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  1. - Top - End - #31
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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Quote Originally Posted by Grey_Wolf_c View Post
    ETA: more to my point, too, is that this is one of those problems capitalism fails to address. People who invest in nuclear are barely willing to do so when all they have to do is build it - no business wants to be lashed to paying for the waste disposal or the decommission of their plants, and it shows. So it is even more money that the government has to put aside to pay for these albatrosses. Nuclear is just not economically viable even under the rosiest of circumstances (e.g. "the company running it puts money aside"), never mind the real scenario where the costs just mount with no end in sight ("ha-ha! We're declaring bankruptcy and walking away from our obligations, while paying our full bonus and golden parachutes")

    Grey Wolf
    I have heard, though I haven't hunted down the facts thereto, that wind power is going to have mountains of dead windmills in the near future that they have not been properly preparing to dispose of. Coal creates mountains of ash. Oil and natural gas don't create much in the way of solid by-products, but fracking liquids can contaminate ground water if they spill. Solar is going to produce mountains of dead panels and produces insane contamination. Hydro, Solar, and Wind also require turning massive areas over to energy production with the consequent environmental impact. Getting energy causes a mess.
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    Rockphed said it well.
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  2. - Top - End - #32
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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Quote Originally Posted by Grey_Wolf_c View Post
    This seems to be trying to counter an argument no-one is making - certainly not me. I don't much care about the total number of tons of nuclear waste produced, given that it takes a single spent rod to poison the ground around it for generations if not millennia.
    Except the overall volume absolute does matter. The amount of HLW waste is small enough that burying all of it within giant concrete drums impervious to essentially anything - which is pretty much what is actually done with the amount not chosen for reprocessing - is a perfectly viable solution, especially since its radioactivity drops drastically over a few generations.

    This is not something you can do with coal ash - of which the US alone produces something like 130,000,000 metric tonnes each year, or over 500 times the amount of HLW in existence - all of which has to be just piled up in landfills and releases considerable radiation into the atmosphere, ground, and groundwater on its own (because the Earth itself contains radioactive elements, anything you did out of the ground is radioactive, which is why granite countertops set off radiation detectors).


    Regardless, the reason to favor nuclear - or to maintain space for nuclear in a newly decarbonized power generation sector - is almost entirely a technical one. Wind and Solar produce the overwhelming bulk of their power generation during daylight hours, something that cannot be changed, yet power demand is actually highest during the early evening. The result is the problem of the Duck Curve. At the present time storage production and technologies are not sufficient to meet the needs of this ever-increasing mismatch, and it is unlikely they will be able to do so in the immediate future. Nuclear power, by maintaining a relatively constant base load production with some ability to scale up and down, helps to take the edge off this problem. Long range power transmission, as I mentioned above, is also a potential solution to this problem as you could hypothetically race the sunset around the globe with a suitably robust transmission network. In all likelihood some combination of all three approaches are necessary for effective decarbonization.
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  3. - Top - End - #33
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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Quote Originally Posted by Rockphed View Post
    I have heard, though I haven't hunted down the facts thereto, that wind power is going to have mountains of dead windmills in the near future that they have not been properly preparing to dispose of. Coal creates mountains of ash. Oil and natural gas don't create much in the way of solid by-products, but fracking liquids can contaminate ground water if they spill. Solar is going to produce mountains of dead panels and produces insane contamination. Hydro, Solar, and Wind also require turning massive areas over to energy production with the consequent environmental impact. Getting energy causes a mess.
    I don't know about all the others, but in a previous job, I worked in a company that manufactures windmills, and they are fairly recyclable. Even if no-one wants it in the secondary market (and we'll see, they'll probably will), just dismantling them and breaking the shells/blades into chunks has a cost that does not bankrupt small nations. It is also one of those arguments that feels too "both-siderism" and never does seem to come with numbers attached. I can believe that solar panels do come with a certain amount of dangerous chemicals that can't just be tossed in a dumpster, but as you correctly pointed out, it is all a matter of ratios. In short: how much, per MW? It might be that it is equally expensive... but I doubt it. Nuclear is really, really, really expensive, and the only reason it is still hobbling on is because many governments can use it to maintain or build up the expertise in case they suddenly want to branch into nuclear weapon manufacturing. And you know, that's a valid enough argument to keep one or two nuclear power stations. But it is not a valid argument for replacing all fossil fuel power.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    This is not something you can do with coal ash
    No-one here is caliming that coal is a better solution to nuclear.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    Duck Curve
    Battery tech is cheaper, better, and getting cheaper and better than nuclear. Hydro too can much more easily flatten the curve, and can be ramped up and down so much easier than nuclear, as Xyril pointed out previously.

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  4. - Top - End - #34
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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Quote Originally Posted by Grey_Wolf_c View Post
    Battery tech is cheaper, better, and getting cheaper and better than nuclear.
    Very similar claims were made regarding coal and gas versus wind and solar for a long time, because everyone1 was focused on improving the first two and ignored the second two. I'd argue that batteries and nuclear power are in a similar boat, given what we know we could do with nuclear, but haven't built full-scale reactors for yet.

    1: Well, the people with enough money to drive the industry, anyway.
    That's all I can think of, at any rate.

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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Quote Originally Posted by Grey_Wolf_c View Post
    Battery tech is cheaper, better, and getting cheaper and better than nuclear. Hydro too can much more easily flatten the curve, and can be ramped up and down so much easier than nuclear, as Xyril pointed out previously.

