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Thread: Should Wabamun / Genesee convert sites to nuclear, if costs come down?

  1. #1

    Default Should Wabamun / Genesee convert sites to nuclear, if costs come down?

    In a decade or so, the coal plants out at Wabamun and Genesee will be shut down but the have a lot of infrastructure in place where a nuclear power last might fit in nicely. So if they are able to reduce the cost of nuclear and ensure its safety (most nuclear plants have never failed catastrophically) would that be a good idea?

    I'm thinking that those sites have cooling ponds,meaner supply and established grid connections.

  2. #2

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    By the time any nuclear facility got through the regulatory & public consultation proposals we'll have long retired the coal plants & added in renewables with natural gas backing.

    Genessee is already slated to be turned into a natural gas fired generation station. Units 4 & 5 will replace coal-fired 1 & 2.
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    I doubt little if any of the main infrastructure could be used. Nuclear plants are incredibly specialized and need to be built from the ground up. At most they have the power connections out to the province. I suspect they'll flip the existing plants to natural gas.

    The big issue with nuclear is that it's often the opposite of cheap. The safety requirements plus the need to have future decommissioning financed before the plant comes online raise the costs very high. I know when I researched it in the 90's plants were generally a net loss over their lives. That may have improved with better technology but I haven't looked into it recently.

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  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by noodle View Post
    By the time any nuclear facility got through the regulatory & public consultation proposals we'll have long retired the coal plants & added in renewables with natural gas backing.

    Genessee is already slated to be turned into a natural gas fired generation station. Units 4 & 5 will replace coal-fired 1 & 2.
    Natural gas isn't clean, it's just cleaner than the worst plant production (coal). So natural gas is just an interim measure and needs to go too doesn't it?

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Turnbull View Post
    I doubt little if any of the main infrastructure could be used. Nuclear plants are incredibly specialized and need to be built from the ground up. At most they have the power connections out to the province. I suspect they'll flip the existing plants to natural gas.

    The big issue with nuclear is that it's often the opposite of cheap. The safety requirements plus the need to have future decommissioning financed before the plant comes online raise the costs very high. I know when I researched it in the 90's plants were generally a net loss over their lives. That may have improved with better technology but I haven't looked into it recently.
    Apparently there are numerous advancements coming along so cost and safety might improve. Assuming that, would it be a good plan?

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Turnbull View Post
    I doubt little if any of the main infrastructure could be used. Nuclear plants are incredibly specialized and need to be built from the ground up. At most they have the power connections out to the province. I suspect they'll flip the existing plants to natural gas.
    Emphasis mine.

    Even if they do have the infrastructure, it's not really built to handle power generation on a level like the multiple reactors that are required for reliability & economies of scale. What they've got in place would be a good start, but not nearly enough.
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  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by KC View Post
    Apparently there are numerous advancements coming along so cost and safety might improve. Assuming that, would it be a good plan?
    There's nothing stopping someone proposing a nuclear plant in Alberta right now, except the economics. As soon as there's money to be made on nuclear I'd expect someone to propose it. Currently we're a long, long way from making that happen. Nuclear wasn't even economic when we were seeing prices for electricity 5 times what they are now.

    Sure, if some magic technology comes around that reduces costs by an order of magnitude it'd be feasible, but that's a different discussion.
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    Quote Originally Posted by noodle View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Turnbull View Post
    I doubt little if any of the main infrastructure could be used. Nuclear plants are incredibly specialized and need to be built from the ground up. At most they have the power connections out to the province. I suspect they'll flip the existing plants to natural gas.
    Emphasis mine.

    Even if they do have the infrastructure, it's not really built to handle power generation on a level like the multiple reactors that are required for reliability & economies of scale. What they've got in place would be a good start, but not nearly enough.
    It's a fair point although I wonder about it as by 2020 Genesee will have a capacity of close to 2200 MW, Keephills (a few km away) has an additional 790 MW, and Sundance (also quite close) 2141 MW. So within a few km there is currently 5109 MW of generation. The big multiple reactor nuclear in plants in Ontario are 3100 MW and 3500 MW. These seem to be similar levels of generation.

