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XYLENE POWER LTD.

ENERGY REALITIES

PRESENTATION NOTES

By Charles Rhodes, P.Eng., Ph.D.

TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THIS WEB PAGE:

INITIAL STATEMENT:
Planet Earth continuously absorgs energy from the sun. Prior to the industrial revolution planet Earth maintained a nearly stable temperature by emitting an infrared radiation flux equal to the absorbed solar radiation flux.

Commencing in the late 19th century that energy flow balance was disturbed by mankind's large scale use of fossil fuels for energy production. Extraction and combustion of fossil fuels releases methane, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and soot particles into the atmosphere. The effect of the gaseous products of combustion is to reduce the amount of infrared radiation emitted at a particular temperature.

Combustion of fossil fuels also releases microscopic soot particles. The effect of these soot particles is to decrease reflection of sunlight from snow and ice and hence increase the flux of solar radiation absorbed by planet Earth.

Precision astrophysical measurements done in the late 1990s haave revealed that circa year 2000 the incoming solar radiation flux exceeded the emitted infrared radiation flux by about 5.2%. Neglecting polar ice melting the rate of heat absorption was sufficient to raise the average ocean temperature by 0.036 degrees C per year. The non-linear mathematics of this energy transfer indicate that in the decades to come the rate of average ocean temperature rise will increase almost four fold. The ocean temperature rise will continue until the average ocean temperature reaches about 17.5 degrees C above the average ocean temperature in the year 1997.

The projected rise in average ocean temperature will have huge effects on Earth's environment. It is anticipated that the high temperatures will drive almost all large animals into extinction. The only way of slowing or halting this temperature rise is to leave fossil carbon in the ground. That requirement has major implications on energy systems around the world.

Depending on an observer's perspective the world faces major problems relating to:
Atmospheric CO2 Concentration
Thermal Runaway
Ocean Thermal Absorption
Warm State Trapping
Climate Change
Fossil fuel Supply
Synthetic Hydrocarbon Fuel Production
Nuclear Fuel Supply
Nuclear Waste
Inadequate Electricity Transmission
Insufficient Energy Storage
Improper Electricity Rates
Insufficient Biomass Carbohydrates
Insufficient Food
Insufficient Fresh Water

In reality these problems are all different facets of the same problem, which is supply and delivery of sufficent affordable non-fossil energy, when and where required, to meet reasonable human needs.

It is difficult to solve this energy supply and delivery problem without much more public education relating to energy matters. Of paramount importance is elimination of the public misconception that energy problems can be economiclly solved by a combination of energy conservation, renewable energy and natural gas combustion. This misconception is rapidly driving Earth toward human extinction via a process known as thermal runaway.

Purifying more water requires much more energy. Growing and distributing more food requires more energy. Producing synthetic hydrocarbon fuels requires much more energy. Processing nuclear waste requires more energy. Building more electricity generation and transmission requires more energy. Building developments to accommodate Earth's expanding population require much more energy. Ontario has to accommodate and usefully employ about 100,000 more people each and every year. Any solution to the CO2 triggered thermal runaway problem either involves production of a lot more non-fossil energy or involves a major reduction of the human population.

There is also the problem that short term human requirements almost always take priority over long term goals. Hence, any viable solution to the problem of thermal runaway must also address all of the other above named problems. For example, if people are starving they will do whatever it takes to satisfy their immediate hunger, even if that action compromises their long term survival. To the extent that fossil fuels are integral to water purification, food production and food distribution systems there must be available alternatives before the fossil fuel use can be eliminated. Thus any successful solution to the aforementioned long term global problems must also meet short term global requirements.

Non-fossil energy supply and delivery is not a matter of exclusive international, federal, provincial, state or municipal jurisdiction. Non-fossil energy supply involves all levels of government.
 

ABSTRACT:
The issue of global energy absorption and accumulation due to an increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration has been known since the mid 1960s. The astro-physical data required to quantify the issue known as thermal runaway was acquired in late 1996. Mass spectrometry of sediments has shown that thermal runaway occurred about 55 million years ago at which time it caused a global extinction of all large land animals. Prevention of thermal runaway is the single largest challenge facing mankind today and is the motivation for this presentation.

Today there is no major political party in North America that is seriously addressing the problem of thermal runaway. Present politicians green wash themselves with CO2 emission reduction measures that fail to address the scope of the problem. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has indicated that the atmospheric temperature rise should be limited to 1.5 degrees C but the IPCC has failed to address the reasons why 1.5 degrees C is a critical upper limit or the means by which this goal can be met.

Today fossil fuels are being consumed at a prodigious and increasing rate. The energy supply problem is aggravated by an increasing human population, an increasing requirement for energy to desalinate sea water for intensive agricultural irrigation and a general increase in per capita energy demand by third world populations. Conservative projections of present trends show that thermal runaway will commence within the lifetimes of younger persons now living. Prevention of thermal runaway requires immediate abandonment of fossil fuels and requires about a 100 fold expansion in the world non-fossil electricity delivery capacity within the next 60 years. Achieving these goals will require a combination of technical excellence, skilled leadership and extensive public education. Failure to achieve these goals will lead to human extinction.

One of the problems is insufficient public awareness of the costs of supply and delivery of intermittent renewable energy. Few members of the general public grasp that while the cost of unconstrained wind and solar energy delivered to the grid can be as low as $0.12 per kWh, the costs of transmitting that energy to storage, storing the energy, recoving the energy and delivering that energy from storage to the load when and where required can easily exceed $1.20 / kWh.

In southern Canada about (1 / 3) of the future electricity load might potentially be met via intermittent renewable energy sources. However, the remaining (2 /3) of the electricity load is base load for which the only economical non-fossil energy sources are hydroelectric and nuclear generation. In most jurisdictions the economic hydroelectric generation capacity is already fully utilized, so new non-fossil base load electricity generation capacity must be nuclear.

The fossil fuel displacement goals will not be met if we continue to allow ourselves to be governed by incompetent, dishonest and corrupt persons who in many cases are guided by self interest, fossil fuel interests or non-nuclear religious fantasy rather than by physical reality.

Existing water cooled nuclear reactors are not a sustainable solution for fossil fuel displacement. These water cooled reactors use only about 1% of the potential energy available from natural uranium and produce large amounts of highly toxic spent fuel waste that, if not reprocessed, remains dangerous for over 400,000 years. There are insufficient reserves of concentrated uranium to sustain large scale displacement of fossil fuels. Further, the design of water cooled reactors causes formation of long lived low atomic weight radio isotopes which, after about 60 years of reactor operation, become long lived toxic "decommissioning waste".

Fortunately liquid sodium cooled Fast Neutron Reactors (FNRs) can provide technical solutions to all of these problems. However, to date elected politicians in North America have lacked both the knowledge and moral fibre to implement FNRs and their companion fuel reprocessing.

Liquid sodium cooled Fast Neutron breeder Reactors (FNRs) are essential to make the required nuclear reactor capacity sustainable from the perspectives of both fuel supply and nuclear waste disposal. Existing inventories of plutonium should be conserved to permit rapid deployment of FNRs. Plutonium should not be intentionally used as a fuel for water cooled reactors and should not be irretrieveably buried in deep geologic repositories.

Spent water cooled reactor fuel should be interim dry stored in engineered containers located in secure but accessible naturally dry and naturally ventilated granite storage vaults that are high above the surrounding water table. Over time the spent fuel should be reprocessed for use in FNRs. Fission products, extracted from spent fuel, should be safely stored in these vaults for about 300 years to allow the fission products to naturally decay. Numerous governments must make policy U-turns with respect to these basic issues.

The water cooled reactor spent fuel inventory and the net plutonium breeding rate together constrain the rate of deployment of future FNRs. Hence, it is necessary to pursue interim parallel use of water cooled reactors and parallel development of deuterium-tritium fusion based plutonium breeding which, although in its infancy, does not have either a deployment rate constraint or a significant fuel supply constraint.

