Future Energy Pathways

MrConservative

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This thread is to discuss future energy solutions and policies including the relationship between energy and national security.
 

ASSAIL

The Bunker Group
Verified Defense Pro
On Morrison says nuclear on the table if the economic study stacks up, but does not think it is when compared to hydro power

not sure how it go going alone if they would have the numbers


Scott Morrison: 'No issue' with nuclear power but it doesn't stack up
Hydro works if there’s enough mountains and rain or snow but we are not Norway.
Currently, Snowy hydro produces between 15% x 20% of the national energy markets needs. Tasmania hydro can boost this figure to what, 40%? I don’t know but it still leaves around 60 % of requirements being met by coal well into the future.

The only way this can be replaced is by low emission coal or by nuclear given today’s technology.
Most of the advocates for renewables always concentrate on how their personal power requirements can be replaced and for that solar and wind is a no brainer but over 60% of the national consumption is used by industry, one alu smelter, Tomago in NSW uses 30% of the states power, how does that get replaced when the power is needed 24/7?
It’s all very well to feel righteous by filling ones roof with solar panels as the green left would have us but it simply fails to understand, and offers no solution to the national energy reduction problem.
 

ngatimozart

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Verified Defense Pro
Hydro works if there’s enough mountains and rain or snow but we are not Norway.
Currently, Snowy hydro produces between 15% x 20% of the national energy markets needs. Tasmania hydro can boost this figure to what, 40%? I don’t know but it still leaves around 60 % of requirements being met by coal well into the future.
Do they have a cable from Tasmania to the mainland? In NZ we have one going from the South Island (where most hydro production is) to the North Island (where most population is). Moer than once us South Islanders have wanted to cut the cable and let the north drift away :D Hydro accounts for more than half of NZ's electricity generation requirements and would be larger but for resistance to more drowned valleys etc.
The only way this can be replaced is by low emission coal or by nuclear given today’s technology.
Most of the advocates for renewables always concentrate on how their personal power requirements can be replaced and for that solar and wind is a no brainer but over 60% of the national consumption is used by industry, one alu smelter, Tomago in NSW uses 30% of the states power, how does that get replaced when the power is needed 24/7?
It’s all very well to feel righteous by filling ones roof with solar panels as the green left would have us but it simply fails to understand, and offers no solution to the national energy reduction problem.
I think that, particularly in Australia's case, fission based nuclear electricity generation will have to happen because demand is far outstripping supply and the burning of carbon based fuels to provide generating capability will prove to be unsustainable, both politically and economically. I think that environmentally, nuclear fission based electricity generation is more sustainable than carbon fuel based electricity generation, because even given the half life of the radioactive materials, they would have significant less impact upon the planet than a wholesale planetary wide climate change event that has the potential to be an extinction level event. The green lefties don't see that because their dialectal political construct is unable to comprehend micro, meso and macro temporal and spatial scales simultaneously, if at all, and that comprehension is what is absolutely necessary to understanding what we face, not some PC political rhetoric. BTW that applies to both sides of the CC debate.
 

tonnyc

Well-Known Member
@ngatimozart Yes, there is a cable connecting Tasmania to the Australian mainland. IIRC it has just been completed this year.

Ran across a study last week that examines using small modular reactors for small islands. Jeju (South Korea), Tenerife (Spain), and Tasmania (Australia) were examined. The possibility of using the SMR for Tasmania's normal use and the dam as a giant battery for peak demand for both Tasmania and Australia was mentioned.

I think the study also came up that the scenario becomes feasible if nuclear power can get below US$80/MWh for Tasmania (Jeju and Tenerife have higher amount). Which they technically can. South Korea and Chinese nuclear power can get below $60/MWh. But this has less to do with the actual cost of the tech but rather on the long run commitment. Every time a protest or a lawsuit manages to stall construction, financing cost goes up because the interest keep getting applied, and the interest rate inches up too, because now the lenders get worried that the project will get canceled.