    Grey Wolf
    For someone who was (correctly) accusing others on this thread of being handwavy, that's pretty handwavy.

    I do think you need to include the cost of the energy storage devices when you talk about wind & solar, and I don't think those have been included. Also, if you are talking about the environmental & human costs of mining, well, most battery techs require various rare elements as well, most famously lithium. Per Wikipedia, lithium is, like uranium, found mostly in small concentrations inside other materials; you don't get a vein of lithium. I don't know enough to really estimate these costs (and battery tech keeps changing anyways), but I do think you have to consider it.

    You can, of course, just skip the battery and use "potential energy storage" -- pushing water up into a reservoir during the day and then letting it spin turbines flowing down in the evening, or lifting a heavy rock during the day and letting it fall during the evening. I always hear about those ideas, but no one ever seems to use them, so I assume they're harder or more expensive than I think. Anyone know why they haven't caught on?

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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Quote Originally Posted by Sermil View Post
    You can, of course, just skip the battery and use "potential energy storage" -- pushing water up into a reservoir during the day and then letting it spin turbines flowing down in the evening, or lifting a heavy rock during the day and letting it fall during the evening. I always hear about those ideas, but no one ever seems to use them, so I assume they're harder or more expensive than I think. Anyone know why they haven't caught on?
    I would expect because the energy expended in pumping the water back up into the reservoir or raising the rock back into position (or whatever else you're using as mechanical energy storage - pretty much anything that can 'flow' could be used to turn a wheel, for example, not just water) is nowhere near what you generate back when you release it, particularly when you account for the inefficiency that necessarily happens when you take your electricity and convert it into mechanical power in the first place. This would be an alternate solution to the issue of 'How do we store excess power generation so it can be used when it's needed', and the default answer to that is batteries. In order to convince people to actually build this kind of project, it either has to be better than battery based storage, or there needs to be some compelling reason that you can't or don't want to use batteries.

    "We don't need rare-earth metals to do it" may be that reason, but at the moment the materials that go into batteries aren't expensive enough and/or there isn't enough public opinion against them to make it worth building that particular alternative.

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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Pumped-storage hydro is actually fairly efficient, with energy recovery in the 70-80% range. The real issue is that, like all hydro power, it is extremely location dependent and it's installation has immense ecological consequences for those locations because it drastically alters the local water cycle. Significant expansion of hydropower is a difficult option because power generation facilities already exist at most of the world's most advantageous locations.

    Quote Originally Posted by tyckspoon
    "We don't need rare-earth metals to do it" may be that reason, but at the moment the materials that go into batteries aren't expensive enough and/or there isn't enough public opinion against them to make it worth building that particular alternative.
    At the moment we simply have not built much in the way of large-scale battery-based energy storage. The largest currently operating facility (assuming wikipedia is accurate) is a planet in China capable of producing 200 MW and storing 4 hours worth of that power. There is also a 150 MW plant in Australia. There are no other battery storage facilities of more than 50 MW in operation.

    Maybe batteries will get there. Certainly there are a large number of projects planned and some of them are actually under construction (Tesla apparently just broke ground on a 180+ MW facility in California), but as yet commercial level battery-based energy storage remains mostly potential. The worry, with regard to Lithium in particular, is that a massive expansion in battery production and usage (which involves the transportation sector as well) will place a severe strain on global lithium supplies to the point that they could become a major impediment to batteries as an option.
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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Quote Originally Posted by Sermil View Post
    I do think you need to include the cost of the energy storage devices when you talk about wind & solar, and I don't think those have been included. Also, if you are talking about the environmental & human costs of mining, well, most battery techs require various rare elements as well, most famously lithium. Per Wikipedia, lithium is, like uranium, found mostly in small concentrations inside other materials; you don't get a vein of lithium. I don't know enough to really estimate these costs (and battery tech keeps changing anyways), but I do think you have to consider it.
    This is about half correct. Lithium isn't really rare. It's reactive, meaning that it doesn't naturally occur in elemental form. (As you say, "you don't get a vein of lithium.") While it's accurate to say that it occurs primarily in small concentrations in other materials, your implication that this necessarily reflects a high economic or environmental cost is... misleading at best.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brine_mining

    Currently, our main source of lithium is brine mining--this essentially means taking mineral-rich water from some source, evaporating the water to concentrate the brine, and using physical or chemical processes to isolate the desired elements. For at least one of the brine sources of lithium, the lithium isn't even the main point: The operations were begun--and continue--primarily to extract potassium. This brine also contained high concentrations of lithium, which is now isolated as a byproduct as demand has increased with consumer batteries.

    But let's just say, for the sake of argument, that lithium is "rare" by some definition of the word rare. Your assertion that "most battery techs" require rare elements isn't entirely true either. Right now, it's arguable that most battery production uses "rare" lithium, because that is the most mature consumer technology that meets specific market needs. However, novel battery technology development is focused in a number of lines of research, many of which do not require rare earth elements or other "rare" elements, or only require them in very small amounts.