The Ontario Energy Plan "Conservation First" policy is totally wrong. This policy encourages minimization of electricity energy usage instead of minimization of fossil fuel consumption. This policy unnecessarily increases electricity cost, wastes available non-fossil electricity generation capacity and causes excessive consumption of fossil fuels outside the electricity system.

Correcting these policy problems requires implementation of a low cost optional interruptible electricity service. The interruptible electricity service should be controlled by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) via the internet in accordance with the moment by moment availability of non-fossil electricity generation capacity that is surplus to the moment by moment requirements of the Standard Electricity Service. Such an interruptible electricity service would increase total electricity system revenue, would reduce consumption of fossil fuels, would increase average generation and transmission capacity factors and would reduce the requirements for natural gas fueled peaking and reserve generation.

In some jurisdictions billions of dollars are being fruitlessly wasted on the concept of CO2 capture and storage, which makes no sense from either geochemical, energy, environmental or safety perspectives.
 

SPEAKER BIO:
Our speaker today is Charles Rhodes, P.Eng., B.Sc., M.A. Sc., Ph.D., Chief Engineer of Xylene Power Ltd. and Micro Fusion International Ltd. Dr. Rhodes is both a physicist and developmental engineer. He graduated from Simon Fraser University in 1968 at the age of 19 and in 1969 he became a senior instructor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Toronto. He completed his M.A.Sc. and Ph.D. requirements in 1971 and 1974 respectively and commenced commercial work in 1975.

Dr. Rhodes has had past hands on experience with:
a) design and construction of RF, HF, VHF and UHF communications equipment;
b) cryogenic and plasma physics;
c) solid state device fabrication and characterization;
d) design, manufacture, programming, installation, operation and maintenance of distributed computer systems for: energy management, energy storage, equipment monitoring and environmental control;
e) design, manufacture, installation and maintenance of: energy metering equipment, commercial condensing boilers and co-generation systems;
f) utility rate matters as they relate to major buildings and to behind the meter energy storage systems.

During the last decade Dr. Rhodes has been involved in:
a) commercial lighting control;
b) fossil fuel pipeline safety;
c) wind generation;
d) the Ontario Power Authority Integrated Power System Plan;
e) astrophysical analysis of climate change;
f) nuclear waste processing and storage;
g) design of fast fission and fusion power systems.
 

ENERGY REALITIES:
1) Prior to the induxtrial revolution the Earth's atmospheric CO2 concentration was in the range 275 ppmv to 280 ppmv. The atmospheric CO2 concentration in 1960 was 316.80 ppmv and was increasing at 0.835 ppmv / year. The atmospheric CO2 concentration in 2004 was 377.79 ppmv and was increasing at 2.02 ppmv / year. The atmospheric CO2 concentration in 2014 was 400 ppmv and was increasing at 2.7 ppmv / year.

2) The average solar reflectivity of the Earth (bond albedo) is dependent on the fraction of the Earth's surface that is covered by ice or white cloud (ice micro-crystals). Due to the phase change of cloud ice micro-crystals at a cloud temperature of 0 degrees C a rapid far infrared radiation emission temperature increase of about 15 degrees C known as thermal runaway will occur commencing at an atmospheric CO2 concentration of about 433 ppmv.

3) Thus, continuing large scale combustion of fossil fuels will result in a global extinction of large land animals, including humans, before the end of the 21st century;

4) In Canada toward the middle of the 21st century we can reasonably expect uncontrolled immigration from lower latitude countries and violence related to the consequent competion for limited resources;

5) The average per capita world energy requirements will increase sharply in the near future due to depletion of fresh water aquifers that presently supply crop irrigation water. In many countries replacement irrigation water for intensive agriculture can only come from energy intensive desalination of salt water. Reverse osmosis sea water desalination systems typically require 2.4 kWh to 6.0 kWh per m^3 of fresh water produced. The energy required to pump the desalinated water up hill and inland is additional. Typical crops in typical soils require about 0.5 m of irrigation per growing season. Even if only a fraction of the irrigation water requirement has to be met via desalination of sea water the increase in the intensive agricuiltural energy requirement is huge.

6) Renewable energy sources lack the capacity, energy storage and supporting transmission required to meet the present and projected future world energy demand. Provision of the required energy storage and transmission capacity is prohibitively expensive;

7) There is presently a known 80 year supply of natural uranium for existing water cooled nuclear reactors. Replacing fossil fuel power with nuclear power requires a projected overnight 50 fold increase in world wide functional nuclear power capacity or about a 100 fold increase in functional nuclear power capacity in 60 years. Reliance on water cooled nuclear reactors would quickly deplete both the known and yet to be discovered natural uranium resource reserves;

8) A switch from water cooled reactors to fast neutron reactors (FNRs) would extend the lifetime of the natural uranium resource by more than 1000 fold but would likely take 200+ years to fully implement due to a constraint known as the net plutonium breeding rate.

9) At this time a practical process for realizing industrial scale energy production from deuterium-tritium fusion has yet to be demonstrated. It appears that the most effective use of fast neutrons from deuterium-tritium fission is for breeding more plutonium for fast neutron reactor start fuel. The tritium required for deuterium-tritium fusion would be formed within Li-6 breeding tubes surrounding fast neutron reactor cores. This process, if successful, would accelerate the FNR deployment rate.
 

PRESENTATION SUMMARY:
This presentation demonstrates that sustainable human existence on Earth, at the projected human population of 11 billion later this century, requires leaving fossil fuels in the ground and requires widespread adoption of a mixed fleet of water cooled nuclear reactors, liquid sodium cooled Fast Neutron breeder Reactors (FNRs) and possibly fusion reactors.

Absent widespread implementation of these technologies the present climate and human population are unsustainable.

Governmental policies that are not founded in these physical realities must be changed. Fast Neutron Reactors (FNRs) are essential for a sustainable non-fossil energy program that can displace fossil fuels. However:

In the USA and UK plutonium that is required for FNR startup is being consumed in water cooled reactors to prevent nuclear weapon proliferation.

In Ontario the present electricity pricing methodology leads to massive waste of both non-fossil electricity generation capacity and fossil fuels.

In Canada the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is planning on burying unreprocessed used nuclear fuel while that fuel still contains 99% of its potential energy supply capacity.
 

GLOBAL WARMING AND THERMAL RUNAWAY:
The problem known as Global Warming became apparent in the 1960s as a result of study of the surface temperature and atmospheric makeup of the planet Venus and as a result of precise measurements of the Earth's atmospheric CO2 concentration.

In 1979 the US National Science Foundation advised US president Jimmy Carter that combustion of fossil fuels was causing an ongoing increase in the Earth's atmospheric CO2 concentration, and that eventual doubling of the atmospheric CO2 concentration from 280 ppmv to 560 ppmv would cause an Earth surface temperature increase of at least 5 degrees F (2.8 degrees C). The primary cause of this projected temperature increase, known as global warming, is a CO2 induced decrease in the Earth's far infrared emissivity Ft. Water vapor in the Earth's atmosphere magnifies this emissivity problem to the extent that doubling the atmospheric CO2 concentration leads to an eventual steady state Earth surface temperature increase of about 4.0 degrees C.

In November 1996 a thermal infrared spectrum of the Earth, recorded by the Mars Global Surveyor spacecaft, showed that Earth is facing a much more serious threat than global warming. That threat is a decrease in the Earth's average solar reflectivity (bond albedo) Fr, which will trigger a rapid rise in the Earth's average emission temperature T. This average emission temperature rise, known as thermal runaway, will likely be about 14.4 degrees K. The net average temperature rise of 17.4 degrees C on Earth's surface will cause a global extinction of large land animals.

Since 1996, in spite of overwhelming scientific evidence, successive elected governments in Canada and the USA have denied or procrastinated with respect to addressing the combined global warming/thermal runaway problem. That procrastination has eroded public confidence, has caused significant permanent climate change, has caused a major ongoing increase in insect, fire and violent storm damage and has enabled thermal runaway within the lifetimes of persons now living.

Isotopic analysis of world wide sediments shows that thermal runaway occurred about 55 million years ago, during a period known as the PETM (Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum), and caused complete melting of the polar icecaps. Analysis of fossils before, during and after the PETM shows a global extinction of all land animals larger than a mole. A similar extinction will be mankind's fate unless there is both public recognition of the thermal runaway threat and rapid expansion of the world non-fossil electric energy supply.