Anyway, over in Indonesia I have been telling anyone who cares to listen that we need nuclear energy. Despite the supposed abundance of renewable energy in Indonesia, it's still insufficient for the projected 300-320 million people in 2050. As domestic fossil fuel resources run out, the country will start importing LNG and eventually medium quality coal. Indonesia already import massive amount of oil. The predicted massive dependence on energy import will a huge weak point in national security. Even nuclear power will not be able to prevent this, but at least it can reduce it.

Australia's situation is... Dysfunctional. Sorry. The Australian Liberal Party doesn't seem to have a coherent policy at the moment. The Labor Party, like it or not, is at least coherent. But when they get into power they will roll back ALP's policies and though I am not a fan of ALP either, the thing with energy policy is that there has to be a consistent long term policy. Short term fixes like the diesel power plant and Tesla battery does well in addressing small short term problems but is insufficient for handling long term problems like sustainability and security.
 
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ngatimozart

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Why I state fission based nuclear generation is because I believe that at some stage controllable fusion based nuclear technology will become available and the only byproduct from that is pure water. I remember quite well the Fleischmann and Pons cold fusion debacle of 1989 and whilst such an approach is still researched today, it is not mainstream science. However as history has shown studies of phenomenon have advanced from being something so mysterious that they are of the Gods to what they actually are; part of nature and science is the methodology used for such study and to formulate a valid and logical explanation. Science is a far more rigorous and logical system than any, previously used or current, religious or folk belief system, because of its continual testing of all theories. So given that history I am confident that one day we will have safe operational fusion reactors worldwide. When is another story.
 

tonnyc

Well-Known Member
Where do large battery plants like Tesla,s come into the equation ? ,
They are useful for stabilizing very short term fluctuations that are measured in seconds or minutes. It gives the diesel/natural gas generators time to ramp up. Without it, they will have to be "hot but idle", which costs quite a bit.
 

tonnyc

Well-Known Member
By the way, while I am not well versed in Australian politics, I do try to keep up with nuclear energy tech and I can help answer questions about the tech itself. I don't claim expertise, but I do notice that a lot of people's knowledge about nuclear energy is kinda stuck in the sixties-eighties. The tech has advanced significantly. Due to its nature the pace of technological progress can feel slow but there are significant advances between 2nd generation nuclear power plants of the '60-80s and the 3rd generation of today and the 4th generation that is being developed.

Err, don't ask me about nuclear weapons though. That one I don't know much.
 

John Fedup

The Bunker Group
Well a journalist against nuclear power is now saying maybe viable for Australia, when you really look into it it does stack up.


Is it time for a nuclear power station in Australia?
The article mentions how nuclear power has kept energy prices for Canadians much lower than rates in Australia. If one is talking about overall Canadian rates, that may be true but that is not all due to nuclear. Hydro generation in BC and Quebec is massive. Significant hydro generation is present in Manitoba and Labrador as well. Ontario is the nuclear centre in Canada and rates here suck, largely because the former Wynne government subsidized windmill and solar farm operators. They get paid up to 10 times more for their power compared to OPG's nuclear produced power. Cancelling two NG plants and paying over a billion in cancellation penalties didn't help either.

Hard to believe any government could be worse than junior's but Wynne's was (junior willkeep trying though). Wynne has likely killed any hope that new nuclear plants will be built here again, there simply is no money. Had Mulroney's government been successful in developing a nuclear sub program, it would have kept AECL viable until the world comes to the inescapable conclusion that nuclear is the only base load solution for cutting GHG emissions for a world that continues to require massive amounts of new power generation.
 

Feanor

Super Moderator
Staff member
By the way, while I am not well versed in Australian politics, I do try to keep up with nuclear energy tech and I can help answer questions about the tech itself. I don't claim expertise, but I do notice that a lot of people's knowledge about nuclear energy is kinda stuck in the sixties-eighties. The tech has advanced significantly. Due to its nature the pace of technological progress can feel slow but there are significant advances between 2nd generation nuclear power plants of the '60-80s and the 3rd generation of today and the 4th generation that is being developed.