    That said, converting the natural gas is the way to go right now as the resources exists, is an improvement over coal, and requires the least amount conversion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KC View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Turnbull View Post
    I doubt little if any of the main infrastructure could be used. Nuclear plants are incredibly specialized and need to be built from the ground up. At most they have the power connections out to the province. I suspect they'll flip the existing plants to natural gas.

    The big issue with nuclear is that it's often the opposite of cheap. The safety requirements plus the need to have future decommissioning financed before the plant comes online raise the costs very high. I know when I researched it in the 90's plants were generally a net loss over their lives. That may have improved with better technology but I haven't looked into it recently.
    Apparently there are numerous advancements coming along so cost and safety might improve. Assuming that, would it be a good plan?
    Even if those improvements existed now, as opposed to in the future, demolishing existing plants to build nuclear plants on the sites wouldn't be the way to go. If Alberta were to build a nuclear plant it should be part of expanding rather than replacing existing capacity.

    "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong"

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by KC View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by noodle View Post
    By the time any nuclear facility got through the regulatory & public consultation proposals we'll have long retired the coal plants & added in renewables with natural gas backing.

    Genessee is already slated to be turned into a natural gas fired generation station. Units 4 & 5 will replace coal-fired 1 & 2.
    Natural gas isn't clean, it's just cleaner than the worst plant production (coal). So natural gas is just an interim measure and needs to go too doesn't it?
    ONE STEP AT A TIME. For a given dollar spend, you are better off entirely moving coal production to natural gas (which the market was doing anyway). Once that is achieved, technology will have moved on, and renewables will hopefully start to be competitive with that gas in terms of capital cost for production efficiency. That's the time to make the next change. Its silly though to just try to jump to the finish line when the technology isn't there yet, but will be in the future - we will just end up with a bunch of renewable plants that will be obsolete in a decade, like what happened those wind farms.
    Last edited by moahunter; 01-12-2016 at 10:07 AM.

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    Nitpick: Nuclear power is not renewable. At current rates of consumption we will use up our uranium supply in 80 years. Methods of processing spent fuel for further use will extend that but ultimately nuclear power can not provide an indefinite power supply and will have to be replaced.

    "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong"

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    ^It won't have to be replaced for thousands of years. Less than 1% of the uranium mined to this point has actually been fissioned, so there is centuries worth of power sitting in spent fuel rods and enrichment tails. Also, the statement that "we will use up our uranium supply in 80 years" is no different from all of the "we will use up our oil reserves in X years" predictions that have been made and proven wrong. Uranium prices could go up a hundredfold before having a serious impact on nuclear plant economics, which will make a lot more supply economically viable. Then there is thorium, which is 3 times as abundant as uranium.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Titanium48 View Post
    ^It won't have to be replaced for thousands of years. Less than 1% of the uranium mined to this point has actually been fissioned, so there is centuries worth of power sitting in spent fuel rods and enrichment tails. Also, the statement that "we will use up our uranium supply in 80 years" is no different from all of the "we will use up our oil reserves in X years" predictions that have been made and proven wrong. Uranium prices could go up a hundredfold before having a serious impact on nuclear plant economics, which will make a lot more supply economically viable. Then there is thorium, which is 3 times as abundant as uranium.
    A lot rides on the economics and safety issues. In a perfect scenario there's several hundred thousand years of uranium on earth. Whether it's economic or safe to use it is another question. Right now it's barely economic to use what we can easily access and it's unclear whether it will ever be economic to use the rest. No matter what the time frame, though, it is still not a renewable energy source.

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    ^Nuclear power does have a cost problem, but the price of uranium isn't a contributor to it. It isn't renewable, but it is sustainable for a very long time - orders of magnitude longer than any fossil fuel.

  15. #15

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    ^There is no safe way currently known to store nuclear waste. Its not sustainable, and its not economic. One day when Fusion reactors are developed (one is about to start in France - ITER), it might be worth looking at. Even with Fusion though, which is decades away, the reactor itself is going to become very polluted, but at least it will be sustainable in terms of the inputs required. If you think fission is economic today though - go ahead and raise the capital and set up a plant. You will quickly learn what others have learned, you can't do that without a massive government subsidy program like France has. The countries who do that today, tend to be the countries that have a secondary goal like France does (nuclear arsenals). It makes even less economic sense when you have abundant natural gas, for us, even renewables like Solar and Wind, or hydro from BC, are a better bet.
    Last edited by moahunter; 01-12-2016 at 12:06 PM.

