Coal and Some Economic Logic

Posted on July 15, 2014
Posted By: Ferdinand E. Banks
 

"There is no reason why institutions that have direct holdings in coal, oil and gas stocks could not divest immediately." Ian Simm (Chief executive of Impax Asset Management)

No reason except money, Ian, and as you probably know, there is no bigger reason than that anywhere on this or any other planet.

Apparently pension funds in the U.S. - and probably everywhere else - have ignored calls from mayors, city councils, break-dancers, moonwalkers, hustlers and pseudo-intellectuals to forget about the viability of their business models and - in the name of environmental sanity - ditch (i.e. divest) their fossil fuel shares/stocks. As a counterexample however, Stanford University - which has an endowment fund of almost 20 billion dollars - has reportedly started to unwind its position in all publicly listed companies that focus on producing coal for energy generation, Right on, I'm tempted to say, especially when I read that George Serafeim, associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, informed his friends and neighbors that "If major pension funds and endowments divest from fossil fuel companies, this will send a very strong signal to the boards and the executives of these companies. Some changes will happen."

You got that right. George, although they may not be the changes having to do with cleaning up the environment that are almost certainly discussed in the faculty club at your establishment, or similar facilities at Stanford and various Ivy League institutions where tenured faculty members care even less than I do about signals sent to and received from fossil fuel companies, because I happen to know that the changes you are talking about will involve even a higher level of lies and misunderstandings about the energy future - a future in which coal is likely to be a star performers unless (or until) nuclear moves to the head of the class.

"Germany is winning," according to Simone Osborne - Co-Editor of the publication Energy Crunch - noting that she is not talking about football. She then goes on to say that "Germany also succeeded in avoiding a yellow card from the EU over exemptions designed to protect energy intensive German industry from the cost of the energy transition." She also informed us that renewable energy supplied a third of Germany's electricity in the first half of 2014, and during one day in May renewable energy supplied a "a peak of 74%, without the grid or the economy being brought to its knees".

Dr. Bruno Burger of the Fraunhofer Institute explained that the gains made by renewables thus far in 2014 can be attributed to the combination of good weather and growing production of clean energy. He adds that "in the first half year 2013 we had really bad weather and the solar and wind production was below the long term average". To this he added that "In 2014 we started with more [sun] and wind and the production is higher than in average years."

Continuing with the good news, the Fraunhofer Institute's analysis found that coal based generation is down for both hard and soft coals from the record levels of 2013, and in addition the decline in output for gas-based power plants was down 25% compared to the same period last year.

Even better he says that "Despite the fact that we had high production of renewables, we did not reduce the conventional production. Therefore we achieved an export surplus of 18 Terawatt-hours. If this trend continues until the end of the year, Germany will achieve a third record in a row in electricity exports."

That's funny, but I thought that Germany was breaking records for electricity imports, and in a talk at an energy conference in Stockholm last year, a Belgium researcher claimed that if Germany goes through with its goofy plan for abandoning nuclear, Belgium will have to ration electricity. Craig Morris at Renewables International sees a down side though in Germany's happiness, arguing that it's the high electricity exports that keep coal production high in Germany. He sums this up by saying that "Renewable electricity has priority on the German grid and therefore offsets conventional (fossil fuel) generation, meaning that much of conventional generation will go to neighboring countries as exports." Logic comes into the picture when he notes that the effect of coal based exports from Germany to surrounding countries will prevent those lucky countries from also going over to renewables.
 
Well there it is folks. If the Dean of Engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology could have seen the Energy Economics 101 book that I am working on now (ENERGY ECONOMICS: A MODERN FIRST COURSE) he would have expelled me after the first semester instead of the first year, because in that book I claim that around the beginning of this year Germany was burning more coal than was burned when that country was divided, and East Germany binged on soft coal. Moreover the word in Germany most often applied to the Energiewende (= Energy Transition) is verrückt (= crazy, mad), and one of the decision makers in that country said that Germans have financed about all of the Energywende "learning curve" that is possible at the present time.