Err, don't ask me about nuclear weapons though. That one I don't know much.
What's your take on the fast neutron reactors that Russia is banking on for their 4th gen powerplants? Also how viable do you think reprocessing nuclear waste back into fuel is?
 

tonnyc

Well-Known Member
What's your take on the fast neutron reactors that Russia is banking on for their 4th gen powerplants? Also how viable do you think reprocessing nuclear waste back into fuel is?
You mean the sodium-cooled BN-800? That one is operating commercially at full power. If you mean the BREST OD-300 or the BN-1200, those are delayed because Russia is short on money and has chosen to focus on the more mature (and conventional) VVER family. Russia is saying that they'll use the time to test various improvements on the BN-800 to be applied at the BN-1200 in the future, but well, given the postponement and scale-down of the Su-57 and Armata and a refocus on Su-35 and T-90M, I suspect it's really about money.

By nuclear waste I'm assuming that you mean used nuclear fuel as opposed to various low-level and mid-level waste like discarded gloves or old pipes. Low level waste has very low radiation that fades away relatively quickly and can be disposed like regular waste afterward. Mid level waste is more difficult to deal with, but is also not that big a deal. High level waste, which is pretty much used nuclear fuel, is really what people think of when we're talking nuclear waste.

Reprocessing used nuclear fuel back into nuclear fuel is proven technologically. The two things preventing a more widespread use of reprocessing are politics and economics. Today, the price of uranium is so cheap that it is more profitable to buy fresh nuclear fuel instead of reprocessed nuclear fuel. Yes, even after we factor in enrichment it's still cheaper.

The political reasons are varied and weird. The US for example pressures other countries to only use fresh nuclear fuel instead of reprocessed nuclear fuel because of proliferation concern. The fear is that some country will gather the used nuclear fuel, separate the plutonium out, and use that to make nuclear weapons. A fair concern, but that doesn't explain why the US refuse to use it themselves (it is in fact illegal to reprocess used nuclear fuel even if it's for US nuclear power plants) or sell the reprocessed fuel to other countries. The US already has the world's largest nuclear arsenal and can make new nuclear weapons at will. Refusing to use reprocessing technology isn't going to reduce their nuclear arsenal by a single gram nor reduce their ability to make new nuclear weapons by a single iota. All it does is make the amount of nuclear waste produced far larger than necessary while mining more uranium than necessary.

Let me quote from the World Nuclear Association's Information Library on Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing.
Over the last 50 years the principal reason for reprocessing used fuel has been to recover unused plutonium, along with less immediately useful unused uranium, in the used fuel elements and thereby close the fuel cycle, gaining some 25% to 30% more energy from the original uranium in the process. This contributes to national energy security. A secondary reason is to reduce the volume of material to be disposed of as high-level waste to about one-fifth. In addition, the level of radioactivity in the waste from reprocessing is much smaller and after about 100 years falls much more rapidly than in used fuel itself.
Meanwhile Russia has no problem with reprocessing. France also uses reprocessing though not as much as Russia.

There is also an undercurrent of misguided belief among anti-nuclear people that if reprocessing is to be allowed then the nuclear waste issue won't be very scary anymore. This would undercut the fear people have toward nuclear power plants and hinder their effort to close any and all form of nuclear technology. Weird, because I thought if nuclear waste is a problem then surely something capable of reducing the amount of waste by 80% is to be welcomed. But then again, one of the core anti-nuclear argument is that the nuclear waste issue is unsolvable, and thus if they're to perpetuate their raison d'etre, they need to continue make it unsolvable.

Anyway, a far more reasonable approach is to require nuclear power plants to use reprocessed nuclear fuel. This in the long run will reduce the amount of nuclear waste significantly and reduce the mining needed to make the fuel. Meanwhile, since fuel cost is such a small fraction of a nuclear power plant's operating expense, the price increase is negligible.
Doubling the uranium price (say from $25 to $50 per lb U3O8) takes the fuel cost up from 0.50 to 0.62 US c/kWh, an increase of one quarter, and the expected cost of generation of the best US plants from 1.3 c/kWh to 1.42 c/kWh (an increase of almost 10%). So while there is some impact, it is minor, especially by comparison with the impact of gas prices on the economics of gas generating plants. In these, 90% of the marginal costs can be fuel. Only if uranium prices rise to above $100 per lb U3O8 ($260 /kgU), and stay there for a prolonged period (which seems very unlikely), will the impact on nuclear generating costs be considerable.
- World Nuclear Association's Information Library on Nuclear Power Economics.