    More importantly, when we talk about consumer battery technology, we're not actually talking about batteries in general. We're talking about the energy storage applications that currently drive the market: Portable electronics, electric cars, and (arguably) small-scale home energy storage. There's a reason lithium-ion batteries have dominated the market: These applications all require high energy density, high portability, and substantial battery longevity/memory. More importantly, these technologies are already on the market, and battery technology is/has been a major bottleneck on further development. People have tablets and smart phones that currently need light, portable, high capacity batteries. Every incremental improvement can make your phones lighter, or power improved processors or better screens, or last longer, and that produces a consumer product that people will pay more for. Heck, tablets and smart phones only exist because of prior developments in battery tech that was driven by the demand for portable electronics. Remember e-readers that only had monochrome screens and pocket PCs that only lasted a few hours on a charge? Or those giant camcorders that used batteries the size of a small brick (and required you to carry one or two extras if you wanted to use it for more than a couple hours?) Smartphones are only viable now because they got a head start, piggybacking off technology that was driven by the demand for lighter, longer lasting cameras and other, older types of consumer electronics. Electric cars have slightly different, but largely overlapping, requirements for an ideal battery, but they are also on the market and driving technological development. The miniaturization requirements are less stringent than in electronics, but electric cars still require a certain level of portability, while energy-to-weight and energy-to-volume ratios, longevity, and rapid-charging are pretty much the single major impediment to electric cars completely supplanting gas and diesel.

    General power storage relating to green power generation is, right now, only a blip on the market. Lithium ion batteries are used in home backup systems and home solar systems, but that's only a small fraction of a market that itself is only a tiny percentage of consumers. There just isn't the huge market drive right now. Most solar users current stay on the grid, and rely on reverse metering. This means they don't need good storage--or any storage. They install batteries for two main reasons. First, it turns their solar system into a makeshift backup system--useful if you live somewhere with a non-negligible chance of occasional blackouts. Second, it lets them take advantage of the duck curve economically. By storing early morning energy and selling it when prices peak later, they can make slightly more money from reverse metering. The problem is, even without storage, solar production doesn't match the demand peak perfectly, but it does match it well enough that it saves you a lot of money. An off-grid home or an isolated power network that uses solar as the only source of peak power needs storage to keep the lights on; for a reverse-metered home or a diverse power grid, batteries are more a luxury, useful for optimization, but not necessary for basic operability.

    Research and production of lithium-ion batteries have been driven by market demand for years, which is why they already have gotten much better, and less expensive. The fact that it's such a mature technology with a well-developed manufacturing infrastructure also means that it sometimes makes sense to try to use it for applications where--in theory--lithium-ion batteries aren't the perfect candidate. American tanks famously run on jet fuel, which provides some technical advantages, but probably not enough to justify the costs and other trade offs. However, doing so also means that tanks can take advantage of the same supply chains that already exist to support military aviation, providing logistical advantages. When you're talking about the scale of power plants and power grids, you no longer need many of the unique advantages of lithium-ion batteries. If adapting that technology is economically viable, then there's no reason not to do so until something better comes along. However, the fact that we no longer need something that's small, portable, and easy to recharge opens up a lot of solutions deemed unsuitable for consumer electronics. Even the humble lead-acid battery, largely unchanged because the demands of marine and automotive use haven't really increased in decades, is viable when you're talking about a stationary wind farm.



    You can, of course, just skip the battery and use "potential energy storage" -- pushing water up into a reservoir during the day and then letting it spin turbines flowing down in the evening, or lifting a heavy rock during the day and letting it fall during the evening. I always hear about those ideas, but no one ever seems to use them, so I assume they're harder or more expensive than I think. Anyone know why they haven't caught on?
    This takes up space and requires specific infrastructure. I think we only use this method of storage in places where we already have or had hydroelectric power production--thus, saving us from having to build and maintain turbines new turbines purely for energy storage. Economically, it only makes sense in electricity networks where 1) hydroelectric power is a source of capacity and 2) hydroelectric power isn't the only source of capacity. For example, the Tennessee Valley Authority runs a storage reservoir as part of their regional network. The power produced solely from rainfall and natural flow into the reservoir aren't enough to meet demand, but pumping water into the reservoir during off-peak times gives them a way to use other capacity more efficiently. With growing awareness of the environmental impact of hydroelectric power, people are reluctant to build more dams. Building a dam primarily to store power generated elsewhere means that you won't even have the carbon reduction to balance the harm.

    The reason this hasn't caught on beyond these specific situations is simple: economics. As a group, people here are pretty optimistic about renewable energy, but we need to remember that they weren't even remotely economically viable until relatively recently. Energy storage only makes sense if you get some benefit out of it. If the cost of solar power is just barely acceptable during daytime, peak-demand prices, who has the incentive to shut down their coal plants, build a ton of solar capacity, and then build a reservoir to allow that energy to be saved and sold during off-peak hours? Alternatively, it would be useful to store off-peak power from cheaper, steady-capacity sources like nuclear or coal, in order to save that energy for peak-demand, thus eliminating the need for other, more expensive sources of peak-power. Again, the problem was economics. Natural gas power plants can be turned on quickly to respond to peak demand, are considered more emissions-friendly than coal, and (IIRC) more efficient in terms of converting chemical energy to electricity. More importantly, natural gas prices aren't so much higher than coal to justify investing in storage--plus, in the past few decades we've had quite a few periods of depressed natural gas prices. In particular, natural gas is a byproduct of oil exploration, which means that on occasion we have new sources of natural gas on the market that weren't driven by customers telling the market that they need more.