THANKS FOR NOTHING, Mr Decision Maker, is my response to that admission, but before proceeding to destroy the manuscript for my new book, let me add what the World Coal Association says about that resource. 'Coal provides around 30 percent of global primary energy needs, generates 41 percent of the world's electricity and is used in the production of 70 percent of the world's steel. Coal and lignite reserves are sufficient for more than 100 years at the current rate of production, and the worldwide rate of growth of coal consumption is 3.6 percent. Moreover, for what it is worth, which isn't much, the International Energy Agency believes that coal may come close to surpassing oil as the world's main energy sources by 2017.

I'm tempted to finish this note by saying that the bigger the lie, the harder people will try to believe it, but I won't bother. The Energiewende will be exposed before the first quarter of this century is over, but as far as I am concerned, that is almost a decade too late. However I want to refer to a working paper by Charles Frank, called 'Wind and Solar are Worst (2014).' Yes they are, but not always and everywhere.


REFERENCES

Banks, Ferdinand E. (2014). Energy and Economic Theory. New York, London and
Singapore: World Scientific.
Frank, Charles (2014). 'Wind and Solar are Worst'. Brookings Institution. (June 19)
Rosenberg, Martin (2014). 'Coal Generation Report Card'. Energy Central (July)

 
 
Authored By:
Ferdinand E. Banks (Uppsala University, Sweden), performed his undergraduate studies at Illinois Institute of Technology (electrical engineering) and Roosevelt University (Chicago), graduating with honors in economics. He also attended the University of Maryland and UCLA. He has the MSc from Stockholm University and the PhD from Uppsala University. He has been visiting professor at 5 universities in Australia, 2 universities in France, The Czech University (Prague), Stockholm University, Nanyang Technical
 

Other Posts by: Ferdinand E. Banks

Climate change: A short note - December 16, 2015
A Nuclear Energy Update - March 13, 2015
Helpful Thoughts About Coal - December 10, 2014

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Helpful Thoughts About Coal By Ferdinand E. Banks
 
 

Comments

July, 15 2014

Richard Vesel says

Fred,

Churchill (more than) once said: "Indeed it has been said that democ­racy is the worst form of Gov­ern­ment except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…"

Let me paraphrase: "Indeed it has been said that solar and wind are the worst forms of power generation, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…"

And Thomas Edison said: "We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature's inexhaustible sources of energy — sun, wind and tide. ... I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that." {In conversation with Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone (1931); as quoted in Uncommon Friends : Life with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Alexis Carrel & Charles Lindbergh (1987) by James Newton, p. 31}

Regarding disinvestment in coal-related industries ... gradual divestiture of stocks is not going to have a primary effect on their prices as the money managers for those institutions will not just "dump" said shares ... generally a bad idea to just to make a point. Stock prices, are in large part, based on perception and demand. Individual equities and markets in general derive their value from a huge demand pool. Coal company stocks won't suffer much, as there will generally be investors who won't give a damn about what the company is doing, as long as it is making money and paying a dividend. The future of coal over the next 20 years can take many directions, and this is well beyond the investment horizon of most individuals and institutions. US coal production and consumption is five years into a long slow decline, down about 12% between 2008 and 2013. Depending on how long the litigation phase will last when the EPA CO2 reduction rules go into effect mid-2015, coal may plateau for a while, and then resume its decline here. The global picture will diverge until CO2 reduction strategies are broadly adopted.

RWV

July, 16 2014

Ferdinand E. Banks says

Hmm. Two countries tell me Everything that I need to know about nuclear, and I could find out more if I were paid to find out...maybe,

The two countries are Sweden and Japan. I dont know anything about the cost of electricity in Japan, but I do in sweden. We had one of the lowest electricity prices in the World, and it could have been even lower if 20% of the Swedes did not hate the other 80% for being so smart and technically superior, Remember, in Sweden Excellence is equated to arrogance. I mean, what the Hell is wrong with Swedes that they want to show off to the rest of the World - especially the part that lives in Stone Age countries.