  16. #16

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    Taken from an American-sourced whitepaper here:

    In 2015, the average total generating cost for nuclear energy was $35.50 per megawatt-hour. Total generating costs include capital, fuel and operating costs – all the costs necessary to produce electricity from a nuclear power plant.
    That's ~$47CAD per MWh, or about 4.7 cents per kWH. Current price of power in Alberta for the month of December? A hair under 4 cents.
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  17. #17

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    ^that's an average as well. Since we have no nuclear energy industry in Alberta, and given the history in respect of how costly capital projects are in Alberta (as our labor rates are much higher than most US states, and we simply don't have the technology, or nuclear engineers here to operate and maintain it), and given there are no nuclear storage facilities nearby, I have no doubt it would be a lot higher than that. Keep in mind the source is ever so slightly biased as well.
    Last edited by moahunter; 01-12-2016 at 12:27 PM.

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    ^^ So nuclear is just a little too expensive to compete with today's cheap natural gas. That will likely change by the time today's new gas plants are ready for retirement in 30 years.
    It is possible that there will be huge decreases in the price of large-scale energy storage technologies and/or the world political situation will improve enough to make a worldwide power grid possible by then (either of which would enable a full transition to solar), but failing that nuclear will be the best option.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Titanium48 View Post
    ^Nuclear power does have a cost problem, but the price of uranium isn't a contributor to it. It isn't renewable, but it is sustainable for a very long time - orders of magnitude longer than any fossil fuel.
    I never said the price of uranium was an issue. I just said nuclear power is barely economic. What I meant by that was that taking all costs into considering from commissioning the plant to decommissioning the plant, nuclear power has a cost problem. This includes all the factors, including things like dealing with the waste, land use, etc.


    Quote Originally Posted by noodle View Post
    Taken from an American-sourced whitepaper here:

    In 2015, the average total generating cost for nuclear energy was $35.50 per megawatt-hour. Total generating costs include capital, fuel and operating costs – all the costs necessary to produce electricity from a nuclear power plant.
    That's ~$47CAD per MWh, or about 4.7 cents per kWH. Current price of power in Alberta for the month of December? A hair under 4 cents.
    They studiously avoid mentioning costs around waste disposal and costs around the ultimate decommissioning of the irradiated facilities.

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  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Turnbull View Post
    No matter what the time frame, though, it is still not a renewable energy source.
    By that logic, neither is the sun. It only has a few billion years worth of fuel remaining before it all burns up too.

  21. #21

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    The pushback and FUD from idiots would bury any nuclear project before it got past early concept stage. The only way we'd ever get nuclear is if it was the last available source of power.
    "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction" - Blaise Pascal

  22. #22

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    I am all for planning a generation 4 nuclear plant to be built somewhere in Alberta in 2030 or so.

  23. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by Titanium48 View Post
    ^^ So nuclear is just a little too expensive to compete with today's cheap natural gas.
    No, because that 4c is a final retail charge, including baseload generation, peak generation, line losses, retailer costs & profits. The 4.7c is the raw cost to the generator, not the cost to buy a MWH from the generator, before markup/profits.

    Nuclear is only suitable for base load generation thanks to its inability to easily moderate the power output of a reactor. That means if we put a reactor online we'd be paying 3x more for baseload generation, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the foreseeable future.



    Here's today's current pool price graph. At no point at all today would we have dispatched even 1 MW of power from a provider that costs >$40/MWh & once again our base load generation is less than a third of the cost from our existing fossil fuel based generation.
    Last edited by noodle; 01-12-2016 at 01:06 PM.
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  24. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by KC View Post
    In a decade or so, the coal plants out at Wabamun and Genesee will be shut down but the have a lot of infrastructure in place where a nuclear power last might fit in nicely. So if they are able to reduce the cost of nuclear and ensure its safety (most nuclear plants have never failed catastrophically) would that be a good idea?

