Energy Production and Its Effects

v4ultingbassist
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Energy Production and Its Effects

So I've been thinking, and it seems to me that even the 'clean' energy sources have the potential to affect our environment.  Wouldn't vast wind farms impact local climates?  Wouldn't large amounts of solar fields lower the amount of heat taken in by the Earth?  If any of these alternative energy sources becomes large scale, don't they have potential to adversely affect our environment?  I realize that the impact is likely less than that of CO2, but still, wouldn't it happen?

 

Knowing, this, is nuclear actually a better route (most notably *if* fusion proves viable)?  I understand it still produces waste, but if that is the only impact it has on the environment, wouldn't we have more control over said impact, because the waste is in our hands, instead of our atmosphere?

 

Just some food for thought.


Unrepentant_Elitist
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While I cannot speak to the

While I cannot speak to the first paragraph as I am insufficiently educated on the subject, I would like to respond to the second. To clarify, are you asking if fission power should be abandoned if it does not lead the way to fusion sources, or are you interested in the viability of fusion itself? Likewise, if you are willing to concede that nuclear processes lend themselves to waste production, what are your specific thoughts on the existence thereof? I can appreciate your thoughts as concerns the dichotomy that exists between uncontrolled byproducts and controlled production waste, but I am interested in your specific thoughts on the topic. Unfortunately, a long work week requires that I retire for the moment, but I look forward to reading your comments on a highly contentious subject.

Regards,

UE 


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I reside in the "wind farm"

I reside in the "wind farm" part of the country and I can tell you the motivation is monetary and not enviromental. The main player in the wind market is T. Boone Pickens, a wealthy oilman. The economical gains are the driving force, not the ecological.

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v4ultingbassist
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Well, I too am

Well, I too am insufficiently educated on both, so I am going on intuition and common sense... not so much science.

 

It is my understanding that one specific goal of modern energy production is to have as little impact on the environment as possible.  As such, my thoughts were that even the clean energy sources being researched will still have environmental effects.  Given this knowledge, could nuclear processes be a better option?

 

As for the nuclear processes themselves, it is my understanding that fusion is not yet capable of producing a net gain of work (I thought I read somewhere that it had happened, but after a google search it appeared that that wasn't the case).  Personally I see no problem with keeping fission around, but I am working under the assumption that viable fusion would be more efficient and thus would logically replace fission (you would certainly be more knowledgeable about this). 

 

As for the waste itself, I do not have a solution.  I understand that this is (I think) the main issue most have with nuclear power.  I am again assuming that fusion would produce less waste (I thought I read somewhere that it may be possible for no waste...).  Even so, as I said, I am of the opinion that controlled waste is better than uncontrolled byproducts.  I suppose that this, then, is the essence of my question, whether or not people think that controlled waste is better than uncontrolled byproducts.


v4ultingbassist
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Awelton85 wrote:I reside in

Awelton85 wrote:
I reside in the "wind farm" part of the country and I can tell you the motivation is monetary and not enviromental. The main player in the wind market is T. Boone Pickens, a wealthy oilman. The economical gains are the driving force, not the ecological.

 

Well isn't that monetary gain due to the the political support of cleaner energy?  I.E. he's building wind farms because it's a hot market, and it's a hot market because of the environmentalist push for cleaner energy?


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It is impossible to exist

It is impossible to exist and not have an effect on our environment. We are not separate from the rest of the universe. (Not that I'm telling you anything new, here.)

Wind farms would not have a significant impact on climate, they do not take enough energy out of the system for that. Their drawbacks are pollutants from production, maintenance and disposal as well as beating the tar out of birds, bats and flying insects.

Photo-voltaic solar would not greatly impact heat storage - their own mass would replace part of the process, and because they work better if we put them up high out of shadows, our own buildings are typically better places to keep them than open fields are anyway. Their real drawbacks are pollutants from production and disposal.

Fusion is interesting, assuming we ever get the technology into a usable form. Potentially we could vastly reduce dangerous pollutants from a fusion system by having stages of reaction, though some may use more energy than they make, to produce some useful materials instead of rubbish. That would make it among the least impacting energy technologies because it would be hugely efficient.

And that's an example in reverse of what's really wrong with energy production technologies in use today: Inefficiency.

Even if we were able to make so-called "fossil fuel" use vastly more efficient, we'd be producing far less cruft and could use it for much longer before needing to be worried about its emissions. Depending on just how efficient we can get it, the biosphere's own mechanisms might be able to keep up with emissions and we'd only need to worry about running out of those energy-rich hydrocarbons.

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Solid State Synthesized Ammonia

 A friend shared a paper that he wrote recently regarding Solid State Synthesized Ammonia.  It's a 6500 word read but it has some very interesting data and potential clean energy solutions.  A quick look at the 'urban scenario' section and the 'conclusion' may give you a good general overview of the paper.  Other scenarios and supporting data are generously provided as well.

 

http://strandedwind.org/node/4130

 

 


Unrepentant_Elitist
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  Hello again!I thought I

 

 

Hello again!

I thought I might take a moment to respond in a bit more detail as to the viability of nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuels. You mentioned fusion as a more ideal candidate for future use. This has been, in my opinion, the holy grail (if you’ll pardon the use of the phrase) of nuclear engineering since the middle of the 20th century.  Many in the industry believed that fission reactors were a stop-gap solution until we cracked the fusion problem. Unfortunately, the reality is a bit less optimistic. As fusion research continued, problems in the fission industry (such as TMI and Chernobyl) caused a sense of unease among the general populace which has never been completely abated. Nuclear energy is typically construed as elite technology that borders on magic: put some rocks in water, and poof- the lights in houses illuminate.