As for Thomas Edison, he should have stuck to what he knew something about, As for quoting Winston Churchill, the commander of the UK Army during WW2 said that he was Non Compus Mentis, Please remember that Churchill wanted to attack Germany through Italy, and not over the French beaches. If that D-day attack had been what it should have been, and a few other things done, that war would have been over by Christmas, and a million lives could have been saved.

As for the utility of solar and wind, that is just a lie in the sense that it will supply much more energy during this decade than the few percent that it supplies now. Of course, I'm in favor of getting Everything out of it that is possible, and one way to do that is to have nuclear around to supply reliability. By the way, the march of technology will favor nuclear, and NOT renewables. Every engineer and manager in Sweden knows that, but getting thme to say it is pretty Close to impossible.

July, 17 2014

Richard Vesel says

Edison pretty much knew about everything who talked about. A man ahead of his time in so many ways:

Edison knew DC transmission would be more effective over longer distances, but did not have the technology to make it happen, so AC won out. HVDC has been around now since the 50's, and is making great inroads into transmission grid designs.

Edison knew electric cars were the way to go, but the availability of cheap fossil fuel for portable engines short-circuited (no pun intended) the further development of electric vehicle technology, for almost a century. Edison also invented an iron-based battery technology which was more environmentally friendly than lead-acid batteries. Researchers in battery technology are re-opening iron-based battery technology for large stationary storage applications. There is plenty of iron around, and neither it nor its oxides are harmful wastes.

Finally, Edison recognized the unlimited potential for solar, wind and tidal energy harvesting. He did not have access to the required technology to make them viable, or I am sure he would have engaged in their development.

No doubt, if he had been around to witness the development of nuclear power, he would also have approved of its development and use to some large extent, as it would not have been contrary to his "burning down the house" analogy. After all, Fred, doesn't his statement inherently recognize your favorite "peak oil" argument?

I think he knew EXACTLY what he was talking about, and 100 years ahead of his time...

RWV

July, 18 2014

Ferdinand E. Banks says

Something seems to have gone wrong with my brain, in that I did not submit my answer to your last post, Richard, and so I will do it now. If there is anything more goofy AT THE PRESENT TIME, than adding tidal energy to wind and solar, I haven't heard anything about it. Unless I am mistaken, Davis Swan has pointed out - on this site - what happens if to sell your soul to intermittant energy sources.

And Freida Marks, I don't know what you are talking about when you say that "EVERYONE is 'looking' to increase their social profile". I'm not trying to increase mine, and never have. What I am doing is trying to provide some simple energy economics to the rank and file. FOR INSTANCE, I AM COMPLETING THE FIRST SIX CHAPTERS OF MY ENERGY ECONOMICS 101 BOOK, and rather than waste my time with contracts and Publishers, I am going to give these chapters away. As for the last 6 chapters, they will have to be paid for, unless I find something more important to do, like spend my Days on the beaches of Southern Europé.

July, 18 2014

Richard Vesel says

Tidal energy recovery needs to be understood from a location standpoint. As a wild guess, I would say it is not going to be worthwhile over 95% of accessible coastal areas. The remaining 5% may have some economic viability. Same sort of thing with geothermal...works great in Iceland, useless in Switzerland. I think it is worthwhile to let the markets decide where such technologies are viable, after sufficient R&D has been done to demonstrate reasonable efficiency.

So, speaking of efficiency, what has been done to Gen 3 reactor designs to make them more efficient? I read that the latest generation of aircraft carrier that we are building use an A1B reactor. Higher core energy, more compact size, and refueling cycles of 20 years, 550MWTh rating. S1B, smaller for submarines has a 40 year refueling cycle. With an appropriately efficient steam turbine, these could be putting out 200MWe each. A carrier sized power island would be capable of housing 3-5 such stations, and be mobile enough to disconnect to relocate away from hurricanes, etc.

Seems to me that we could float dozens or hundreds of offshore power islands connected by HVDC to land, as one component of global re-electrification. I know someone will raise the issue of the huge cost of an aircraft carrier, but most of that is a result of the other components, apart from hull, deck, and reactor/drive systems.