That's a difference of 0.12 US cents. Not dollars. In dollars that's an increase of $0.012. Spot price of U3O8 for September 2018 is $27.50/lb. While I have no data on how much reprocessed nuclear fuel costs, I doubt it's more than $50/lb. But even if it's $75/lb or $100/lb the increase is still under an additional cent/KWh.

If we can deal with the politics, then used nuclear fuel reprocessing is viable. The economics will be a slight hindrance, but if we can deal with the politics it should be possible to force the nuclear power plant to "close" their nuclear fuel cycle (that is, reuse as much as possible) and minimize the amount of final storage space needed.
 

Terran

Active Member
This link is a summary of Project Pele, a transportable 1-5 MW nuclear reactor. Prototype reactors might happen in 1-2 years. Could be a real driver for more military electric vehicles.

To justify that you would need them in numbers at least 1 per Brigade combat team so as to have one maneuver with a large fleet of EV vehicles. I just don’t think that’s realistic.
Don’t get me wrong this has a lot of potential. FOBS, Humanitarian missions.

EVs in the military do have potential don’t get me wrong but in general I still think Hybrid are the best bets. For short trip light scout or UGV even SF vehicle EV have the best potential.
 

John Fedup

The Bunker Group
To justify that you would need them in numbers at least 1 per Brigade combat team so as to have one maneuver with a large fleet of EV vehicles. I just don’t think that’s realistic.
Don’t get me wrong this has a lot of potential. FOBS, Humanitarian missions.

EVs in the military do have potential don’t get me wrong but in general I still think Hybrid are the best bets. For short trip light scout or UGV even SF vehicle EV have the best potential.
Yes, hybrid is a realistic solution, both commercially and for the military until really efficient batteries become available. Even then, both markets, especially military, need the back up that an internal combustion engine can provide. Still waiting for LM’s compact fusion reactor that will solve everything…guessing that could be awhile.
 

ngatimozart

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Interesting documentary on Curiosity about fusion power.


There is a huge tokomak fusion reactor being built in France by ITER which is a 35 nation science and engineering project costing US$21 billion. It's been going for at least 20 years and the actual genesis of the project was the Reagan - Gorbachev 1985 Geneva Summit. The aim is to have the reactor running in 2025. They started assembling it last year with the installation of the shell for the worlds largest fridge. This is intended to cool the reactor, making it the 2nd known coldest place in the universe being 4°K (-269°C) The coldest place is some place that is 2°K (-271°C). The reactor will at the same time be one of the hotter places in the universe with the plasma being at 100 million °C. The reason for the cooling is the superconductors in the magnets creating the magnetic field to confine the plasma stream preventing from touching the sides of the reactor. There are 18 magnets and each one is the same weight as a fully loaded B747. The video showed the base of the fridge being lowered into position in the reactor cavity and the base weights 1,500 tonnes. There are a further two sections to be added to the base and the actual reactor will sit inside the fridge. Amazing piece of kit.
 

tonnyc

Well-Known Member
Re: nuclear microreactors such as Project Pele

While powering a fleet of battery electric military vehicles is a possible use for a nuclear power microplant, that's pretty far in the future. The more immediate case is to hasten and simplify the deployment of a forward operating base. One C-17 flight and it's ready. Need a forward radar base? Same.

Current military microgrids are mostly diesel gensets which require continuous bulk shipment of diesel fuel.. Advanced militaries can supplement it with solar panels and lithium batteries, both of which are bulky are require lots of flights and trucking to deliver to a forward base. Any military would love to be able to replace all those with just one nuclear microreactor. Leaving would also be a lot simpler. Turn it off, load it up, and fly away.