Fast Neutron Reactors (FNRs) are required to achieve efficient utilization of natural uranium and to minimize nuclear waste disposal problems. As compared to a CANDU reactor a FNR improves uranium utilization about 100 fold and reduces required spent fuel storage time about 1000 fold. However, the rate of FNR deployment is constrained by the water cooled reactor spent fuel inventory and by the net plutonium breeding rate. Thus for now Canada needs a mixed fleet CANDU reactors and FNRs.
 

PRESENT CIRCUMSTANCES:
In Earth's atmospheric CO2 concentration has reached 400 ppmv and is continuing to rise at about 2.5 ppmv / year. Uncontrollable atmospheric thermal runaway is projected to commence later this century at an atmospheric CO2 concentration of about 433 ppmv. Today the public is almost totally unaware of the problem of thermal runaway.

In simple terms, a relatively small further increase in Earth's far infrared emission temperature, caused by CO2 induced melting of polar ice, will prevent formation of ice micro-crystals in clouds, causing a large decrease in bond albedo, which in turn will cause a large increase in steady state Earth emission temperature. This positive temperature feedback process is known as thermal runaway. Once started, thermal runaway will be impossible to stop and will cause a global extinction of large land animals, including humans.

There is a complete failure of governments and their agencies to take prudent measures to prevent thermal runaway. Only a small segment of the scientific and engineering community is aware of the critical role of bond albedo in moderating the temperature on Earth sufficiently for the existence of large animal life. This issue should be taught in high school core curricula, not confined to elective post graduate physics courses.
 

CARBON POOLS:
To understand the fossil carbon problems it is helpful to understand how Earth reached its present state.

The spectrum of elements in Earth's crust indicates that Earth was formed by gravitational aggregation of elements formed in a super nova.

Early in the Earth's life Earth's surface was volcanic molten silicate rock and the atmosphere was primarily CO2 + H2O vapor + N2. Initially carbon was mostly in the "atmospheric pool". As the surface of the Earth slowly cooled by emitting infrared radiation the exposed silicate lava rock reacted with CO2 to form silica sand (SiO2) plus carbonate rock (limestone) in accordance with the chemical reaction:

CaSiO3 + CO2 = SiO2 + CaCO3

This reaction goes forward at lower temperatures and but goes backward at volcanic lava temperatures. Over hundreds of millions of years this reaction transferred much of the original atmospheric CO2 from the "atmosphere pool" into the "carbonate rock pool".

As the Earth's temperature further decreased below 100 degrees C the water vapor condensed to become liquid. As this liquid further cooled it dissolved most of the remaining CO2 from the atmosphere via the chemical reaction:
CaCO3 + H2O + CO2 = Ca(HCO3)2 = Ca++ + 2 (HCO3)-

This chemical reaction goes forward at low temperatures (< 50 C) and backward at higher temperatures. This chemical reaction is also driven backwards by the ocean surface absorbing solar energy, which causes ocean evaporation. This reaction is driven forward by CO2 in the atmosphere dissolving in rain water. The CO2 that is dissolved in the ocean via this reaction we refer to as being in the "ocean pool".

Absent human intervention the ratio of CO2 in the "atmosphere pool" to CO2 in the "ocean pool" is a dynamic balance controlled by the solar irradiance, bond albedo and ocean temperature. At steady state this ratio is about 1:32.76. At present ocean temperatures transient CO2 decays by ocean absorption with an exponential decay time constant of about 41 years (half life = 28 years).

Once temperatures were sufficiently low ( < 50 C) photosynthesis started which gradually extracted CO2 from the combined ocean-atmosphere pool and created a "weakly bound carbon pool" which primarily consists of carbohydrates and fossil fuels. The main photosynthesis reaction is:

6 CO2 + 6 H2O + sunlight = C6H12O6 + 6 O2

Over hundreds of thousands of years anaerobic biological decomposition of C6H12O6 followed many paths. A few of the most significant paths are:
C6H12O6 = 3 CH4 + 3 CO2 (formation of natural gas)
and
C6H12O6 = 2 C2H5OH + 2 CO2 (natural biologic formation of ethanol)
and
2 C2H5OH = C4H9OH + H2O (dehydration of ethanol to form butanol)
and
C6H12O6 = C4H9OH + 2 CO2 + H2O (natural biologic formation of butanol)
and
C2H5OH + C4H9OH = C6H13OH + H2O (dehydration of ethanol + butanol)

Dehydration of natural alcohols will occur in volcanically dehydrated rock which when it cools will take up water of hydration. Contact of a complex alcohol with hot dehydrated rock causes the alcohol to reform into CO2 plus an oil.

Thus:
2 C6H13OH + heat = CO2 + 2 CH4 + C9H20 (formation of oil and natural gas by reformation of dehydrated natural alcohols)

Hence photosynthesis in combination with anaerobic biochemistry and volcanic dehydrated rock converted part of the atmospheric CO2 into atmospheric O2 + (fossil fuels) + (carbohydrates). About 97% the remaining atmospheric CO2 gas dissolved in the ocean by conversion of carbonates into bicarbonates.

The partial pressure of CO2 in the atmosphere reaches equilibrium with the partial pressure of CO2 in sea water in less than a century. A century is short on a geologic time scale. Hence on a geologic time scale we can refer to CO2 that is either dissolved in the ocean or is in the atmosphere as being in the "ocean-atmosphere pool". The other carbon pools are the "carbonate rock pool" (limestone) and the "weakly bound carbon pool" (fossil fuels).


 

INTER-POOL CO2 FLOW:
Climate is a reflection of the amount of CO2 in the "atmosphere" and in the "ocean-atmosphere pool".

Excess CO2 in the atmosphere dissolves in the ocean with a time constant of about 41 years at the present ocean temperature.

CO2 flows slowly from the ocean-atmosphere pool to the weakly bound carbon pool via photosynthesis.

CO2 can flow rapidly from the weakly bound carbon pool into the atmosphere via combustion of carbohydrates and fossil fuels.

CO2 flows very slowly from the ocean-atmosphere pool to the carbonate rock pool via conversion of exposed silicate lava rock into carbonate rock (limestone) plus silica (SiO2) sand.

CO2 can flow rapidly from the carbonate rock pool into the atmosphere via volcanic heating of carbonate rock.

At steady state there is a statistical balance between these various competing processes.
 

SUMMARY:
When a hydrocarbon is burned to obtain energy carbon moves rapidly from the "weakly bound carbon pool" to the atmosphere. Then the CO2 redistributres itself within the "ocean-atmosphere pool" with an exponential time constant of 41 years.

However, the time constant for restoration of balance between the "weakly bound carbon pool" and the "ocean-atmosphere pool" via photosynthesis is of the order of 200,000 years. The time constant for carbon transit from the "ocean-atmosphere pool to the "carbonate rock pool" is of the order of one million years. From a human existence time perspective, when fossil fuels are burned that combustion causes a permanent increase in the number of carbon atoms in the "ocean-atmosphere pool" and hence a permanent climate change.

There is no practical means of accelerating the flow of CO2 from the "ocean-atmosphere pool" to the "carbonate rock pool" because the reaction rate of:
CaSiO3 + H2CO3 + CO2 = Ca(HCO3)2 + SiO2
is extremely low.

Moving carbon from the "ocean-atmosphere pool" to the "weakly bound carbon pool" only occurs via photosynthesis.

Hence the concept of CO2 capture and long trerm storage is total nonsense. Natural gas deposits occur with minimal CO2 fractions because CO2 gas migrates relatively rapidly into ground water. To maintain present climate conditions fossil carbon must be left in the weakly bound carbon pool implying that fossil fuels must be left in the ground.
 