Since the A1B is a Bechtel program, I would think someone there would be looking at larger opportunities than a few dozen for the USN?

RWV

July, 18 2014

Ferdinand E. Banks says

I worked for the US Navy for a year, and it was wonderful . In fact it was what I had hoped that engineering would be, and I was so thrilled that I left it for the West Coast and the great Aircraft industries. I got enough of that in a hurry, and was fired by a man named Michael May. No matter where you are Mike, you are welcome to break bread with Fred Banks. Thanks a million.

Aside from that, wind,solar, tidal etc should be used whenever it makes sense, but what does NOT make sense is Wall Street passing out millions to firms in the wind, solar, and so on because those Enterprises are favorites of the present ignorant president of the US.

July, 18 2014

Michael Keller says

Richard, Navy reactors utilize extremely highly enriched uranium cores and plant efficiency is around 25%. They also could not be licensed by the NRC as they lack the safety features required of civilian reactors. While perfect for warships (submarines and aircraft carriers), no chance they would cut it in the civilian world.

As to what is being done for efficiency in the nuclear world? Well, the hybrid-nuclear plant my firm has patented and is developing is over 80% efficient when it comes to using fossil fuels. Nuclear efficiency is about 50%.

PS Small point Fred. The taxpayer is being forced to pass out billions while Wall Street enriches themselves with large chunks of the largess provided by the hapless American middle class.

July, 18 2014

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Michael, thanks for pointing that out to Richard. Saved me the job. But to add my ten cents - if you think a military reactor could ever be licensed for land use or commercial floating reactor use you are completely out to lunch. The reactivity built into the core of military reactors would never ever be allowed by the USNRC. Licencing rules prohibit it - and for very good reason. With such high reactivity cores it is possible to exceed the delayed neutron fraction and make such reactors critical on prompt neutrons only. This is called prompt criticality and any reactor capable of that cannot be licensed. Crazy idea you should know better.

Wind and solar don't make any economic or environmental sense and it ought to be obvious why. Even in the sunniest areas of the world the Sun does not shine at night. I wonder what Germany is using at night time....it sure is not solar power whose output is nil however many solar panels they install. That means to make solar viable you have to build enough additional capacity to charge some kind of battery so that electricity is available at night. So now you need enough solar panels to generate the day use electricity AND additional capacity to charge batteries for night time use AND a battery to do that. Let us ignore for the moment that we do not in fact HAVE a battery technology even close to storing these large amounts of power and yolu can see that three plants are needed whereas only one nuclear or coal plant is required.

The same logic applies to wind except the variability of the wind is the key problem there. I say good luck to Germany. When the lights eventually go out and on a cold and miserable day in Berlin and their economy is on the rocks (take a look at Japan Ms. Merkel) the error of that policy will become evident.

But, since I don't much care for BMW's or the health of the German economy anyway it will be no great loss to me.

Malcolm

July, 18 2014

Ferdinand E. Banks says

Malcolm, one of the hidden strengths of German industry has apparently been wage restraint. A theory is going around however that workers in Germany are tired of that arrangement. But if they want more money, while their productivity will be reduced because of a reduced energy intensity, then German teams will have to win a World Cup every week in order to keep those locks from being removed from the German nuclear plants..

July, 21 2014

Richard Vesel says

USNRC regulations would ban use of military style reactors - certainly the case NOW. Usually, market or other pressures are required to change regulations, even safety regulations. I won't pretend to know, so I will only ask the questions that come to mind:

What is it about military grade surface and submarine reactors that make them inherently "unsafe", yet we have hundreds of them in operation around the globe, including siting in ports in civilian cities while in operation?

If we parked the suggested power islands 5-50 miles offshore, what are the risks and rewards?

What vintage are the USNRC regulations which would prohibit such reactors from being put to civilian use, perhaps operated by a government power agency similar to the TVA? If these regulation need to be reviewed in the light of current technology and design, they might be adjusted/amended/rewritten to allow the use of these higher energy density cores?