    I'm thinking that those sites have cooling ponds,meaner supply and established grid connections.
    No

    /thread

  25. #25

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    On the base load issue, my understanding is that old nuclear plants were designed for base load but they can be built with more flexibility in mind. Additionally, wind and solar are driving new storage technologies, which I imagine nuclear might be able to utilize too.

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    ^ A nuclear reactor can be easily and quickly throttled between ~50% and 100% power as required (going lower is also possible, but it can result in problems with xenon-135 poisoning if output is reduced quickly then kept too low for too long). However, this doesn't happen often because most of the costs of building and operating a nuclear plant are fixed and the marginal cost of generation is very low. It is thus advantageous for a nuclear powerplant owner to bid low to sell as much power as possible - they will lose less money by selling below the "all-in" cost than by not selling at all.

  27. #27

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    I'd say no.

    Also Wabamun has been closed for several years now.
    Let's make Edmonton better.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JayBee View Post
    I'd say no.

    Also Wabamun has been closed for several years now.
    Closed and demolished. The site is empty now.

    "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong"

  29. #29

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    So, the next question is, what do we replace the natural gas turbines with? Like coal, they have to go too.



    Compared with coal, burning natural gas results in roughly half the amount of CO2 per megawatt-hour of electricity. Yet even half the CO2, when spread over hundreds of power plants,is too much to achieve such goals as a CO2-emission reduction of 80 percent by 2050 or 100 percent by the end of this century, in order to avoid more than 2 degree Celsius of global warming, more acidic oceans, inexorable sea level rise and extreme weather, among other unpleasant impacts predicted by scientists. Under the terms of the Clean Power Plan, the most advanced natural gas burning power plants can still emit 771 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour of electricity produced. So is natural gas a bridge to a cleaner energy future or a slightly longer route to climate catastrophe?

    ...

    But natural gas hasn't just killed coal. From Florida to Wisconsin, gas-fired power plants are replacing nuclear ones. That fuel switch actually increases CO2 pollution, however. And, in the absence of mandates like renewable portfolio standards—mandates for a certain percentage of electricity to derive from renewable resources—natural gas could also prevent the building of wind and solar farms or geothermal power plants.



    https://www.scientificamerican.com/a...ing-pollution/
    Last edited by KC; 02-12-2016 at 08:46 AM.

  30. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by KC View Post
    So, the next question is, what do we replace the natural gas turbines with? Like coal, they have to go too.
    Who knows? There's a lot of time & work to be done between the phase-out of coal & the phase-out of NG. Coal is low-hanging fruit, already on the cusp of economic viability & an easy win for our GHG emissions. Once we've transitioned off of coal for generation there's other things like transportation & the actual petroleum industries that will need their belt tightened before weaning off of natural gas becomes a priority.

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  31. #31

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    ^^eventually probably with renewables or fusion. Both are developing fast in terms of technology, but neither, is quite there yet. Solar for example, may eventually be cheap enough that anyone will be able to cheaply afford a panel and power their own home much of the time. Once you get to that, then even the small amount of hydro Alberta has might be enough for off peak, or perhaps a fusion reactor or two for the province, or even home battery technology which is improving, or home fuel cells. Its dumb to try and build that now though using government subsidies, it would be like if government had purchased a 1980 computer for each of use with the intention it would still be relevant today, because someone decided back then to invest all the resources in them.
    Last edited by moahunter; 02-12-2016 at 08:54 AM.

  32. #32

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    Net energy benefits



    Nuclear comes with it's own problems. It is not a renewable resource. The plants are hugely expensive and take a decade to build. Often, the plants go wildly over budget in the billions of dollars. Going nuclear also has it's own CO2 issues. All the concrete and steel takes enormous amounts of energy and creates a lot of CO2 in the process. You also have the issue of mining uranium or Thorium (newer generation of reactors) and the energy intensive process of refining the fuel and fuel reprocessing.


    Then you have the issue of waste disposal and Canada has spent decades grappling with that problem but the lack of political will has prevented a single pound of nuclear waste being effectively disposed of in a long term waste facility.
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  33. #33

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    Quote Originally Posted by Edmonton PRT View Post
    Net energy benefits
    ...