STEADY STATE ATMOSPHERIC CO2 CONCENTRATION:
The pre-industrial steady state atmospheric CO2 concentration of 280 ppmv was set by a balance between the rate of emission of CO2 from the ocean to the atmosphere due to solar driven evaporation and the rate of absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere by the ocean which rate is proportional to the difference in partial pressures of CO2 in the atmosphere and in the sea water. Due to the temperature dependent solubility of CO2 in ocean water, if the average ocean temperature was to rise by 20 C the atmospheric CO2 concentration would approximately double. Note that the process of CO2 dissolving in ocean water is not the same as CO2 dissolving in deionized distilled water. In the ocean dissolved CO2 gas combines with exposed CaCO3 to form Ca++ and (HCO3)- ions.

If via combustion sufficient carbon is moved from the "weakly bound pool" to the "ocean-atmosphere pool" ocean warming can drive the atmospheric CO2 concentration above the threshold for thermal runaway. Then, after the combustion ceases, the Earth will be trapped in its "warm" state until photosynthesis transfers sufficient carbon from the "ocean-atmosphere pool" to the "weakly bound carbon pool" to reduce the atmospheric CO2 concentration below the threshold for recovery from thermal runaway. This "warm" state trapping occurred during the PETM 55 million years ago. Full recovery from the "warm" state took about 500,000 years.
 

TRANSIENT ATMOSPHERIC CO2 CONCENTRATION:
Since the commencement of the industrial revolution mankind has injected additional CO2 into the atmosphere via combustion of fossil fuels. The atmospheric CO2 concentration has increased from its steady state base of 280 ppmv to about 400 ppmv. At present ocean temperatures the half life of the transient CO2 molecules in the Earth's atmosphere is about 28 years (exponential decay time constant = 41 years) before absorption by the ocean.

An increase in ocean temperature of 20 degrees C doubles the transient CO2 half life in the atmosphere and at a particular injection rate from fossil fuel combustion causes a proportionate increase in the transient CO2 concentration. This increased atmospheric CO2 concentration can easily exceed the threshold for thermal runaway and hence can cause "warm" state trapping.

The Earth's atmosphere can also be trapped in its "warm" state simply by human refusal to immediately reduce use of fossil fuels once the atmospheric CO2 concentration has exceeded the threshold for thermal runaway.
 

WORLD FOSSIL FUEL ENERGY DISPLACEMENT:
The average world petroleum consumption rate in 2014 was about 84,950,000 barrels per day. Combustion of this oil yields an average thermal power of:
84,950,000 barrels / day X 158.987 lit / barrel X 38.2 MJ /lit X 1 day / 24 h X 1 h / 3600 s
= 5,971,379 MJ / s
= 5,971,379 MWt

The claimed average world natural gas production rate in 2010 was about:
(4359 X 10^9 m^3 / year) X (10.2 kWh / m3) X (1 year / 8766 hr) X (1 hr / 3600 s)
 
= (4359 X 10^3 m^3 / year) X (10.2 kWh / m^3) X (1 year / 8.766 hr) X (1 hr / 3.6 s)
 
= 1,408,909 MWt

However, the claimed average natural gas based electricity production rate in 2014 was:
3,422,313 MWe
which indicates that either the actual natural gas production rate in 2014 was four fold higher than in 2010 or the natural gas based electricity production rate in 2014 was lower than claimed.

The average world coal production rate in 201___ is claimed to be about:
7823 X 10^6 tonnes / year X 1000 kg / tonne X (24.6 MJ / kg black coal) X 1 year / 8766 hr X 1 hr / 3600 s
 
= 6,098,239 MWt

The claim is that this coal was primarily used to produce 4,220,853 MWe of electricity, which indicates that either the average coal heating value is above 24.6 MJ / kg or the actual coal tonnage produced is higher than claimed or the actual coal sourced electricity production is lower than claimed.

The average world nuclear electric power production is about 257,000 MWe.

The average world hydro-electric power production is about 300,000 MWe

The average world wind energy energy production is about 57,000 MWe

Thus the total annual prime power production is:
(5,971,379 MWt + 1,408,909 MWt + 6,098,239 MWt) + (257,000 MWe + 300,000 MWe + 57,000 MWe)
= 13,478,527 MWt + 614,000 MWe

Note that the average world fossil fuel thermal output is almost 2 kWt per person on Earth.

An issue that many people fail to grasp is that average world hydro electric power production will likely plateau at about 400,000 MWe and due to balancing constraints that plateau will effectively clamp average grid connected wind power production at about 200,000 MWe. Some additional wind power could in principle be used for liquid hydrocarbon synthesis. However, the economics of wind generation exclusively for hydrocarbon synthesis are extremely adverse because none of the power generated earns premium income by assisting in meeting the uncontrolled electricity peak load. Hence, to economically displace fossil fuels almost all of the present fossil fuel supplied 13,478,527 MWt must come from nuclear energy.

Assume that the average nuclear power plant operates at a thermal efficiency given by:
(electricity output) / (reactor thermal power output) = 0.333
and operates at a capacity factor of about 0.9

Assuming:
(2000 Mwt / reactor X.333 MWe / MWt X.9) = 599.4 MWe / reactor,
then overnight displacement of fossil fuels at locations remote from nuclear reactors will require at least:
[13,478,527 MWt / (599.4 MWe / reactor)] X 1 MWe / 1 MWt = 22,487 reactors.

Then overnight displacement of the present fossil fuel consumption requires new nuclear reactors with about:
13,478,527 MWt / (257,000 MWe) = 52.44 times the present functional nuclear reactor capacity.

This estimate will be too low beccause it does not take into account population increase and increased per capita energy requirements for desalination of water for agricultural purposes.

Hence with allowance for 2 X load growth due to increasing population and increasing per capita 3rd world energy requirements the installed world nuclear reactor capacity needs to increase by about 105 fold over the next 60 years. Viewed another way, the operational world nuclear reactor capacity must more than double every 10 years for 6 decades.
 

ONTARIO FOSSIL FUEL ENERGY DISPLACEMENT:
In Ontario, according to a 2016 presentaion by Ritch Murray of Enbridge Gas Distribution:
35 % of the energy delivered to consumers in Ontario is in the form of natural gas;
19% of the energy delivered to consumers in Ontario is in the form of electricity;
36% of the energy delivered to consumers in Ontario is in the form of refined petroleum products

The remaining 10% of the energy consumed in Ontario is in the form of various transmission and processing loses between the energy source and the delivery point or in unmetered energy such as rooftop solar energy.

If natural gas and refined petroleum products were to be overnight replaced by electricity the required increase in annual electricity energy production would be:
(35 + 19 + 36) / 19 = 4.7368 fold.

According to the IESO, during the year 2015 the total electricity usage in Ontario was sourced as follows:
YearNuclearHydroCoalGas/OilWindBiofuelSolar/Other
201592.3 TWh36.3 TWh n/a15.4 TWh9.0 TWh0.45 TWh0.25 TWh
2015 (% of total)60%24%n/a10%6%< 1%< 1%

Thus from a delivered electrical energy perspective the increase in functional nuclear reactor capacity required to meet all of Ontario's electricity energy requirements is:
(92.3 TWh + 36.3 TWh + 15.4 TWh + 9.0 TWh + 0.45 TWh + 0.25 TWh) / 92.3 TWh = 1.6652

From a delivered thermal energy perspective the increase in functional nuclear capacity required overnight to meet the entire Ontario energy load is:
1.6652 X 4.7368 fold = 7.8878

This energy is:
7.8878 X 92.3 TWh = 728.046 TWh.

Providing this energy to remote locations from 2000 MWt FNRs operating at a thermal efficiency of 0.3333 and at a capacity factor of 0.900 requires:
[728.046 TWh / (2000 MWt / reactor X 0.3333 X 8766 h X 0.9 X 1 TWh / 1,000,000 MWh)]
= [728.046 reactors / (2 X 0.3333 X 8.766 X 0.9)]
= 138.43 reactors

This is an operational reactor quantity increase of:
138.43 / 18 = 7.69 fold

This is an average increase in installed reactor capacity per year between 2015 and 2050 of:
(138.43 reactors - 18 reactors) / 35 years = 3.44 reactors per year.