To date, I can only find record of ONE nuclear navy reactor accident, the 1985 Soviet K-431, which killed ten men onboard. This seems to be a remarkable safety record overall.

So, still doesn't look like such a crazy idea ... more facts please?

RWV

July, 21 2014

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Richard, The answer to your question depends on how you define the word "safe".

I did not say that any of the military reactors were unsafe. What I said is that the USNRC regulations would prohibit the deployment of this type of reactor for commercial use. Of course if the USNRC were to relax its standards then any reactor could be built - but I simply do not see that happening - ever.

Also please consider that military reactors are small by comparison to land based plants. Typically a US military nuclear reactor is around 30MW(e) or less so these are very small in comparison to land based reactors which are typically 1000MW(e). Newer plants are in the range 1200MW(e) to 1500MW(e).

The key to nuclear reactor safety (and what went so badly wrong at Chernobyl) is the ability to prevent the insertion of sufficient positive reactivity to overcome the effect of the delayed neutron fraction. A study of reactor kinetics will show you that the neutrons that are ejected from the nucleus of U235 during the fission process appear very quickly after fission. These are called "prompt" neutrons and appear almost instantaneously. If these were the only sourtce of neutrons in a nuclear reactor it would be impossible to control the neutron chain reaction. The neutron doubling time would be far faster than the control systems could handle and every time reactor power was raised the neutron population would increase exponentially and uncontrollably.

Fortunately for us there is another source of neutrons in the core which are a result of the decay of certain fission products....notably Bromine 87 but there are several others (about 7 as I recall). The good thing abouit these neutrons is that they appear a long time after the prompt neutrons appear and although the fraction of the total number of prompt plus delayed neutrons is small the average time to appear slows down dramatically the fission process. As long as the reactivity is less than the delayed neutron fraction all is good since the chain reaction (neutron doubling time) is slowed down and the reactor is operating on both prompt and delayed neutrons.

However if an amount of positive reactivity (fuel is a source of positive reactivity, removal of control rods is also a source of positive reactivity) equal to or greater than the delayed neutron fraction then the reactor is critical on prompt neutrons only and is therefore uncontrollable.

This is precisely what occurred at Chernobyl. The amount of energy suddenly dumped into the coolant is hundreds of thousands of megawatts (th) in milliseconds and the core coolant turns instantly to steam and a steam explosion occurs. Reactor power is proportional to neutron flux.

For military reactors the potential for the injection of large amounts of positive reactivity from the fuel is far far greater than that allowed for a commercial nuclear plant. The reactivity of the core is very high (lots of positive mk of reactivity) due to highly enriched fuel and is heavily suppressed by the use of control rods and reactor neutron poisons. However should any of these control mechanisms fail the potential for prompt criticality is far greater than in commercial US plants. It is also worth noting that Chernoby type RBMK reactors could never have received operating licences in Canada or the US for that reason.

I do not believe the USNRC is going to change its mind any time soon.

An incident at a land based military reactor called SL1 caused the death of at least one worker when he manually pulled out a control rod and made the reactor prompt critical. Here is the link if you are interested www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOt7xDKxmCM. It occurred in 1961 at INEEL the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory.

While there are many safeguards buit in to military reactors (the navy is well aware of these risks) the fact remains that highly enriched fuel creates a large source of positive reactivity in the core and it must at all times be countered by an equal source of negative reactivity. Of course we are not privvy to what goes on in the military except when serious incidents occur that become public knowledge but I am quite sure that the safety record is not quite as unblemished as you are led to believe.

So I doubt very much that the USNRC will ever approve sea based reactors of the type that the military uses in ships and submarines. First there is no point .... lots of places on land to put conventional reactors and secondly they would require large quantities of enriched uranium. So I do not see any advantages but many disadvantages.

Malcolm

July, 22 2014

Richard Vesel says

Malcolm,

Between the two incidents, the one you cite from 1961, and the K-431, that's 11 people dead in 53 years from military reactors. Compared to the consequences of the Chernobyl and Fukishima accidents, they are tiny. The Chernobyl design was just plain stupid, from the drawing board up.