    When you also consider that reservoir projects can take on the order of decades to go through financing, regulatory approval, and construction, it makes sense that this kind of storage is rare. You'd basically have to gamble that, in ten years or so, the difference between the peak price and off-peak price will be enough to justify building and running the plant. What's worse, the effect of improving solar power doesn't have the effect you might think on the market. Yes, in the long term, if we ever get to a point where we rely exclusively on a mix of solar, wind, and other sources where capacity is completely unresponsive to demand, storage will be key. However, on the short term, solar is a newly viable source of capacity that largely coincides with peak demand. This means that as solar grows cheaper and more reliable, it will actually reduce the difference in price between peak and off-peak, which will in term make storage systems less economically viable.
    Last edited by Xyril; 2020-08-15 at 04:50 PM.

  9. - Top - End - #39
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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Quote Originally Posted by Sermil View Post
    I do think you need to include the cost of the energy storage devices when you talk about wind & solar, and I don't think those have been included.
    I believe Lazard is currently the gold standard for pricing, and I believe it does include storage in the cost calculation, at least for solar.

    ETA: although I'm not seeing explicitly listed in the 2019 one, so I could be wrong here. The next obvious place I'd look for is Tesla's industrial installations of batteries, but getting numbers I can trust would be a lot more difficult.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sermil View Post
    Also, if you are talking about the environmental & human costs of mining, well, most battery techs require various rare elements as well, most famously lithium. Per Wikipedia, lithium is, like uranium, found mostly in small concentrations inside other materials; you don't get a vein of lithium. I don't know enough to really estimate these costs (and battery tech keeps changing anyways), but I do think you have to consider it.
    Xyril clearly knows this in far more detail than I do, but it is enough to say that not all energy stores are batteries like you find in a cellphone. Hydro is a decent form of energy storage, as there are other approaches (in that job I mentioned, I heard a lot about air compression, for example). I encourage you to do your own research (a word of advice, though: don't expect any webpage with "coal" "nuclear" or "green" in the title to be trustworthy - that's why I tend to go to Lazard, who just care about the bottom line).

    Quote Originally Posted by Sermil View Post
    You can, of course, just skip the battery and use "potential energy storage" -- pushing water up into a reservoir during the day and then letting it spin turbines flowing down in the evening, or lifting a heavy rock during the day and letting it fall during the evening. I always hear about those ideas, but no one ever seems to use them, so I assume they're harder or more expensive than I think. Anyone know why they haven't caught on?
    They are being used:

    ETA: Wikipedia has a list

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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    What is actually that bad about putting the radioactive materials of a nuclear plant back where they came from?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rydiro View Post
    What is actually that bad about putting the radioactive materials of a nuclear plant back where they came from?
    They generally come from solid rock, which once you vreak it up and process it is no longer solid. So if you just put it back you have a large pile if extremely water permeable slag.

    You've also gone from very diluted uranium, most of which isn't even of a particularly radioactive isotope, to a lot of more concentrated and lighter radioactive elements.

    End result, a pile of broken rock leaching all sorts of interestingly toxic things into your water supply. Build your dream home downriver of Mt St Cancer today and experience exciting personal growth!
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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Quote Originally Posted by Rydiro View Post
    What is actually that bad about putting the radioactive materials of a nuclear plant back where they came from?
    You mean, the mines? Even assuming the mine is not still being exploited, the same usual problem from putting it anywhere else: it easily contaminates the groundwater, and through that, everything down flow from it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    A small correction to what snowblizz said: Finland has multiple nuclear reactors in operation. It's the newest one that is, I think, a decade behind its construction schedule.

    But that mess has little to do with cold weather. Geologically, Finland is close to ideal for both production of nuclear power and storing of nuclear waste, due to lying on stable bedrock and having significant coastline. We'd even have native uranium and thorium reserves.
    I was not talking about current active 2 plants (4 reactors total) nor about Olkiluoto-3 (under construction). I was talking about the 2 planned projects at Simo and Pyhäjoki of which only the last seems even realisitcally on the map permissions wise. Pyhäjoki is about 400kms north of Olkiluoto and Simo another 100km on top of that. Of the 2 prospective sites I can't for sure which one they were talking about when the thoughts about the freezing seaice was brought up, but Simo is close to the Arctic circle. It is a long time ago and I can't even say for certain if the objection was grounded or just a lazy "think of the children" type objections.


    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    The actual problem was Chernobyl.

    All the operational reactors are old "second gen" models, built with Soviet help and technology. When Chernobyl catastrophe happened, popular opinion turned against nuclear power and Finland stopped building those. The stopped building for long enough that all the people who knew how to build those moved to other jobs or retired. The technological know-how evaporated.
    Of the 2 operating facilities 1 is "Soviet built" (i.e. Soviet tech, but built by more competent people) and the other is "Swedish built".

    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    So when the decision was made to build a spiffy new "third gen" reactor, Finland had to hire some French company to do this... and the French dudes were complete newbies at this and bit way more than they could chew. Finland isn't even the only country where these noobs tried to build a reactor and screwed up. I think they went bankrupt or at the very least were bought off - in any case, Finland was left to deal with an unfinished, unoperational reactor as well as the legal hurdles of trying to get their money back from remnants of the French company.
    That seems to be a grossly oversimpification. Areva wasn't exactly new, it traces back to the company and technology used to build the French nuclear plants. As with most comapnies it "lives" and has changed form over the years by mergers and aquisitions. Not all of them very good so they have in a post-Fukushima world had financial problems and been split up again. It's not exactly true that "Finland" is left with a half finished plant, you make it sound like it's abandoned. The company that ordered the plant is litigating with Areva, and apparently have some deal about compensation, €450M for late operations start. Apparently now the corona epidemic is stopping them loading fuelrods. So it is no unfinished and unoperational. It's just not been able to run up yet.