A major constraint on the FNR production rate is availability of sufficient plutonium to start FNRs. It will be ironic if present attempts to prevent nuclear weapon proliferation via using plutonium as fuel in water cooled reactors lead to extinction of mankind due to insufficiency of plutonium for starting future FNRs.

At this time there is complete failure of North American planning authorities to face this basic energy system planning issue.

Most renewable energy is seasonal. Rivers consistently run much higher in the early spring than in the late summer. In Ontario average wind generation in the summer is half as much as in the winter. In northern Canada solar energy is non-existant in the mid winter. Thus, contrary to misleading claims by "environmentalists" it is impossible to totally replace fossil fuels with renewable energy without massive balancing energy storage. The only seasonal energy storage technology that makes any sort of financial sense is hydraulic storage in major river valleys and lakes.

A recent agreement between Ontario and Quebec that allows Ontario access to some of the hydraulic energy storage in Quebec is clearly a step in the right direction, but relying on such an agreement instead of proceeding with a Fast Neutron power Reactor (FNR) prototype is simply foolish procrastination because the total available hydraulic energy storage in Quebec is nowhere near sufficient to meet the Ontario requirement for displacement of fossil fuels.

The amount of nuclear power generation required to displace fossil fuels for comfort heating can be reduced through the use of low temperature (in-ground) thermal storage and heat pumps at the load. However, at some point the cost of the marginal extra heat pump related technology required to produce power savings exceeds the cost of marginal extra nuclear power generation and transmission technology.
 

TIME CONSTRAINT:
In the previous discussion I have set out the scope of the non-fossil electricity generation required to displace fossil fuels. I will now concentrate on a subject known as Thermal Runaway that sets the time frame in which the fossil fuel displacement must occur. The cost of non-compliance with that time frame is human extinction.
 

THERMAL RADIATION:
All objects emit thermal electromagnetic radiation. The characterization of this radiation was one of the early successes of the branch of physics known as quantum mechanics.
Define:
h = 6.6256 X 10^-34 joule-sec = Planck's constant
K = 1.38054 X 10^-23 joule-K^-1 = Boltzmann constant
F = Radiation Frequency
C = 2.997925 X 10^8 m / s = speed of light
Lamda = wavelength = C / F
Pi = 3.14159
F = photon frequency in Hz
W = 2 Pi F = angular frequency in radians / second
T = radiation temperature

From quantum mechanics and thermal theory, the radiated power Pr per unit area between angular frequencies W and W + dW emitted by a solid body with surface temperature Ta is given by:
Pr(W) dW = Ftw(W) [h / (8 Pi^3 C^2)] {W^3 dW /[exp((h W)/ (2 Pi K T)) - 1]}
where:
Ftw(W) = frequency dependent emissivity
where:
0 < Ftw(W) < 1.0
Reference: Fundamentals of Statistical and Thermal Physics by F. Reif, 1965, McGraw-Hill.

For an ideal black body:
Ftw(w) = Ft = 1

For Earth surrounded by an atmosphere Ftw(w) is frequency dependent. At some frequencies Ftw ~ 1 whereas at other frequencies Ftw is much smaller. Molecules require charge separation and molecular resonances within the thermal infrared frequency specturm in order to absorb or emit thermal infrared radiation. Greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere exhibit these characteristics.

If Ftw = Ft is constant independent of frequency this power integral simplifies to:
Pr = Ft Cb Ta^4
where Cb is the Stefan-Boltzmann constant. While this approximation is not precisely true this approximation is widely used because it enables closed form solution of the energy exchange equations.
 

MEASUREMENT OF Ft AND Tc:
In November 1996 a far infrared spectrometer mounted on the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft was used to accurately measure the emission temperature Tc of the Earth as:
Tc = 270.0 degrees K (- 3.15 degrees C).
Earth's thermal infrared emission spectrum shows that after compensating for the effects of Green House Gases Earth's thermal infrared emission spectrum behaves as if all the emitting molecules are at the same temperature. The cause of this temperature uniformity is that the infrared radiation is dominated by infrared emission from H2O molecules passing through their liquid-solid phase transitions. This phase transition only happens near 273.15 K and is almost pressure independent.

A question that frequently occurs is: "How does one obtain the relevant spacecraft data?". The issue of the Thermal Emission Spectrometer on the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft and the extensive data that it acquired is the subject of many scientific papers and data files. The link to the Earth related data results is: Initial Data from the Mars Global Surveyor thermal emission spectrometer experiment-Observations of the Earth by Philip R. Christensen and John C. Pearl.

Note that the Earth's emission temperature Tc in 1996 was 3.15 degrees C less than the freezing point of water which is 273.15 degrees C.

This 270.0 degrees K temperature value is a result of the solar irradianceHo, the Earth's atmospheric infrared emissivity Ft and the Earth's solar bond albedo Fr which together set the Earth's emission temperature at a Goldilocks level, not too hot and not too cold.

It is well known that due to the dependence of Ft on atmospheric CO2 concentration doubling the Earth's atmospheric CO2 concentration will cause about a 3.15 degree C increase in the steady state emission temperature. When the effect of water vapor in the upper atmosphere is also taken into account this temperature increase becomes about 4.015 C.

Reference: Global Warming

The November 1996 emission temperature of:
Tc = 270.0 degrees K
together with the ongoing increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration indicate that the emission temperature of the Earth will reach 273.15 degrees K, the freezing point of water, about the year 2065. As the temperature rises past 273.15 K ice micro-crystals forming high albedo white clouds will no longer form causing the bond albedo (solar energy reflectivity) of Earth to sharply drop from ~ 0.3 to ~ 0.1. This change in bond albedo will cause an ~ 17.4 degree K step increase in the average emission temperature T from T = Tc to T = Tw. This step increase in emission temperature T is known as thermal runaway.

During the process of freezing water changes density over about a 4 degree C temperature range so the change in bond albedo takes place over a similar temperature range. Hence thermal runaway is believed to commence at about 271.5 C as opposed to 273.15 C.
 

To understand why the step change in temperature occurs one needs to understand the mechanism that regulates the Earth's emission temperature.
 

EARTH TEMPERATURE REGULATION MECHANISM:
The law of conservation of energy requires that for the planet Earth at steady state:
(absorbed solar power) = (emitted infrared power)
or
Po (1 - Fr) = Ft Cb T^4
where:
Re = Earth radius
Po = average solar radiation power per unit area incident on the Earth
= [(solar irradiance)(Pi Re^2) / (4 Pi Re^2)]
= [(solar irradiance) / 4]
Fr = Earth's bond albedo (solar reflectivity)
Ft = far infrared emissivity which varies with atmsopheric CO2, H2O and O3 concentrations;
Cb = Stefan-Boltzmann constant
T = absolute average emission temperature (at emission altitude)

Rearrangement of the above equation gives:
(Cb / Po) T^4 = [(1 - Fr) / Ft]

Since Po and Cb are constant T is set by the values of Fr and Ft. Note that from a starting point of:
Tc = 270.0 degrees K
a change in Fr from 0.3 to 0.1 produces an increase in T of about 17.4 degrees K.

In the "cool" state the absorbed solar radiation per unit area is larger near the Earth's equator than near the Earth's poles. In equatorial regions photos of the Earth from space show that the local albedo is about 0.1 as compared to a local albedo of about 0.5 in polar regions. Hence there is greater solar energy absorption per unit area at low latitudes than at high latitiudes. However, the infrared power emission per unit area occurs at a uniform temperature over most of the Earth's surface because it is associated with the liquid-solid transition of water, which only happens near 273.15 K, and is independent of altitude. Hence to locally balance energy supply and infrared energy emission winds and ocean currents transport part of the solar energy that is absorbed at low latitudes to high latitudes.

As the emission temperature rises white cloud containing ice crystals no longer forms, so Earth's bond albedo decreases.

The main issue to grasp is that near T = To = 273.15 degrees K an increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration decreases emissivity Ft as at other temperatures but also decreases bond albedo Fr. At T = To the rate of change of bond albedo with changing emission temperature is very high.
 

