An Energy Strategy

October 12 2008 / by Will / In association with Future
Category: Energy   Year: General   Rating: 11 Hot

Cross posted from Where There’s A William.

As long as we seem to be in the mood to spend our way out of trouble anyway, what say we try to acquire a little something in return for or effort?

I have written about the Hyperion Power Module with some degree of specificity in the past, but the present socio-political climate within the US national environment allows me to complete the strategic formulation, I believe.

Since the recent signing into law of the US$850b financial legislation, the mechanism to create a unifying force to relieve the impending energy crisis the USA presently faces is now available. Since the SecTres works for the President, a simple executive order to assign 8.5 of those $850b to a specific project would provide ample force, I submit.

Beginning now, the President should direct formation of a contract with Hyperion to purchase 500 of it’s standard power modules on a crash construction basis to enhance the US domestic electric grid.

Here’s the Strategy: The USG offers to pay a one-time fee of US$1,000,000 per unit and to supply sufficient real estate from suitable USG controlled land, limited legislative exemption from construction legal challenge, engineering and regulatory assistance for site and plant design and the sum of US$200,000,000 for each of five purpose-built construction facilities. Additionally, USG agrees to purchase at 50% of the present advertised price of US$25,000,000 apiece, 500 units over the course of 5 years plus one year for construction of the assembly plants. Finally, USG agrees to finance from this allocation the recruitment, relocation, training and housing needs of sufficient workforce to initially staff all five anticipated production facilities.

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Terrorist WMD attack likely within decade, say analysts

April 11 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future
Category: Security   Year: General   Rating: 8 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

The world faces an estimated 70 percent chance of a nuclear, biological or chemical attack in the next decade, according to national security analysts surveyed for a recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee study.

More than half of the 85 analysts contacted believed one or two new countries would acquire nuclear weapons within five years, and five more will obtain them in ten. They counted technology sharing between terrorist groups among activities that posed the greatest dangers, and attacks by terrorists as more likely than those posed by rogue states.

Committee Chair Senator Richard Lugar said that though the U.S. may be successful in building new democracies, we are not safe from small, fanatical terrorist cells that could possibly get their hands on nuclear materials.

How great is this risk? During the Cold War, the possibility of a nuclear war that could kill every American made it imperative to do anything possible to avoid conflict. Today, the consequence of even a single nuclear weapon exploding in a U.S. city is almost beyond imagination.

Terrorist’s armed with one nuclear bomb could murder a million people – killing in one day nearly twice as many Americans as died in both twentieth century World Wars combined.

A WMD attack on the U.S. would have catastrophic consequences for other countries too. Researchers at RAND, a government think tank, estimated that a nuclear explosion at the Port of Long Beach in California would cause immediate indirect costs worldwide of more than $3 trillion and, the shutting down of U.S. ports would cut world trade by 10 percent. (cont.)

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MIT announces breakthrough in fusion, but Holy Grail of energy 'still decades away'

December 04 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future
Category: Energy   Year: Beyond   Rating: 7 Hot

MIT Fusion

MIT researchers are keeping hope alive in the long quest for fusion energy.  Researchers have advanced our ability to harnesses one of the most complicated forms of energy science in the universe, but add a word of caution that real scalable reactors could still be 'decades away' as all eyes now focus on the ITER in France.

Fusion systems could generate enormous amounts of energy by tapping the same types of reactions found within stars.  It has long been considered a 'holy grail' category within the energy sector because it produces no emissions or real waste, and its fuel sources are abundant.

MIT's Alcator C-Mod reactor has been in operation since 1993 and has the highest magnetic field and the highest plasma pressure of any fusion reactor in the world. It is also the largest fusion reactor operated by any university. [Image from MIT Fusion Movie]

Now MIT researchers believe they may have solved one of the most challenging problems how to propel the hot plasma (an electrically charged gas) around inside the donut-shaped reactor chamber so that the chamber doesn't lose its heat of millions of degrees to the cooler vessel walls.

"There's been a lot of progress," says physicist Earl Marmar, division head of the Alcator Project at the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC). "We're learning a lot more about the details of how these things work."

The Power of Radio waves
Physicist Yijun Lin and principal research scientist John Rice now describe a very efficient method for using radio-frequency waves to push the plasma around inside the vessel, not only keeping it from losing heat to the walls but also preventing internal turbulence that can reduce the efficiency of fusion reactions.

"That's very important," Marmar says, because presently used techniques to push the plasma will not work in future, higher-power reactors such as the planned ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) now under construction in France, and so new methods must be found. "People have been trying to do this for decades."

France holds Key to Future of Fusion

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Blacklight Power claims independent verification of breakthrough power generation system

October 21 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future
Category: Energy   Year: 2018   Rating: 6 Hot

There are only a few energy companies in the world that have generated as much attention and skepticism as BlackLight Power Inc. The company has demonstrated a controllable, scalable energy system the cannot be explained by conventional scientific paradigms of combustion or nuclear reactions.

Simply put the company has devised a way to capture the chemical energy from the electrons of hydrogen atoms as they transition to lower-energy levels. It is not combustion-based or nuclear but releases tremendous amounts of energy. [Flash video of process]

While the claims have, not surprisingly, generated a lot of criticism and doubt, Black Power has now confirmed successful independent replication and validation.