    Undeniably the project has been an utter mess though. And this is all building a 3rd reactor in the same spot. Imagine trying to build one of these in the middle of the antarctic?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    The moral of the story is this: you don't get to have nice things if you drop the ball on how to make those things and leave it wallowing in the gutter for decades. This is the state of nuclear fission not just in Finland, but all of Europe, and possibly, world wide. The details are all in the realm of politics, but popular opinion really screwed fission over.
    It is true though that Europe lacks the know-how to build a large nuclear plant since none has been constructed since the 1980s. Olkiluoto-3 was supposed to be sort of a pilotproject for a modern nuclear power industry. Oops.

    Quote Originally Posted by Grey_Wolf_c View Post
    You mean, the mines? Even assuming the mine is not still being exploited, the same usual problem from putting it anywhere else: it easily contaminates the groundwater, and through that, everything down flow from it.

    GW
    Basically the problem of storage is the problem of the technical challenges put on it. A lot of those technical challenges comes from requirements of absolutely no impact on the environment for 100,000s or millions of years. Most mines aren't capable of providing the geological stability asked of long term storages. As someone else said it is a different matter for a place to contain low concentration ore compared to the refined stuff. Basically, the hurdles to long-term storage is set more by public opinion than anything else, but that's also probably political.

    It's too bad we can't stuff it into subductionzone and have it reabsorb back into the earth's mantle.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bohandas View Post
    Is it feasible to run power lines across an ocean from one continent to another?

    I had a thought the other day that a lot of the world's energy and pollution problems could probably be solved by building a bunch of nuclear power plants in Antarctica. The main aversion to nuclear plants is that if they happen to melt down it has a drastically bad effect on local people and wildlife, but mainland antarctica doesn't have either of those things (antarctica does have penguins, but IIRC they're only found along the coast). They'd still need a little bunker the staff could pile into to wait for rescue if something went wrong, but that's about it.
    A very interesting idea. The key to transmitting AC electricity over long distances is getting the voltage. Get the voltage high enough, you can transmit around the world.

    I think the main problem with your idea is logistics. A Nuclear Power plant takes a lot of steel, concrete, lead, copper, computers, etc to build and all of that would have to be brought via ship. All the construction equipment like front end loaders, concrete trucks, etc would also have to come by ship. When the ships get there, there is no port infrastructure so you would have to build up wharves, roads, etc before even starting the power plant. All the workers would need to be flown in or come via ship. You would need to build hotels for the workers and ship in all their food.

    And resupply is complicated by the ice. The US Coast Guard sends an icebreaker to Antarctica every spring to break open the route to McMurdo Station to allow resupply ships to approach. The ships can only get in like 5 months a year. So you would probably need to shut down every winter because of no supplies. Ice is also going to create a problem laying those subsea cables.

    The cold would also be a problem. Extreme cold will affect concrete drying and welding. There may be a way around that bit its probably more expensive.

    I think whether you are measuring cost in $$ per kilowatt or in CO2 emissions, building in Antarctica would be too expensive.
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    Quote Originally Posted by snowblizz View Post
    Basically the problem of storage is the problem of the technical challenges put on it. A lot of those technical challenges comes from requirements of absolutely no impact on the environment for 100,000s or millions of years. Most mines aren't capable of providing the geological stability asked of long term storages. As someone else said it is a different matter for a place to contain low concentration ore compared to the refined stuff. Basically, the hurdles to long-term storage is set more by public opinion than anything else, but that's also probably political.
    No, that is not true. This stuff is nasty. This is a picture (from wikipedia) of what happened when a long-term storage thought to themselves "nothing has happened in ten years, nothing is ever going to happen". The spent fuel corroded through concrete and went into the air and water around it. This is not just a NIMBY or overregulation issue - it needs regulation, and since it will continue to be poisonous for thousands of years, it needs to be properly contained for those many years, because the longer the problem exists, the more likely it will be forgotten and neglected.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grey_Wolf_c View Post
    No, that is not true. This stuff is nasty. This is a picture (from wikipedia) of what happened when a long-term storage thought to themselves "nothing has happened in ten years, nothing is ever going to happen". The spent fuel corroded through concrete and went into the air and water around it. This is not just a NIMBY or overregulation issue - it needs regulation, and since it will continue to be poisonous for thousands of years, it needs to be properly contained for those many years, because the longer the problem exists, the more likely it will be forgotten and neglected.

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    This argument sounds reasonable, but I think it misses the point of the prior comment. Nobody is arguing that we need zero regulation--any time the consequences of negligence might not become apparent within several lifetimes of the guys being negligent, you pretty much need the intervention of the something with much longer institutional memories.

    However, what we're seeing today is the paradoxical effect of over regulation and overreaction. Because people are so concerned with future neglect, they're setting regulatory standards so high that they present substantial technical hurdles. This essentially creates incentives for the people involved in long term storage to fudge results, such as by unreasonably extrapolating long-term predictions from short-term testing, in order to get anything at all done. Ironically, this has forced plants to continue to rely on theoretically even more unsafe local, short-term storage, which has generally been safer because those guys know that continued diligence against unexpected material breakdown and security threats is an absolute necessity.