    ...
    Going nuclear also has it's own CO2 issues. All the concrete and steel takes enormous amounts of energy and creates a lot of CO2 in the process. You also have the issue of mining uranium or Thorium (newer generation of reactors) and the energy intensive process of refining the fuel and fuel reprocessing.


    I wonder if the materials required to build a nuclear plant create more global warming gases than those to build an equivalent output from wind farms. Are there any comparison calculations available?

    However decommissioning and dismantling a wind farm must be easy peasy compared to nuclear. They are doing that now around Pincher Creek. Which is surprising to me because I thought it was just a few decades old. So does the concrete, steel, etc used in a nuclear plant have a longer lifespan than that used in wind farms?


    Yup, just 23 years old. 57 wind turbines being scrapped .
    http://calgaryherald.com/business/en...after-23-years

    Good news out of it though:

    Recycled wind turbine finds new home as NLC training simulator
    NLC Dawson Creek is one of only three schools in Canada to offer Wind Turbine Maintenance Technician program
    http://www.dawsoncreekmirror.ca/daws...ator-1.2263012


    Carbon footprint to building newer generation wind turbines:
    https://stopthesethings.com/2014/08/...-wind-turbine/
    Last edited by KC; 02-12-2016 at 10:36 AM.

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    ^^The last nuclear plant built in Canada took 10 years and went well over budget because of politically-induced delays, not any fault of the design itself. The concrete and steel will last a century or more. Uranium mining and fuel fabrication may appear expensive and energy intensive compared to oil and gas mining and refining, but the energy contained in a kilogram of uranium exceeds that in a ton of fossil fuel. There has been no final waste disposal because the most cost-effective way of dealing with spent fuel is to store it in concrete boxes while the short-lived radioisotopes decay away, making subsequent reprocessing easier and cheaper and producing less waste.

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    Pretty much everything in a wind farm can be recycled. Pretty much everything in a nuclear plant is effectively nuclear waste when the plant is decommissioned.

    There is no magic bullet for energy. I think what will work in the end is a combination of things. Multiple sources of power from large plants to micro-generation combined with lowering actual usage.

    "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong"

  36. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Turnbull View Post
    Pretty much everything in a wind farm can be recycled. Pretty much everything in a nuclear plant is effectively nuclear waste when the plant is decommissioned.

    There is no magic bullet for energy. I think what will work in the end is a combination of things. Multiple sources of power from large plants to micro-generation combined with lowering actual usage.
    I love the idea of solar but don't way to see vast areas of natural land decimated by solar farms. Plus, the thought of the solar requirements needed if we were to consider heating our homes and buildings with electricity is almost scary.


    Dramatically lowering usage is almost an inevitable course of action but that always entails a whole lot of front-loading emissions to build replacements in exchange for slightly improved lifespan gains.
    Last edited by KC; 02-12-2016 at 10:55 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KC View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Turnbull View Post
    Pretty much everything in a wind farm can be recycled. Pretty much everything in a nuclear plant is effectively nuclear waste when the plant is decommissioned.

    There is no magic bullet for energy. I think what will work in the end is a combination of things. Multiple sources of power from large plants to micro-generation combined with lowering actual usage.
    I love the idea of solar but don't way to see vast areas of natural land decimated by solar farms. Plus, the idea of the requirements if we were to consider heating our homes and buildings with electricity is almost scary.
    Rooftop solar is an option to add generation without large solar farms. There are also techniques where solar energy on a house can be used to heat a large mass of water that is then used to heat the house. There's a lot of work being done on techniques to build net zero houses. For example friends of mine built a garage with a suite on top that is net zero:

    http://globalnews.ca/news/2530608/im...s-in-edmonton/

    There are 26 solar panels on the roof, one solar wall, a 2,600 litre hot water tank, which is about fifteen times the size of a regular tank. It also has ten-inch walls and extra insulation on the windows.

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    ^^There's lots of room on rooftops for solar panels, and the best places for large scale installations are deserts.