I understand the physics of the different reactor technologies, and the issues of civilian permitting. What I am trying to get at is this...the AB1 reactor is now rated at 550MW thermal output, for twenty+ years of operation. This would generate far more than 30MW electrical - probably on the order of 180MWe. Currently, commercial reactors have to go through a refuel/shuffle cycle every 2-3 years, instead of the AB1's 20+years.

Operational history statistics of military ship/sub reactors, in spite of the higher energy densities and so-called risks, seem to be far safer. Safe enough, I am claiming, that the NRC should revisit the entire topic, and perhaps limit the application to commercial use in continuously monitored and regulated facilities, untouched by any corporate-driven profit motive ... back to the TVA nuclear and hydro models again.

Land based reactors are not portable in any sense, and there may be some very high value in having gigawatt scale portable facilities. Worth thinking about, before discounting the concept...

RWV

July, 22 2014

Michael Keller says

Navy reactors do not comply with the General Design Criteria of the Code of Federal Regulations; the non-compliance is extensive. The US congress would have to make the change, not the NRC.

I never said Navy reactors are not reasonably safe - they just do not comply with the laws that govern civilian reactors. Also, the navy reactors are on ships floating in the ocean; perfect ultimate heat sink to keep the reactor from melting.

From a cost standpoint, it is highly unlikely the small navy reactors could compete in terms of power price.

July, 22 2014

Malcolm Rawlingson says

If you do understand the reactor physics it ought to be obvious why they could never be licensed on a commercial basis. Michael is correct it is the US Congress that has to change the law. I do not know what ship the AB1 is installed in but it seems very large for shipboard use. A 180 MW(e) power plant is way more than any ship I have been on requires.

The Russians are already building floating nuclear plants for use in the Arctic Richard but they are not military based reactors as far as I can tell.

I don't think Michael or I are discounting the concept or making any claims that military reactors are not safe. The safeguards are not as stringent as those that the USNRC is required by law to enforce. So irrespective of the attractiveness or otherwise of the proposal such plants cannot be built in the US or Canada under current rules. Most utilities have no desire to challenge the rules of the USNRC or the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. That is akin to fighting City Hall. A costly and often losing proposition.

Getting a commercial power plant of proven design is hard enough to do and takes years. Imaginge trying to license one of these machines. Most utility CEO's would cringe at the prospect.

It is a bit like the Keystone XL pipeline. Good for everyone but if the Government doesn't want to do it then it doesn't get built. Simple really.

Malcolm

July, 22 2014

Don Hirschberg says

Professor . I cannot understand why those who continue to think we can do without fossil fuels are not urtrerely devistated by your litany of facts. Seems facts, particularly those demonstrated by arithmetic, have become irrelevant. Insanity..

Today the population of Germany is a bit more than 1% of world population and in less than a year world population increases more than the population of Germany – they are subsumed.

If Germany still unsuccessfully struggles with the fossil fuels issue what should we expect from the other 99 percent of the world.? And hasn't time already run out ?

July, 23 2014

Ferdinand E. Banks says

Lieutenant, I dont expect anything from them. First Gorgeous George W. and then ignorant Barack O. That tells me that time is running out in one of the two countries that I am interested in. What is taking Place now in what some of us still Think of as the civilized World is preparation for the Third World War - you know, the one that will be fought in the streets of our cities. How much civilization will be left after that remains to be seen.

But there is nothing that you and me and the rest of the contributors to sites like this can do about it. It isn't that we had our chance and muffed it, but we never got a chance. The voters don't want our input. They want to be entertained.

July, 24 2014

Richard Vesel says

The A1B (not my earlier AB1 error) is being installed on the newest class of US aircraft carriers, the Ford-class. The Gerald R. Ford is the first, and will contain two A1B reactors.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A1B_reactor

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_R._Ford-class_aircraft_carrier

Yes, what is currently written into law, the CFR (dealt with 10CFR21 during my time in commercial nuclear safety systems, non-1E) would need to be changed. Congress would consider the recommendations from the technical community and the NRC, if the effort is made to create a proposal to make those changes. Bechtel alone has sufficient resources and influence to study the concept, and propose modifications to the regulations.