    The path to viable and safe long-term storage is, ironically, acknowledging that there probably isn't a direct path from short-term, work-intensive storage a long-term technical solution that will last over 25,000 years without any human intervention, and allowing people to develop and utilize moderate-term solutions that can be monitored and testing over the course of decades in order to build the base of knowledge we need to implement long-term solutions eventually.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Xyril View Post
    The path to viable and safe long-term storage is, ironically, acknowledging that there probably isn't a direct path from short-term, work-intensive storage a long-term technical solution that will last over 25,000 years without any human intervention, and allowing people to develop and utilize moderate-term solutions that can be monitored and testing over the course of decades in order to build the base of knowledge we need to implement long-term solutions eventually.
    The problem with this argument is that it presupposes a willingness to use nuclear already. It is a very bad sell for someone who, like me, likes the low-carbon impact but is skeptical of both our ability to minimise all its other environmental impacts and its high cost. Telling me "it's fine, we'll poison the ground a few times in the short term until we figure out an economical way to do this, while also paying significantly more upfront, and more per KWh" is not exactly a winning argument, when the alternative is "or we could just put wind/solar everywhere, and provide base load with hydro/batteries".

    Yes, I acknowledge that hydro and batteries have their own ecological impacts to be concerned about. And yes, they too need to be regulated. But I'm sorry, no-one has shown me a good argument why we'd want to push for nuclear over them. Nuclear is more expensive, does more damage, and does so for longer than wind/solar/geo/hydro/batteries.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grey_Wolf_c View Post
    The problem with this argument is that it presupposes a willingness to use nuclear already. It is a very bad sell for someone who, like me, likes the low-carbon impact but is skeptical of both our ability to minimise all its other environmental impacts and its high cost. Telling me "it's fine, we'll poison the ground a few times in the short term until we figure out an economical way to do this, while also paying significantly more upfront, and more per KWh" is not exactly a winning argument, when the alternative is "or we could just put wind/solar everywhere, and provide base load with hydro/batteries".
    I'm not trying to convince you to use nuclear. Like you say, you're already unwilling to use nuclear, and no new data will change your mind on that--including, for example, the fact that solar and wind don't in fact cost less per kWh. While I am also hopeful that this will change as we invest more in research and development in an area that has been neglected for decades, it would be inaccurate to say that we're already at that point, or that it's a guarantee that we will get to that point.

    All I am trying to do is correct some inaccuracies or to fill in some blanks for a few specific points you have made, so that folks with a more neutral point of view can get a more accurate picture, and folks with more accurate or updated information can correct some of my views on those specific technical issues.

    Also, your strawman argument notwithstanding, my solution isn't "let's poison the ground a few times." Currently, the majority of spent nuclear fuel is stored on-site, with very frequent monitoring to prevent leakage. Part of the reason long-term storage solutions have been so horrible is the way they're implemented: The public opinion and regulatory environment have encouraged a rush to a "permanent" solution, and unsurprisingly the results have been marred by a combination of shortcuts and tunnel vision. What I propose is the creation of a regulatory framework that permits the exploration of medium term solutions: The exploration of potential-long term technologies over moderate time-scales (decades) in a facility with redundancy and the same intensive monitoring that is currently used in on-site storage.

    So to use your example: Instead of just sticking waste in concrete coffers and putting them into the ground, and forgetting about them because you assume something that lasted for 10 years will last for 15, we use a modified version of the current Interim Storage protocol. Currently, spent nuclear fuel stored on-site or in interim facilities use one of two methods: spent fuel pools, or dry cask storage. These are far from permanent solutions and provide challenges to scaling-up, but they have been implemented reliably over short time scales (on the order of years.) A medium-term storage/test facility could look something like this: A moderate amount of waste (more than a few plants/facilities, but nowhere near the scale of sending everything in the U.S. to one or two facilities, as is the current goal) is consolidated in one place. Proposed long-term storage solutions are tested and placed in an environment that simulates the proposed long-term resting place as much as possible, but provides in-place redundancy such as multiple impermeable barriers, and inert gas placement. The site is continually monitored to detect breakdown or leakage in primary storage. In case something goes wrong, a second set of redundancies are in place--probably spent fuel pools where the leaking fuel can be quickly relocated, thus making us no worse off than we were with on-site storage.

    Perhaps more importantly than the technical aspects, there needs to be regulatory support and an institutional commitment to run these facilities for decades, not only as near-term storage but also as a research facility, collecting the data that will be needed to develop viable, permanent solutions. Nobody can guarantee that these solutions will ever be found--however, we'd have a chance. This is more than I can say for the current regime which--while well-intentioned--is effectively sabotaging any chance we have of developing a viable, safe solution for long-term storage.

    Then again, maybe I'm being naive in presuming honest intentions. The lack of a viable long-term storage solution probably remains the single greatest argument supporting the abolition of both civilian and military development of nuclear power, and people who oppose both civilian and military nuclear development for other reasons have a strong incentive to preserve that argument.