They may end up deciding to fly the fuel separately from the reactor as safety precaution, but even so that's just two flights.

While this doesn't yet eliminate the need for fuel for vehicles, it will cut the demand significantly.

PS: Just to illustrate the kind of power that battery electric vehicles need, a few years back Tesla proposed a Tesla Megacharger than charge a Tesla Semi in 30 minutes for an expected range of 400 miles. The power requirement for that is expected to exceed 1 megawatt.
 

kato

The Bunker Group
Verified Defense Pro
Advanced militaries can supplement it with solar panels and lithium batteries, both of which are bulky are require lots of flights and trucking to deliver to a forward base.
Germany started deploying methanol fuel cells for mobile forward electricity generation ten years ago. 75-80% weight saving compared to batteries and no signature in operation unlike a diesel genset.

The company also sells these to a couple other militaries.

Leaving would also be a lot simpler. Turn it off, load it up, and fly away.
You may want to look up the term "decay heat".
 

Terran

Active Member
Re: nuclear microreactors such as Project Pele

While powering a fleet of battery electric military vehicles is a possible use for a nuclear power microplant, that's pretty far in the future. The more immediate case is to hasten and simplify the deployment of a forward operating base. One C-17 flight and it's ready. Need a forward radar base? Same.

Current military microgrids are mostly diesel gensets which require continuous bulk shipment of diesel fuel.. Advanced militaries can supplement it with solar panels and lithium batteries, both of which are bulky are require lots of flights and trucking to deliver to a forward base. Any military would love to be able to replace all those with just one nuclear microreactor. Leaving would also be a lot simpler. Turn it off, load it up, and fly away.

They may end up deciding to fly the fuel separately from the reactor as safety precaution, but even so that's just two flights.

While this doesn't yet eliminate the need for fuel for vehicles, it will cut the demand significantly.

PS: Just to illustrate the kind of power that battery electric vehicles need, a few years back Tesla proposed a Tesla Megacharger than charge a Tesla Semi in 30 minutes for an expected range of 400 miles. The power requirement for that is expected to exceed 1 megawatt.
Tesla Semi is fine for short to medium runs. Especially in well developed countries with an established grid or ability to mount Megachargers. The main issue with military operations is that the Semi or any other are mixed operations. Long haul or outsized cargo which this far half if not third EV range projections. This is as EVs are far more susceptible to issues of Aerodynamic drag than ICE vehicles which can power on through. Farther For military operations which can be spread over huge swaths of range. Having an onboard power system just makes more sense. Looking at current technology levels in EV given the range issues pure EV right now might be a option for short range raiding type operations and needs. Special ops motorcycles, Quad ATV, small to medium UGV and UAS. In developed grids or established bases support vehicles not meant for the front line.
:: aside, Just last night I was watching a video on YouTube where a group of car reviewers took a Zero Adventure bike (EV Dirt Bike similar to military types) road it on a Colorado highway about 90 mi then loaded it in the back of a Ford F-150 Power boost hybrid. Then drove about 100mi back recharging the bike as they drove. By the time they got back it was at 93%. For a military SF team who want to approach by silence. This means that they could drive close to the front load into EVs have a roughly 45 mile range of operations on a bike or quad potentially longer in a SxS. Conduct operations and rendezvous with the mother trucks recharge well moving to the next mission. ::
This doesn’t even address the problem of fire hazard from penetration of the battery pack.

Solar panels are fairly large and bulky also rather obvious limiting them to bases and prohibiting use in hides for more than small devices.
Lithium ion are fine for short term but need to be recharged.
These Nuclear reactors are probably not a cheap option either and even if mobile trying to recharge their host units with them doesn’t seem realistic. Basically it all ends up being mostly fixed options.
Well more modern Hybrid vehicles with alternators offer mobile power generation just needing the Occasional Dinosaur juicing. They have the range for long road marches ability to carry rather bulky decidedly Not aerodynamic payloads with only minor issues of range.
IMO it’s not a zero sum game. It’s a question of mixing to get the best characteristics from all the options.
 
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