Having said as much, the nuclear energy industry has done itself no favors to allay said fears. We tend to hire from the Navy’s nuclear propulsion program, and once one is inside, one tends to stay within the industry. Likewise, the secrecy that surrounds the industry is based on security concerns and held-over cold war sensibilities. While the industry has been much more open in the past decade, the public mistrust still exists to some extent. Our regulations are so stringent that compliance has pushed red tape to the snapping point, but for good reason: in my opinion, if one accident at a TMI level occurs the industry will be shut down immediately.

Fusion, while extremely promising in terms of thermal yield, minimal waste production, and simplicity of base design, suffers from problem areas in magnetic containment and plasma production. To be honest, I doubt if commercial fusion power will be available within the next fifty years. In terms of sustainability, I believe that fusion energy would qualify due to its unbelievably high thermal output per unit fuel. This argument though, is a point of contention in the fission industry as well. Having heard both sides, I find the nitpicking and parsing of words to be a bit tiresome.

You mentioned waste production as an area of concern. Certainly, this is one of the twin demons facing the nuclear industry currently (the other being security concerns). The situation is a bit convoluted as the two problems tend to intertwine. Long-lived radioactive waste can be processed into nominally reusable products; the French have been doing it for years via PUREX processing. Likewise, glassification processes have been in place for some time. Unfortunately, concerns about proliferation of nuclear material have largely stymied efforts in the U.S. to engage in any real effort at reprocessing (though we seem to have no problem asking the French to do it for us). The two major issues therefore are inextricably interwoven. With the termination of the proposed Yucca mountain waste site, I am interested to see how the waste management situation changes.

As far as long term viability is concerned, I hope that the grumbling acceptance that seems to be gaining ground in the U.S. grows to some level of enthusiasm- but I am not so naïve as to believe this will occur any time soon. I tend to think of the nuclear industry as a fait accompli; having found a source of energy with promising characteristics, it seems to me to be in our best interest to aggressively pursue improvements. 

 


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Purex is hella awesome as a

Purex is hella awesome as a way to solve the radioactive "waste" "problem".  MOX fuel is pretty slick as well.  Another way to solve the "waste" "problem" is to look into technologies that could burn up these radiodaughters, rather than just sticking them somewhere to decay.  It isn't that radioactive waste can't be used as an energy source, it's just that people aren't bothering to do so.  Stirling Engines are our friend.

To answer one of the questions about wind power, the thing is those turbines don't really affect the air that much.  Even a 100 meter tower is tiny compared to several kilometers of atmosphere.  And only commercial grade wind is practical, so only those small wind corridors would even be affected.

Solar is great stuff, and there are growing applications for solar where the electricity is a byproduct, rather than the primary product.  I know of car park projects where the primary revenue source is the sale of covered parking, rather than the sale of the electricity.  A 15 square meter parking space can produce about 2KW of electricity at high noon on the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere.  That's worth about $0.20 as electricity for an hour, but as a "covered parking space" during the heat of the summer, it's worth a couple of dollars for the hour.  And even if only worth $1 more, that's more than the average power produced over a calendar year for a flat plate collector.  Other applications, including covered walkways, are being developed -- rather than having to trench in electric cabling, the electricity is produced, stored and used locally, and the cost savings from going that route can offset the cost of using a more expensive covering.

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Unrepentant_Elitist
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FurryCatHerder wrote:Purex

FurryCatHerder wrote:

Purex is hella awesome as a way to solve the radioactive "waste" "problem".  MOX fuel is pretty slick as well.  Another way to solve the "waste" "problem" is to look into technologies that could burn up these radiodaughters, rather than just sticking them somewhere to decay.  It isn't that radioactive waste can't be used as an energy source, it's just that people aren't bothering to do so.  Stirling Engines are our friend.

To answer one of the questions about wind power, the thing is those turbines don't really affect the air that much.  Even a 100 meter tower is tiny compared to several kilometers of atmosphere.  And only commercial grade wind is practical, so only those small wind corridors would even be affected.

Solar is great stuff, and there are growing applications for solar where the electricity is a byproduct, rather than the primary product.  I know of car park projects where the primary revenue source is the sale of covered parking, rather than the sale of the electricity.  A 15 square meter parking space can produce about 2KW of electricity at high noon on the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere.  That's worth about $0.20 as electricity for an hour, but as a "covered parking space" during the heat of the summer, it's worth a couple of dollars for the hour.  And even if only worth $1 more, that's more than the average power produced over a calendar year for a flat plate collector.  Other applications, including covered walkways, are being developed -- rather than having to trench in electric cabling, the electricity is produced, stored and used locally, and the cost savings from going that route can offset the cost of using a more expensive covering.

I would tend to agree that MOX holds some promise as well, but if I wonder if the benefits of its cross-sectional properties are outweighed by its political ramifications as concerns proliferation worries. Likewise, I would submit that the current burn curves for Pu-239 are a bit understated when commercial power applications are considered; due to the base-loading and regulatory down-power requirements, the total plutonium yield is somewhat misrepresented in the public venue. I have been selected for an audit team to do some research in France next year, so I am hoping to learn more about the practical applications. In general though, I believe it represents a viable method for utilizing reprocessed fuel. 

Regards,

UE