    But I'm sorry, no-one has shown me a good argument why we'd want to push for nuclear over them.
    Has anyone even been arguing that we should be pushing nuclear over other options? I can only speak for myself, but my position has only been that if you remove the emotional angle, nuclear (even in its current, neglected state) has specific, objective advantages over solar/wind (even in their currently developed, but formerly neglected states) that should be weighed against the specific, objective risks and disadvantages of nuclear, and that we shouldn't fudge the facts on these trade offs in order to support the solution that we want.

    Both nuclear and solar have largely been orphan technologies, with little investment in developing solar as a source of large-scale capacity before the last decade or so, while the majority of investment in nuclear has been in improving short-term safety at legacy plants developed using legacy technologies. Currently, solar is barely viable economically, even with institutional subsidies. Likewise, nuclear isn't currently viable in terms of long-term safety. However, both technologies have the potential to overcome these shortcomings--potential that they have failed to reach in large part because there was minimal incentive to develop those technologies until recently.

    All I favor is giving those technologies a fair chance to develop to see how they both come out in terms of filling some or all of our future energy needs. Many nuclear plants are already running--most of them using on-site storage. Factor in our retiring nuclear arsenal, and it's even more obvious that a long-term solution is a must, even if we never build another nuclear plant. That's reality. So we should acknowledge reality and make a good faith effort to find that solution, while also continuing to explore new technologies for nuclear generation (though not necessarily implementing them commercially.) This way, if we do find an acceptable solution, we don't put all of our energy eggs in one basket, and if we never find a fix, then at least we may develop a better way to clean up the mess that we've already made.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Xyril View Post
    I'm not trying to convince you to use nuclear. Like you say, you're already unwilling to use nuclear, and no new data will change your mind on that--including, for example, the fact that solar and wind don't in fact cost less per kWh
    I’ve already given my sources that said the exact opposite. While all you have given is your assurance

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grey_Wolf_c View Post
    No, that is not true. This stuff is nasty. This is a picture (from wikipedia) of what happened when a long-term storage thought to themselves "nothing has happened in ten years, nothing is ever going to happen". The spent fuel corroded through concrete and went into the air and water around it. This is not just a NIMBY or overregulation issue - it needs regulation, and since it will continue to be poisonous for thousands of years, it needs to be properly contained for those many years, because the longer the problem exists, the more likely it will be forgotten and neglected.
    That storage facility, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, stores waste produced from weapons production operations, not power generation. Conflating the two as the same is not presenting an appropriate argument. Weapons-grade nuclear products are many times more concentrated than commercial fuel rods, and use a wide range of isotopes not used in commercial reactors. The issues with nuclear waste regarding weapons production are indeed very serious but they are simply not the same as those of power generation.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xyril View Post

    Perhaps more importantly than the technical aspects, there needs to be regulatory support and an institutional commitment to run these facilities for decades, not only as near-term storage but also as a research facility, collecting the data that will be needed to develop viable, permanent solutions. Nobody can guarantee that these solutions will ever be found--however, we'd have a chance. This is more than I can say for the current regime which--while well-intentioned--is effectively sabotaging any chance we have of developing a viable, safe solution for long-term storage.

    Then again, maybe I'm being naive in presuming honest intentions. The lack of a viable long-term storage solution probably remains the single greatest argument supporting the abolition of both civilian and military development of nuclear power, and people who oppose both civilian and military nuclear development for other reasons have a strong incentive to preserve that argument.

    Has anyone even been arguing that we should be pushing nuclear over other options? I can only speak for myself, but my position has only been that if you remove the emotional angle, nuclear (even in its current, neglected state) has specific, objective advantages over solar/wind (even in their currently developed, but formerly neglected states) that should be weighed against the specific, objective risks and disadvantages of nuclear, and that we shouldn't fudge the facts on these trade offs in order to support the solution that we want.

    Both nuclear and solar have largely been orphan technologies, with little investment in developing solar as a source of large-scale capacity before the last decade or so, while the majority of investment in nuclear has been in improving short-term safety at legacy plants developed using legacy technologies. Currently, solar is barely viable economically, even with institutional subsidies. Likewise, nuclear isn't currently viable in terms of long-term safety. However, both technologies have the potential to overcome these shortcomings--potential that they have failed to reach in large part because there was minimal incentive to develop those technologies until recently.

    All I favor is giving those technologies a fair chance to develop to see how they both come out in terms of filling some or all of our future energy needs. Many nuclear plants are already running--most of them using on-site storage. Factor in our retiring nuclear arsenal, and it's even more obvious that a long-term solution is a must, even if we never build another nuclear plant. That's reality. So we should acknowledge reality and make a good faith effort to find that solution, while also continuing to explore new technologies for nuclear generation (though not necessarily implementing them commercially.) This way, if we do find an acceptable solution, we don't put all of our energy eggs in one basket, and if we never find a fix, then at least we may develop a better way to clean up the mess that we've already made.

    I would like to point one reason why no one is trying to tackle the storage problem with used fuel from atomic fission, which is economics, who should pay for this storage? The number you presents as cost of MWH produced with atomic fission doesn't include at all cost regarding this storage, and we are talking here about few hundred years (I think they may include some current cost of storage facility, but no regarding infrastructure that need to be kept for hundreds of years), the cost will be enormous, and if included in calculation would easily make this technology unfeasible. Right now there are people that profits from this technology and they don't want to pay that cost (obviously), we could force them but if done in short time due to nature of energy market it would be just transferred to customers which would increase significantly price of energy, and thus not very popular decision to made by politician. That's why status quo proliferates. There is no secrete agenda not to resolve the issue. If you don't know what's the reason, it's money, always.

