Daily Archives: January 24th, 2010

Karma Ghost

Sometimes the internet can thrill you. I like to blob (deliberate typo) about karma so I was thrilled to find this blast from the past tonight. I was just doodling, listening to music and working on my next blog when I came across this gem. It’s an old “flash” animation from years ago that someone has thoughtfully restored to YouTube in pristine condition.

I hope you like it as much as me!

Is nuclear power the nuclear option?

I remember when Obama was running for office, he talked a lot about green energy and that alternative sources of energy would be pursued. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I got the warm and fuzzy feeling it was all going to be very green and not very nuclear.

Curious, I went to the site PolitiFact.com and checked to see how was doing. That site keeps track of campaign promises made by Obama and other politicians, too. So how is Obama doing on energy? Not too bad, it turns out. Here is what the site says about some Obama energy promises. Following each item is information in quotation marks that indicates how PolitiFact feels Obama is keeping that promise:

No. 225: Establish an Energy Partnership for the Americas. “Promise kept.”
No. 372: Establish a Global Energy Corps to promote green energy in developing countries. “Stalled.”
No. 443: Require 10 percent renewable energy by 2012. “In the works.”
No. 444: Require 25 percent renewable energy by 2025. “In the works.”
No. 445: Extend Production Tax Credit to encourage renewable energy. “Compromise.”
No. 448: Close loopholes to discourage energy speculation. “In the works.”
No. 449: Raise fuel economy standards. “In the works.”

Let’s zoom in for more detail on Promise # 225 with my emphasis added:

Establish an Energy Partnership for the Americas

“As president, Barack Obama will establish an Energy Partnership for the Americas. This partnership will increase research and development in clean coal technology, the next generation of sustainable biofuels and in wind, solar and nuclear energy. The partnership will also look for ways for nations to coordinate to transport green energy across national borders. It will help Latin American and Caribbean nations become more energy independent and promote sustainable growth for the region. The partnership also will create additional markets for American biofuels and American-made green energy technology.”

Surprised? Yep, nuclear energy is in there. It seems to be increasingly clear that nuclear power is likely to be a major piece of any energy policy developed under the Obama administration.

There are two odd things about this. First, on Obama’s own web site, BarackObama.com, when he talks about “energy” he doesn’t mention nuclear power at all. Second, again on his own web site, you find the following text (PDF):

Safe and Secure Nuclear Energy. Nuclear power represents more than 70 percent of our noncarbon generated electricity. It is unlikely that we can meet our aggressive climate goals if we eliminate nuclear power as an option.

As president, Obama will make safeguarding nuclear material both abroad and in the U.S. a top anti‐terrorism priority. In terms of waste storage, Barack Obama and Joe Biden do not believe that Yucca Mountain is a suitable site.

Interesting stuff. I bet a lot of us didn’t know that. While Obama has said “nuclear energy is not optimal” he does not rule it out as part of our energy future.

Regarding nuclear power and nuclear waste, The Christian Science Monitor reported this:

President Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2010 all but sinks prospects to store America’s nuclear waste at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain.

But it leaves wide open the role of nuclear power in building “a new economy powered by clean and secure energy” – and the question of what to do with existing, highly toxic nuclear waste.

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that nuclear power isn’t going to go away and will be a key component in Obama’s energy policy.

Meanwhile, Wired Magazine has some very interesting information about thorium-based energy, what it called “the new green nuke.”

In short, the article says there are three options for generating nuclear power.

  1. Uranium-Fueled Light-Water Reactor. Uses existing nuclear power plants with uranium. Fuel input per gigawatt output is 250 tons raw uranium.
  2. Seed-and-Blanket Reactor. Uses existing nuclear power plants (which must be upgraded to support the process) with uranium and thorium. Fuel input per gigawatt output is 4.6 tons raw thorium, 177 tons raw uranium.
  3. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor. Requires new power plants to be built. Fuel input per gigawatt output is 1 ton raw thorium.

Options 1 and 2 require 250 and 181.6 tons of fuel respectively. Option 3 requires only one ton of fuel to generate the same amount of power. That seems incredible. The article also says that Options 1 and 2 have operation expenses of $50-$60 million annually, while Option 3 is only $10,000 annually.

One thing seems certain. Nuclear power is going to be around a while longer, to satisfy the power hungry United States and an increasingly growing need around the rest of the world. Demand for power is only going to continue to increase and alternative energy sources are not mature enough to meet that demand. I was surprised to learn that nuclear power will be an option with Obama, but if the thorium option (or some other option) works out, maybe that won’t be such a completely horrible bit of news.