The validation of its 1,000 watt and 50,000 watt reactors was led by Rowan University’s Dr. Peter Jansson which conducted 55 tests of the prototypes, including controls and calibrations, during a nine-month study. Results indicated that energy generation was proportional to the total amount of solid fuel, and only one percent of the one million joules of the energy released could be accounted for by previously known chemistry. According to Dr. Jansson “Our experiments on the BlackLight technology have demonstrated that within the range of measurement errors the significant energy generated, which is 100 times the energy that could be attributed to measurement error, cannot be explained by other known sources like combustion or nuclear energy.”

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Radiating Good News

October 15 2008 / by Will / In association with Future
Category: Energy   Year: 2008   Rating: 4 Hot

Cross posted from Where There’s A William by Will Brown

In an attempt to show I’m not entirely in the tank for any particular nuclear energy provider, I direct your attention to the following. Via Jerry Pournelle’s Current Mail link for Tuesday (10/14/08) comes notice of this NRC map of new nuclear power stations in the construction approval process.

I note that Texas has four such new plants already. Given the depressing quantities demanded on my electric utility bill this just-ended atypically cool summer, and in anticipation of the amounts no doubt to be claimed during the upcoming winter, I can only encourage more and faster, please.

Yucca Mountain Nuclear Storage on Ice. Now What?

March 04 2009 / by joelg / In association with Future
Category: Energy   Year: 2009   Rating: 4

By Joel Greenberg

Yucca MountainThe Obama administration recently announced their proposed budget with an interesting nuclear wrinkle:  they are no longer funding Yucca Mountain, the underground repository for nuclear wastes in Nevada, 90 miles Northwest of Las Vegas.  "Unfunding" effectively kills the project.  Supporters view Yucca Mountain as a reasonable solution to storing nuclear waste for the long term.  Critics call it a boondoggle based upon flawed science.

Nuclear waste is a byproduct of generating electricity in the 104 nuclear reactors currently running in the US.  It's highly toxic with some elements remaining dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years. It's currently being stored on-site at each reactor, which are running out of room to store the waste.  While Yucca Mountain had room for the existing waste from these 104 reactors, it did not have room for the future waste from the reactors that are now planned as a result of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which has kicked off a renaissance of nuclear power in the US after 30 years of dormancy.


"No," says Dr. Mike Kotschenreuther, a senior research scientist at the Institute for Fusion Studies at the University of Texas, "We've known that President Obama said he was going to discontinue Yucca Mountain for some time.  We're still going to need a solution to nuclear waste, even if Yucca Mountain is no longer a viable project, so we've been doing our best to come up with a solution."

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Half Empty, Half Full. Or both.

October 16 2008 / by Peltaire / In association with Future
Category: Other   Year: Beyond   Rating: 3 Hot

Nuclear aftermath is just another way of life.

Hope and change? How about mostly change.

Portable Nuclear Reactor to Set Up Shop in Your Neighborhood

November 11 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Energy   Year: 2013   Rating: 2

If the 10-year timeline of building a nuclear reactor has got you worried about clean energy today, a smaller and simpler solution could be only a few years away. Hyperion Power Generation has a great website which professes the practicality and usefulness of their van-sized nuclear reactor.

Given that the population of some areas are too low to warrant a full-sized reactor, Hyperion mobile reactors are more fitted for rough terrain and smaller communities. “Hyperion produces only 25 MWe — enough to provide electricity for about 20,000 average American sized homes or its industrial equivalent.” Reactors can also be teamed together for larger communities or areas with higher energy usage. This could be very useful to third world countries where populations are growing but the availability of power is incredibly limited.

But is it dangerous?

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France's EDF outbids Buffet for nuclear power utility Constellation Energy

December 19 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future
Category: Energy   Year: 2014   Rating: 1

Nuclear Power Plant Byron Station

Nuclear power has not stopped being controversial in the US, but global industry leaders still see America as a market for growth in electricity generation.  

There are enormous challenges ahead for revitalizing support for nuclear power, but if the US does restart its nuclear power program, it will not do it alone.  And it's possible that pressure could be strongest from companies based outside the US.  Aside from flat public support, there is a notable lack of human engineering talent in the US.   

France invests in US power generation market
Now we have a new player in the nuclear industry.  France's utility giant EdF has outbid Warren Buffet's MidAmerican Energy to buy Baltimore-based Constellation Energy which has a nuclear power generation heavy portfolio.  EDF will invest $1 billion in Constellation, and up to $2 billion for non-nuclaer power plant investments.

Buffet did not walk away empty handed from his earlier effort to buy Constellation, and has doubled his money in less than a year as he retains a 9% stake and $593 million in cash. 

This is a significant investment by France's EDF in the US power generation market, and could be a milestone in the new battle for public support for nuclear power.

[It should be noted that, aside from all the legacy controversy issues, nuclear energy is NOT a substitute for oil or liquid fuels.  Nuclear plants produce electricity and we cannot fill combustion engines with electrons.  So the argument that nuclear energy provides for 'energy independence' falls flat.]

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