    I get your point that since the problem already exist, public money should be invested in resolving this issue, because at some point this issue will fall on governments either way, but whatever technology will emerge it will be costly, as we are talking about maintaining the site for hundreds of years (and we need to include safe masseurs for some pretty low probable risk like meteor hitting the site as in this kind of period this could happen), other issue is to send that wastes to space, but that has it's own problems. But I'm digressing, the point is, even if we build the waste storage/disposal system, the cost of this needs to be included in cost of MWH produce which will significantly impact cost of energy and ROI from atomic power plants.

    But that is, only if there is some way to storage/dispose of this material safely, and as you mentioned, we cannot be sure of that. (and in my opinion there is no possibility to safely store radioactive waste as the period is just to long for us to understand and predict all the risk - even tiny risk stretched on such long time scale become significant)

    So if we bring down the decision right to whether we should invest in new atomic fission facility or "green" energy facility, I say it's better to go with green energy, both has challenges, but those in connection to green energy seem more manageable and easier to "change" if we find that the decision we have done wasn't the best one. And even if at some point we will find this cheap, safe way to dispose radioactive waste we will be able to easily (at least relatively) switch to atomic fission at any moment, it's impossible to do it other way around.

    Although there are other option, i.e. atomic fussion (like ITER project) which I hope may one day be a solution, although probably will have some of it's own problems : P

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    Quote Originally Posted by asda fasda View Post
    Although there are other option, i.e. atomic fussion (like ITER project) which I hope may one day be a solution, although probably will have some of it's own problems : P
    We already know of several ... like the fact it still generates radioactive waste. Fortunately, with shorter half-lives (measured in years / decades instead of centuries / millennia). It's an unavoidable part of the reaction.
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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Coincidentally, Slate just published an article about how we need to start planning for how to deal with the millions of dead solar panels we're going to have in a couple decades.

    Time to go bug your local/regional/national representatives.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Torath View Post
    Coincidentally, Slate just published an article about how we need to start planning for how to deal with the millions of dead solar panels we're going to have in a couple decades.

    Time to go bug your local/regional/national representatives.
    Maybe it was dead solar panels I was thinking of making a mountain of trash instead of windmills.
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    Quote Originally Posted by snowblizz View Post
    It is true though that Europe lacks the know-how to build a large nuclear plant since none has been constructed since the 1980s. Olkiluoto-3 was supposed to be sort of a pilotproject for a modern nuclear power industry. Oops.
    If I recall correctly they're currently building a new reactor in France and one in the UK (both of the same type as Olkiluoto).

    Coming back to the transport of energy, there were indeed plans at some point to build large solar installations in Spain (they have a lot of sun and lots of space in the interior of the country) and then transport the energy, but the main problem is the loss of energy through the cables (actually my physics teacher used to say that silver was the best material for cables, but due to cost impractical to use).
    In Spain they build a lot of heliostats (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heliostat), which means that the major component is a whole bunch of mirrors, making recycling easier. It's just mirrors (probably not glass, but even metal mirrors have the mirror and the computer stuff and motors for moving them separate to start with) and they can be melted if they can't just be re-used. Also the power generating part is a simple steam turbine (like in a nuclear power plant), which is quite common tech to use.
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    I think that some investors in US are tackling the problem of long range power transmission, I read last year in Wall street journal about some plans to build wind turbines in heartland USA and transfer power to shore which at this point due to energy loss is impractical, but don't recall the details.

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    Quote Originally Posted by asda fasda View Post
    I think that some investors in US are tackling the problem of long range power transmission, I read last year in Wall street journal about some plans to build wind turbines in heartland USA and transfer power to shore which at this point due to energy loss is impractical, but don't recall the details.
    The continental US currently has 3 separate grids. I think Canada is connected to 2 of them. One covers the eastern half-ish of the country, one the western half, and one the Texas half.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rockphed View Post
    Maybe it was dead solar panels I was thinking of making a mountain of trash instead of windmills.
    Probably. I suspect windmills will prove to be just as durable as the B52 bombers, which we are still using 70 years after they were built. We'll occasionally need to replace some of the internal components, but the overall structures should be good for a long, long time.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Torath View Post
    Probably. I suspect windmills will prove to be just as durable as the B52 bombers, which we are still using 70 years after they were built. We'll occasionally need to replace some of the internal components, but the overall structures should be good for a long, long time.
    Well, if we could get them to stop bursting into flame with repair-crews on top that would be a bonus. If they do last essentially forever then their biggest drawback versus nuclear is also overcome. I saw something recently that most US nuclear plants are hitting the end of their 40 year NEA certification and are just recertifying. Since most of them were run to amortize their cost over 40 years, their costs of doing business should fall.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Torath View Post
    Probably. I suspect windmills will prove to be just as durable as the B52 bombers, which we are still using 70 years after they were built. We'll occasionally need to replace some of the internal components, but the overall structures should be good for a long, long time.
    That depends on where they are build and what the wind is carrying in that place. I've seen some pictures of blades that were just about worn down after 10 years or so because the wind where they were build carried a lot of sand in it and that basically sandblasted the blades. A bit like flying an airplane through a vulcanic ash cloud, not as hot, but a lot longer.
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