CHANGE IN EMISSION TEMPERATURE:
Recall that:
Po (1 - Fr) = Ft Cb T^4

Since Po andCb are both constant, for two different temperatures Ta and Tb the previous formula gives:
(Tb / Ta) = [Fta / Ftb]^0.25 [(1 - Frb) / (1- Fra)]^0.25
This temperature ratio formula allows calculation of changes in steady state emission temperature T from known changing values of emissivity Ft and bond albedo Fr. Thus:
(Tcb / Tca) = [Fta / Ftb]^0.25 [(1 - Frb) / (1- Fra)]^0.25

At steady state conditions and at temperatures removed from the thermal runaway point:
Frb = Fra
giving:
(Tcb / Tca) = [Fta / Ftb]^0.25
 

EARTH AS VIEWED FROM OUTER SPACE VIA REFLECTED SOLAR ILLUMINATION:


Earth From Space Apollo 17 Dec. 1972
 

Define Fr = bond albedo
= average reflectance for solar illumination
= (reflected solar radiant energy) / (incident solar radiant energy)

During the years 1999 to 2001 Fr was measured to be:
Fr = 0.297 +/- 0.005.
However we have strong evidence that during the mid 1990s:
Fr = 0.31
and that Fr has started to decline and the decline will sharply decrease as the emission temperature continues to rise. That decrease in Fr will cause thermal runaway.

Note that the cloud free open ocean, cloud free land mass, clouds and ice caps have different characteristic albedos Fo, Fl, Fc and Fi. The normal "cool" state bond albedo Frc is an area weighted average of Fo, Fl, Fc and Fi.

Note the high reflectivity of snow and ice covered regions where:
Fi = 0.8

Note the medium reflectivity of white cloud where:
Fc = 0.5

Note the average fraction of Earth surface cloud cover = 0.5

Note the lower reflectivity of land with no cloud cover where:
Fl = 0.2576

Note the very low reflectivity of the open ocean where:
Fo = 0.035
 

EARTH SOLAR REFLECTIVITY (BOND ALBEDO):
Earth's "cool" state solar reflectivity (bond albedo) Frc can be measured with suitable instruments. From measurements of Earthshine reflected off the moon ground based instrumentation was used to determine that the average value of Frc in the years 1999 to 2001 was:
Frc = 0.297 +/- 0.005
This measurement has been confirmed via satellite borne instrumentation.
 

ORIGIN OF Frc:
Data assumptions:
Fraction of Earth's surface covered by cloud = 0.50
Bond albedo of normal state cloud = 0.50

Fraction of Earth's surface not covered by cloud = (1.0 - 0.5) = 0.5
Bond albedo of ocean with no cloud cover = 0.035
Fraction of Earth's surface covered by ocean = 0.708
Average bond albedo of land with no cloud cover = 0.2576
Average bond albedo of Earth's surface not covered by cloud:
= 0.2576 (1 - .708) + (.035)(.708) = 0.10

Earth cool state bond albedo Frc is given by:
Frc = 0.5 (0.5) + 0.5 (0.1)
= 0.25 + 0.05
= 0.30
 

ORIGIN OF Frw:
Frw = value of Fr in the warm state
Data assumptions:
Fraction of Earth's surface covered by cloud = x
Local bond albedo of warm state cloud is Fc= 0.10 as compared to Fc = 0.50 in the normal cool state

Fraction of Earth's surface not covered by cloud = (1.0 - x)
Local bond albedo of ocean with no cloud cover = 0.035
Fraction of Earth's surface covered by ocean = 0.708
Average local bond albedo of land with no cloud cover = 0.2576
Average local bond albedo of Earth's surface not covered by cloud:
= (0.2576) (1 - .708) + (.035)(.708) = 0.10

Earth "warm" state planetary albedo Frw is given by:
Frw = x (0.1) + (1 - x) (0.1)
= 0.10
 

CONSEQUENCE:
Thus a change in cloud reflectivity Fc from 0.50 to 0.10 causes a change in Earth bond albedo Fr from Frc = 0.30 to Frw = 0.10.

In the next portion of this presentation I will show how continued combustion of fossil fuels will cause a sudden rapid change in local cloud albedo Fc from Fc = 0.50 to Fc = 0.10 and I will show that the corresponding decrease in Fr will cause an increase in Earth emission temperature of:
(Tw - Tc) = 17.4 degrees K.
which is sufficient to drive large land animals into extinction.

White clouds are predominantly ice micro-crystals. Dark clouds are predominantly liquid water micro-droplets. The transition from white clouds to dark clouds is caused by an increase in cloud temperature through the freezing point of water. Hence a small increase in cloud temperature from below the freezing point of water to above the freezing point of water can produce a large decrease in cloud albedo (solar reflectivity) Fc. However, for this large change in Fc to occur with a small change in temmperature the initial value of the cloud temperature must be only slightly below the freezing point of water.
 

FREEZING POINT INDEPENDENT OF ALTITUDE:
The infrared emission occurs at the altitude and temperature where liquid water releases its latent heat of fusion. The change in solar reflection with temperature occurs at the altitude and temperature where liquid water freezes. The freezing point of water is almost independent of pressure and hence is a function of temperature but is almost independent of altitude. Thus the infrared emission altitude and the solar reflection altitude are nearly identical and have a nearly fixed characteristic temperature but occur over a wide range of altitudes and latitudes. Thus the far infrared emission temperature varies little over most of the Earth's surface.



 

TYPICAL PARAMETER VALUES:
Let state "a" be the atmosphere as it existed on November 25, 1996 at which time the atmospneric CO2 concentration was 360.72 ppmv.
Let state "b" be the same atmosphere but with a CO2 concentration of twice state "a" or 721.44 ppmv.

1) The parameters (Fta / Ftb) = 1.047365 and Ta = 270.0 K (-3.15 C) are obtained by numerical analysis of the thermal infrared emission spectrum of the Earth recorded by the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft using laboratory measurements of the H2O far infrared absorption spectrum;

2) The parameter Fra = 0.297 is obtained from astrophysical measurements;

3) The parameter Frb = 0.10 is calculated from typical cloud cover parameter data assuming a change in cloud albedo Fc from 0.50 to 0.10 as set out above;

4) Thermal runaway occurs most rapidly at a cloud temperature of 273.15 K, the melting point of water, which is almost independent of altitude.

5) The atmospheric CO2 concentration on November 24, 1996 was measured at Mona Loa, Hawaii as 360.72 ppmv. Doubling the atmospheric CO2 concentration while holding all other parameters constant causes a theoretical 3.14 K increase in the Earth's emission temperature T due to:
(Tcb / Tca) = (Fta / Ftb)^0.25
= 1.011636498
This theoretical temperature increase due to a decrease in Ft due to doubling the atmospheric CO2 concentration is known as global warming.

6) However, when the cloud temperature rises through 273.15 K there is a step decrease in albedo Fr which causes the atmospheric emission temperature T to increase by about 17.4 degrees K. This rapid emission temperature increase is known as thermal runaway.

NOVEMBER 1996

Note that in November 1996 the Earth was still in a safe locally stable state.
 

On the above graphs:
i) The red line from left to right shows a plot of:
[(Cb / Po) T^4] versus T;

ii) The dark blue line shows a theoretical plot of:
[(1 - Fr) / Ft] versus T;

The green line shows a presumed expansion plot of:
[(1 - Fr) / Ft] versus T in the transition region where:
0.1 < Fr < 0.3

The index Kf is chosen to meet the required mathematical boundary conditions.

The round dots show the two locally stable temperature points and the point of instability at Ta = 273.15 deg K.

Large scale combustion of fossil fuels causes CO2 injection into the atmosphere which reduces Ft to the point that the emission temperature T exceeds the freezing point of water (273.15 K). The resulting step decrease in Fr and corresponding step increase in [(1 - Fr) / Ft] causes Earth's emission temperature to rapidly increase until the locally stable warm state point is reached.

Assume that the atmosphere is initially in the normal "cool" state at an average emission temperature of:
Tc = 270.0 degrees K.
As the atmospheric CO2 concentration increases Ft decreases and Tc increases. At T = Tr Earth switches from the normal "cool" state to the "warm" state. The "warm" state warms the ocean which emits further CO2 and hence further reduces Ft, trapping the Earth in the "warm" state until photosynthesis converts the atmospheric CO2 into fossil fuels.

