[ RadSafe ] "Is Nuclear Energy the Solution ?"

George Stanford gstanford at aya.yale.edu
Sat Apr 17 19:41:34 CDT 2010


      Thanks for the additional info.  Interesting.

      So the extraction process would not be carbon-neutral,
but at least the heat needed would be carbon-free.
Seems to me your reactor proposal had merit, but
interest in that source of oil had not yet matured (and
still hasn't).

      --  George


At 06:43 PM 4/17/2010, Dan W McCarn wrote:
[G. Stanford wrote:]
>Comment:  What nonsense!  Electricity (from wind, solar, or
>nuclear) can be used to make hydrogen or carbon-neutral synthetic
>liquids, such as jet fuel, diesel fuel, and gasoline.   Carbon-free
>nuclear energy could also be used to extract oil from the large oil-bearing
>shale deposits in the western states.

Dear George:

I spent three years working on Shell Oil's in situ conversion project in NW
Colorado. In the end, the carbon balance, even if nuclear was used for
power, was pretty steep... The "Oil-bearing Shale" is not correct.  These
are kerogen-bearing marlstones (with Ca-, Mg- and Fe-carbonates).  The heat
required to convert the kerogen to petroleum also breaks-down the marlstone
releasing very large quantities of CO2.  I had proposed to the Shell
management the use of process heat from an advanced gas-cooled reactor.

Dan ii

Dan W McCarn, Geologist
2867 A Fuego Sagrado
Santa Fe, NM 87505
+1-505-310-3922 (Mobile - New Mexico)
HotGreenChile at gmail.com (Private email)

-----Original Message-----
From: radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu
[mailto:radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu] On Behalf Of George Stanford
Sent: Saturday, April 17, 2010 13:59
To: Peter Bossew
Cc: radsafe at health.phys.iit.edu
Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] "Is Nuclear Energy the Solution ?"


       This sort of misinformation is all too common.  The "editorial"
can be found in more-readable form at
Here is the second paragraph, with comments interspersed.

 >"We should all know that: first, investments in nuclear power are
 >risky as indicated by the fact that Wall Street has chosen to stay clear;"
       Comment:  The perceived risk is not due to technological
uncertainty, but to regulatory and political uncertainties.

 >"second, nuclear power plants are stated terrorist targets . . ."
       Comment:  For a terrorist who wants to do damage, there's a
plethora of targets that are far more attractive than a nuclear plant
-- the Trade Center being just one prominent example.  Nuclear plants
add nothing to the terrorist risk, which will exist as long as terrorists

 >". . . and carry serious risks of their own;"
       Comment: Those risks are perceived, not actual.  The "worst
Western nuclear-plant accident" (Three Mile Island) killed
nobody.  An accident last August at a Russian hydro-power plant
killed more people than the Chernobyl accident did.  The safety
record of the civilian nuclear power industry is unexcelled.

 >"third, nuclear power will not reduce our dependencies on foreign
 >energy as is sometimes claimed;"
       Comment:  What nonsense!  Electricity (from wind, solar, or
nuclear) can be used to make hydrogen or carbon-neutral synthetic
liquids, such as jet fuel, diesel fuel, and gasoline.   Carbon-free
nuclear energy could also be used to extract oil from the large
oil-bearing shale deposits in the western states.

 >"fourth, nuclear-generated electricity does not compare favorably
 >with electricity derived from either the combustion of fossil fuels
 >or renewable sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, wave, and tide, . . .
       Comment: Electricity is electricity, regardless of how it is
       But if the intended context is economic or environmental, the
statement is clearly wrong.  Nuclear power emits no polluting or
greenhouse gases.  It requires much less mining than coal -- and,
with fast reactors deployed, no mining at all will be needed for centuries.
       Around the world, nuclear power is seen as competitive, with 52
reactors under construction, 143 more on order or planned, and 344
(<http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/reactors.html>). Functioning
reactors whose capital costs have already been amortized are such
cash cows that there are proposals in several places to subject them
to a "windfall profits" tax.
       Energy from wind, solar, wave, and tide is turning out to be
very expensive per kilowatt-hour delivered (20-50 cents or more), and
would not be used for central power anywhere without
taxpayer-provided subsidies and regulations requiring utilities to
use "renewable" energy when it is available.  (Note that the capacity
always stated for wind and solar installations is nameplate, which is
three to five times larger than the average available power, and
costs for backup and long transmission lines are rarely included in
the cost estimates.)
       The two reactors to be built at the Vogtle power station in
Georgia are predicted to have an overnight capital cost of about
$6800 per kWe (this is undoubtedly considerably higher than future
plants, since the ones at Vogtle are first-of-a-kind in the U.S.
nuclear revival, and much of that cost is for licensing and other
paperwork, rather than for actual construction).  This translates to
a capital-cost component of about 6 cents per kWh.  If the fuel and
operating cost is another 2 cents/kWh, the resulting 8 cents is
higher than for coal or gas, but lower than for wind or solar.

 >". . . and finally, there is currently no good means of nuclear
 >waste disposal, hence more environmental pollution."
       Comment:  As everyone knowledgeable about the industry knows,
this common perception is just plain wrong.  Unlike the waste from
fossil-fuel burning -- spent nuclear fuel is not polluting the
environment anywhere.  And with fast reactors deployed, the spent
fuel from thermal reactors becomes a very large energy resource,
since only about 4% of its energy has so far been extracted.

       The body of the editorial is unlikely to be any more
authoritative than its introduction.

George Stanford
Reactor physicist, retired from Argonne National Laboratory.


At 11:28 AM 4/17/2010, Peter Bossew wrote:
 >Editorial, Water Air Soil Pollution, 208, 1-4, 2010
 >M. Saier and J. Trevors: Is Nuclear Energy the Solution ?
 >www.springerlink.com/content/yr0548j054320377/     (open access)
 >Comments ?
 >In particular I would be interested in (qualified !) comments on the
 >economic arguments.
 >Peter Bossew 

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