way Homer Simpson Taunts his neighbor.
I agree with energyspin completely.
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