7) Localized thermal runaway presently occurs in equatorial regions in the eye of major storms such as hurricanes, typhoons, tornados, etc. It is a condition to be avoided. Climate change induced storm and flood damage is already costing about $100 billion per year in North America.
 

THERMAL RUNAWAY:
Thermal runaway causes an ongoing net heat absorption and an ongoing increase in Earth's average ocean temperature and average emission temperature. The ocean warming further increases both the transient and steady state atmospheric CO2 concentrations. To halt thermal runaway the fossil CO2 injection rate into the atmosphere must be reduced to almost zero.
 

ERROR ANALYSIS:
The rate of thermal runaway was quantified using far infrared Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES) data recorded by the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. This spacecraft had six independent data channels. Each data channel gave similar relative readings with respect to the average on that data channel but there was systematic error between the data channels. For various complex reasons the experiment principals, this author and others believe the data channel that indicated an Earth emission temperature of 270.0 K.

Another potential source of error in calculation of the thermal runaway rate is the measurement of the Earth's Bond albedo Fr. This measurement involved averaging fluctuating data over a two year period. This measurement contains both potential systematic error and potential statistical error. The parties doing the measurement claimed a measured value of:
Fr = 0.297 +/- 0.005.

The problem with these errors is that they are difficult to assess today and they can potentially significantly change the calculated rate at which Earth is absorbong heat.
 

WARM STATE TRAPPING:
If fossil CO2 injection into the atmosphere is continues long enough the amount of carbon in the ocean-atmosphere pool will significantly increase and the average ocean temperature will increase causing an increase in the steady state atmospheric CO2 concentration. Only a drastic reduction in fossil fuel use can halt thermal runaway. when thermal runaway occurs Earth's atmosphere will be trapped in its "warm" state. This trapping occurred 55 million years ago during a period known as the PETM. The PETM lasted 200,000 years and subsequent recovery took an additional 300,000 years. During the PETM there was complete melting of the polar ice caps and there was a global extinction of all land animals larger than a mole. Clearly thermal runaway with "warm" state trapping must be prevented regardless of the financial cost.
 

THERMAL RUNAWAY PREVENTION:
To halt thermal runaway it is necessary to reduce the atmospheric CO2 concentration, which in 2017 is about 406 ppmv. In 2016 this CO2 concentration increased at 2.5 ppmv / year. The rate of fossil CO2 emission in the third world has tripled in the last 25 years and if present trends continue this rate will continue rapidly increasing as third world people seek the same standard of living that North Americans presently enjoy.

The only practical non-violent solution to the thermal runaway problem is for industrialized countries to reduce their CO2 emissions by leaving fossil fuels in the ground and using nuclear and renewable energy for synthesis of non-fossil liquid hydrocarbons. In order to keep the world fossil CO2 emissions at an acceptable level the fossil CO2 emissions by industrialized countries must be reduced by at least 10 fold. North American politicians have totally failed to grasp this simple reality.
 

REQUIRED NUCLEAR POWER CAPACITY:
In order to replace fossil fuels today in 2015 the functional nuclear capacity in Ontario would have to be increased about 3 fold.

In order to replace fossil fuels within 60 years while allowing for the projected population doubling the functional nuclear power capacity in Ontario will have to be increased about 7 fold.
 

NUCLEAR REACTOR, FUEL AND WASTE ISSUES:
The only proven source of nuclear energy sufficient to sustainably displace fossil fuels world wide is U-238. If heavily drawn upon the U-235 resource will only last a few years. U-238 is 140 times more abundant than U-235. Thorium 232 can be used to extend the U-235 supply, but thorium does not produce enough neutrons per fission to dispose of the toxic spent fuel components.

Realizing the required amount of energy requires liquid sodium cooled Fast Neutron Reactors (FNRs) and fission reactors that breed U-238 into Pu-239 and then fission the Pu-239.

The main advantages of liquid sodium cooled FNRs with fuel recycling are that they can improve natural uranium utilization efficiency 100 fold as compared to CANDU reactors and they can reduce the radio toxicity lifetime of spent water cooled reactor fuel by about 1000 fold.

An operational advantage of FNRs is that they can track rapid changes in electrical load without requiring supplemental natural gas fuelled generation and without wasting fuel and energy via steam turbine bypass.

A further advantage of FNRs is that the FNR fuel rods can be fabricated by reprocessing spent CANDU fuel and CANDU refurbishment/decommissioning waste. Thus much of the existing inventory of neutron activated materials produced by CANDU reactors can be disposed of using FNRs.

A further advantage of properly designed FNRs is that there is a 3 m thickness of liquid sodium between the fuel tubes and the pressure stressed intermediate heat exchanger tubes. The neutron stressed reactor core components are replaced and the material is recycled coincident with fuel bundle replacement. The pressure stressed intermediate heat exchange components last much longer than the fuel channels in a CANDU reactor due to absence of neutron stress. The fuel channel fretting issues of CANDU reactors are totally avoided.

Due to future requirements for large amounts of nuclear energy to provide base load electricity without emission of CO2, nuclear waste from water cooled reactors will continue to be generated for at least two centuries into the future. High atomic weight radio isotopes are highly toxic and must be either transmuted into short lived isotopes using FNRs or must be kept isolated from ground water for over 400,000 years into the future. In the view of this author transmutation is the only sustainable way forward. Today safe long term disposal of nuclear waste is an issue that our society must face. The science is well understood. The time for political procrastination has passed.

Canada has over 50,000 tonnes of spent CANDU fuel that requires processing to separate uranium oxide, zirconium, transuranium actinides and fission products. Most of the uranium oxide needs to go into accessible storage for future use in FNR blanket rods.

The fission products should go into 300 year accessible naturally dry naturally ventilated storage to allow natural decay. The remaining zirconium, transuranium actinides and a small portion of the uranium oxide should be recycled as FNR core fuel.

A disadvantage of FNRs is that they require a highly trained work force. There are high technology implementation issues related to material properties at high temperatures and to robotic: assembly, maintenance and material processing.
 

POWER SYSTEM PLANNING PROBLEMS:
Completely missing from the MOE/OPG/IESO plans is any comprehension of the amount of non-fossil electricity generation/transmission/distribution capacity that Ontario must build over the coming 60 years.

Of particular concern is the amount of electrical energy that will be required to produce synthetic hydrocarbons to replace fossil fuels. In order to prevent thermal runaway the installed non-fossil power capacity in Ontario must increase about 7 fold during the next 60 years (A compounded increase of about 40% every ten years). Due to the intermittent output from renewable generation, at least two thirds of the new generation capacity must be nuclear.

Also missing from the MOE/OPG/IESO/NWMO plans is recognition of the insufficiency of energy from the U-235 resource for sustainable replacement of fossil fuels and hence the necessity of building new FNRs to obtain energy from U-238. These FNRs involve ongoing fuel and material recycling and hence require a DGR (Deep Geologic Repository) that is naturally dry, naturally ventilated and has long term safe accessibility.

Also missing from the MOE/OPG/IESO/NWMO plans is recognition of the capital requirements for this massive investment in new electricity generation/transmission/distribution capacity. The only sources of capital of that magnitude are insurance and pension funds. Generally speaking these funds will only invest in low interest utility bonds to the extent that there is subordinated equity capital to absorb risk. Thus it is absolutely essential for Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to build up a depreciation/amortization account sufficient to fund at least half of the initial cost of the capital expansion. Setting aside this money will require proper accounting and a significant increase in OPG revenue through implementation of a new interruptible electricity rate. The Province of Ontario is heavily in debt and is facing massive health expenditures relating to aging of the post WWII baby boom generation. Hence Ontario is in no position to provide OPG huge loan guarantees.
 