  39. #39

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    Combine rooftop solar with natural gas fuel cells & you've got a year-round solution for our climate with drastically reduced emissions.
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    ^ You don't even need fuel cells. Standard piston engines or miniature gas turbines would also work for residential cogeneration.

  41. #41

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    For cogeneration they're a valid choice, but not so much from an emissions standpoint.

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    ^Precise mixture control and exhaust treatment would be required, but that is off the shelf technology from the auto industry.

  43. #43

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    Still not even close, especially for SOx, NOx & particulates.

    Giving less of a damn than everů Happily ignoring the ignorant rather than getting in a battle of wits with unarmed opponents.

  44. #44

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    Recent gee-whiz engineering for the nerdly:
    Watch as Chernobyl is enveloped in a massive new tomb, a couple days ago
    I feel in no way entitled to your opinion...

  45. #45

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    Quote Originally Posted by Spudly View Post
    Recent gee-whiz engineering for the nerdly:
    Watch as Chernobyl is enveloped in a massive new tomb, a couple days ago
    What can't you love about nuclear. It creates jobs for life.

  46. #46

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    Quote Originally Posted by noodle View Post
    Still not even close, especially for SOx, NOx & particulates.


    I remember Ballard fuel cells first coming to attention and they were '10 years away from mass adoption'... That was almost 30 years ago.

    Fuel Cells: Promising, but struggling to catch on By Jan Ellen Spiegel on Nov 11, 2016Fuel cells are efficient, generate clean electricity, and they run around the clock. So why aren't we using them on a mass scale?

    http://www.yaleclimateconnections.or...pros-and-cons/
    Last edited by KC; 02-12-2016 at 07:14 PM.

  47. #47

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    Nuclear power plants are closing all over the US, as they aren't economic anymore in an era of cheap natural gas:

    Nuclear plants everywhere are facing a powerful economic foe: fracking. The extraction technique has unlocked vast amounts of natural gas, making generating electricity from that fuel much less expensive and lowering power prices across the country.

    Nuclear plants generated 20% of U.S. power in the past 12 months, following natural gas at 35% and coal at 30%, according to federal energy data. The balance was 7% hydro, 6% wind and 1% solar.

    The increasingly poor economics of nuclear power have led nuclear plant operators in New York, Illinois and elsewhere to seek new state subsidies to keep the plants operating. The owners argue that they create high-paying jobs in rural areas, and are critical tools to combat air pollution and climate change because they produce emissions-free electricity.
    http://www.wsj.com/articles/nuclear-...res-1483957802



    Toshiba also recently announced horrific write downs as a result of a new reactor design they are building in China not working very well - it seems the new supposedly safer Westinghouse technology isn't proving easy to develop in practice:

    To lower construction costs and speed erection times, Westinghouse and its competitors came up with cookie-cutter plant designs in which major sections would be built as modules in factories and then hauled to plant sites for final assembly. Gone was the customization that added expense.

    But the strategy appears to have backfired. “Supply-chain issues just moved from the plant sites to the factories. It didn’t solve the basic issue of quality control,” said Mycle Schneider, a nuclear expert based in Paris. And cookie-cutter designs meant flaws got replicated.

    In France, Areva is trying to get to the bottom of a scandal involving falsified records for critical components that have wound up in nuclear plants there and in other countries, including the U.S. The problems appear to stretch back decades and to have gone unnoticed despite supposedly strict government supervision. Areva has said it is cooperating with government investigators from France and other nations.

    “There’s a world-wide problem with managing these megaprojects,” said Edwin Lyman, senior scientist for the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, D.C. “Managers grossly underestimated the time and cost of construction.”
    http://www.wsj.com/articles/toshiba-...ing-1482905903
    Last edited by moahunter; 09-01-2017 at 08:51 AM.

  48. #48

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    Natural gas is just a stop gap measure, as it still produces a lot of GHGs - so I'd guess that it's next on the chopping block. Solar is getting very cheap but without good storage they're going to have to rely on other sources.

  49. #49

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    ^not on the chopping block anytime soon, it is replacing all the coal and nuclear power plants in the US. It is the reason most states in the US have had a decrease in GHG emissions.

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