If an unvarnished safety record could be produced, that is usually what it would take to convince Congress, not the technical details or reactor physics. Congress doesn't have the capacity or bandwidth to understand the technology ... they would be concerned with safety, and not promoting any new avenues of nuclear proliferation, IMHO.

July, 24 2014

Michael Keller says

Well, I can think of several nuclear subs that sank; the safety record is not "unblemished". It does not take a "Bechtel" to figure this out stuff out, merely folks who've have had been around the block a few times.

July, 25 2014

Ferdinand E. Banks says

The Fukushima accident you say. If you mean that the reactor was in the wrong Place, then we are on the same page, but the main cause of the trouble was the tsunami. NO TSUNAMI, ON LOCKS ON GERMAN REACTORS. And once again guys and gals, in a decade or two reactors will be 'tsunami proof'. That's what we call The March of Technology.

July, 25 2014

Michael Keller says

USS Thresher & USS Scorpion. Both lost with all hands, may they rest in peace.

July, 25 2014

Malcolm Rawlingson says

2 x 180MW(e) - that is some ship to use that amount of power although I am very surprised that the power plants being installed in US navy aircraft carriers is apparently public knowledge.

Your Congress appears not to be able to listen to anybody except itself so I doubt they would listen to any technical or safety arguments.

You also have much faith in the openness of military organisations to part with the truth. So the safety record you see is just the one that they want you to see. Unblemished - I highly doubt that. The real safety record is not likely to be revealed to you or I. As Michael says above at least two nuclear reactors are lying on the seabed as we speak. How many Russian ones are there - well who knows that?

Unless you have free access to US military files (which you don't) what you perveive is an unblemished safety record is likely nothing of the sort. I am quite sure for example that the radiation dose limits for sailors is far greater than that allowed for civilian reactor operation.

Onl 5 Rem/year is allowed by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) with all Canadian operators limiting dose to nuclear energy workers to 1 R/year. I very much doubt these same limits are applied to military personnel so the shielding on these reactors is not the same as that for a civilian reactor.

I am also certain that the reactor containment is not as elaborate as a civilian reactor either.

But one good thing is that you can always pull the plug and sink it to the bottom of the ocean if something goes wrong - to join the others already there.

Malcolm

July, 27 2014

Michael Keller says

A sub's hull is the containment. Since a sub goes a long ways down into the ocean, the measures to protect the crew are significant (much more so than the measures applied to the steel containment of civilian power plant).

July, 28 2014

Ferdinand E. Banks says

This business of nuclear and the dangers of radiation is really quite interesting. There are few countries in the World where the length of Life is longer than in Japan and Sweden. As a matter of fact I suspect that nuclear intensive Japan might be the Place to live if you prefer a long to a short Life. Sweden of course was in the same boat Before democracy intervened, and about 20% of the Swedish population found themselves in position to worsen the Life of the other 80%.

July, 29 2014

Don Hirschberg says

Actually the Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors have had longer and healthier lives than comparable Japanese. I have been waiting for an explanation for decades. The data suggests radiation that does not make you sick or dead is beneficial.

July, 29 2014

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Michael, There is a big difference between containments and shielding. In every commercial nuclear reactor the shielding to prevent the escape of nuetrons is concrete of the order of 6 feet in thickness. The shielding is not provided by the ocean since you could never surface with the reactor operating.

It is my understanding that the dose limits for submariners are substantially more that that of commercial nuclear plant operators and there can be only be reason for that - they get a dose that exceeds those dose limits.

I think I'll stick to dry land. At least the reactors won't sink or run aground or hit other reactors.

Don makes a good point here that is often overlooked. Most people that survived the direct radiation and blast wave lived longer than the average. This is also the case for populations that live above areas of the earth where the natural radioactivbe background is substantially higher. In short - radiation in low doses is likely quite good for you.

After 42 years in the nuclear business I still do not glow in the dark. I wish I did. Think of the electricity I would save :)

Malcolm

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