NUCLEAR WASTE DISPOSAL CONCEPT:
The long term safety concept should be to redesign the Ontario nuclear reactor fleet to avoid formation of long lived low atomic weight radio isotopes such as C-14, Cl-36, Ca-41 and Ni-59 and to use fast neutrons to transmute long lived high atomic weight radio isotopes into shorter lived low atomic weight radio isotopes that will naturally decay to negligible radio toxicity while reliably isolated from the surrounding environment inside engineered containers. These containers should be continuously remotely monitored and should be accessible at any time for inspection or gamma ray spectrum scanning. The C-14 component of B4C has a long half life and hence must be either stored or constantly recycled.
 

DGR REQUIREMENTS:
The primary purpose of a Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) should be to isolate radio isotopes from ground water, to reliably dissipate decay heat and to protect stored containers of radio isotopes from physical damage. Secondary purposes of the DGR are to warn of an approaching radio isotope container failure, to enable safe access to stored radio isotopes, to enable facility and container maintenance and to provide backup radio isotope isolation in the event of a container breach. The DGR location should be chosen so that it remains naturally dry via a combination of high elevation, gravity drainage, high density granite rock and natural ventilation.

Subject to appropriate changes in legislation and regulation, such a DGR could also be used for storage and recycling of spent CANDU fuel fuel, at a major cost saving to Ontario electricity ratepayers and Canadian taxpayers.

To protect the DGR from repeated future glaciations the DGR storage vaults should be formed in stable high density granite about 400 m below grade. To provide safe long term material isolation and accessibility for material recycling, safety inspection and facility maintenance the DGR vault elevation should be at least 300 m above the local water table. To ensure toxic radio isotope isolation the radio isotopes should be stored in engineered containers and the surrounding granite should be nearly crack free. To ensure ongoing dry storage conditions the DGR should be naturally ventilated and gravity drained to a sump which is instrumented for detection of liquid borne radio isotopes. This sump must have sufficient storage capacity for trapping all radioactive liquid until after remedial measures are implemented.

Allowing for the DGR vault height and for local topographical variations the DGR should be formed inside a mountain with a dense water tight granite core which rises at least 800 m above the local water table. The presence of a 200 m thick limestone overburden will minimize granite cracking. Such geology exists in British Columbia and Labrador but is almost non-existent in Ontario.

This geological configuration allows ongoing DGR operation with minimal water pumping and with purely natural ventilation. These two features vastly reduce the DGR's ongoing operating cost.

For protection against a malevolent attack the DGR should have an immediately surrounding ~ 4000 hectare security zone bounded by natural barriers such as rivers, mountain cliffs and deep gorges. Outside the security zone there should be an ~ 16,000 hectare exclusion zone in which only DGR related activities are permitted. The combined security zone and the exclusion zone is an approximately circular area with a radius of 8 km (5 miles) from the DGR. Ideally there should also be a government enforced restriction on new development (such as by declaration of a national or provincial park) within a 40 km (25 mile) radius of the DGR so that the impact on the public of any future DGR accident and/or malevolent attack would be minimal. The contemplated 40 km radius is twice the exclusion radius adopted by Japan around the failed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants and is similar to the Chernobyl, Ukraine exclusion radius.

From a geological perspective the most suitable DGR location in Canada is believed to be Jersey Emerald, which is located about 10 km south of the small community of Salmo in British Columbia. The nearest population center is Trail, which is about 40 km west of Jersey Emerald.
 

RADIOISOTOPE CONTAINERS:
Due to uncertainty with respect to the long term radio isotope containment capability of natural rock, especially after unforeseeable future earthquake events, the primary means of radio isotope containment should be double wall engineered corrosion resistant containers that, subject to damping by pea gravel, are able to move within the DGR to relieve material stress. Suitable containers can be made with a thick porcelain outer wall, a stainless steel inner wall and with an inert gas dielectric between the inner and outer walls. Container seals can be realized with soft metals and wax. The practical container size is limited by the size and cargo weight capacity of existing railway cars and freight trucks which must be able to carry a loaded container plus its bio-safety lead shielding.

The containers need provisions for reliable automatic release of internal gas pressure arising from formation of inert gas decay products and low molecular weight hydrocarbon gases.

Each radio isotope container should have a dielectric level sensor that triggers an alarm if there is a failure of either the container's inner wall or outer wall, or if the container is not vertical, or if the container's porcelain top is removed. Each container should rest upright on a flat surface and be position stabilized by pea gravel. This arrangement provides 3 redundant radio isotope containment barriers (inner stainless steel container, outer porcelain container and granite rock). The pea gravel allows cooling air flow while protecting the containers from earthquake damage. Pea gravel can be easily removed with pneumatic equipment to allow inspection, removal and replacement of the radio isotope storage containers.

The DGR operation must tolerate an occasional container failure. In a facility holding over 3,000 containers for centuries it is foolish to assume that there will never be container damage due to an act of God, accident or malevolent event. There must be individual remote monitoring of every container. Container placement all in-vault maintenance should be via robotic equipment such as is used in modern mining.
 

FUEL AND MATERIAL RECYCLING:
The process of nuclear waste transmutation increases the FNR useful energy capture from natural uranium by about 100 fold as compared to the useful energy capture by a CANDU nuclear reactor. However, practical implementation of waste transmutation involves radioactive material recycling. Hence there are ongoing DGR access requirements.

The fission products separated during the fuel recycling process, after decaying for 300 years, have a high economic value as rare earths.

Low and intermediate level nuclear waste recycling can recover hundreds of millions of dollars worth of zirconium, chromium, iron and tritium/helium-3 from the CANDU reactor refurbishment and decommissioning waste. This waste recycling will substantially reduce the future required DGR volume and the future total radio isotope inventory, thus making the entire nuclear energy and nuclear waste disposal cycle much safer and much more economic.
 

MISCELLANEOUS DGR ISSUES:
The advantage of granite as compared to limestone is that granite has much better long term structural stability. Once an open DGR is in use it is essential that the probability of an unplanned rock fall that could rupture a container of nuclear waste or severely damage monitoring and maintenance equipment should be extremely small.

The storage facility should be divided into vaults that, subject to ventilation constraints, are physically isolated from each other. The ventilation air flow should be natural and unidirectional. To realize a sufficient stack height to provide the required natural ventilation the DGR should be located within the granite core of a high mountain.
 

TRAINING:
It will be necessary to train the nearby population for work related to the DGR. It will be necessary to train others in fuel reprocessing. The minimum time required for fuel processing training is reasonably estimated by TRIUMF to be six years, so this training program should be initiated as soon as possible. In the event that nuclear waste is processed in British Columbia it is contemplated that Selkirk College and TRIUMF would provide the required training.
 

INTERRUPTIBLE ELECTRICITY RATE:
Non-fossil electricity generation is most economic when its capacity is fully utilized. However, achievement of a high utilization factor requires a large interruptible electricity load that is remotely enabled and disabled by the IESO. Standard electricity services do not lend themselves to such remote control but energy storage systems, some electrochemical processes and hybrid heating systems do lend themselves to such remote control. However, the interruptible electricity rate must be much less than the competitive fossil fuel rate. Single family residences with hybrid heating systems should be offered the same optional interruptible electricity rate that is offered to large electricity customers.
 

CONCLUSION:
The problems related to CO2 driven climate change will become much worse as the CO2 emissions by third world countries rise. The only practical avenue of relief is for industrialized nations to convert from fossil fuel energy to nuclear and renewable energy. For servicing new base load in most jurisdictions nuclear is the only economically practical option. The total amount of nuclear power required is so large that it can only be sustainably met with liquid sodium cooled fast neutron breeder reactors that are properly complemented by fuel reprocessing and by permanently accessible, naturally dry and natually ventilated DGRs.

The fundamental issue that politicians in industrialized countries must face is choosing superficially more expensive liquid sodium cooled FNR power over superficially less expensive fossil fuel power. In this respect the full costs of climate change have to be recognized, quantified and recovered via a price on fossil carbon emissions. The magnitude of this fossil carbon price must be sufficient to cause fossil fuels to be left in the ground. There should be an optional interruptible electricity rate to enable sale of all available non-fossil electricity generation for fossil fuel displacement.
 

This web page last updated June 10, 2017

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