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DEPLOYMENT OF SUSTAINABLE NUCLEAR POWER FOR MITIGATION OF CLIMATE CHANGE:
Modern society relies on utilization of natural sources of energy for the benefit of mankind. A country's average energy consumption per person is an indicator of its average standard of living.
Climate change is mainly a result of the rising atmospheric CO2 concentration caused by extraction and combustion of fossil fuels. The astrophysical mechanism of climate change has been well understood for more than 50 years but still elected politicians refuse to seriously address the climate change problem.
In Canada, in 2023, climate change is causing record wildfire damage, violent storm damage, permafrost melting, sea level rise and ocean acidification. The climate change consequences in the USA, Europe and elsewhere are comparable. As a result, large animal life on planet Earth is headed toward an apocalypse.
The law of conservation of energy indicates that preventing further rise in the atmospheric CO2 concentration would require about 21,000 GWt of new dependable and sustainable clean (non-fossil) thermal power to displace the thermal power that is presently being supplied by world wide combustion of fossil fuels. If present trends continue, due to increasing electrification in developing countries, by 2070 the world thermal power load will be about 40,000 GWt.
Professional engineers, who specialize in power and energy systems, know how to prevent further CO2 emission to the atmosphere, but few elected politicians are willing to follow professional engineering advice. In most jurisdictions, future CO2 emission prevention requires multi-decade deployment of renewable electricity generation, fuel sustainable nuclear power and more efficient energy utilization. It is necessary to completely displace energy derived from fossil fuels with other sources of energy. However, elected politicians have short time horizons and are primarily guided by near term public opinion, not physics and engineering. In this respect Canadian federal, provincial and municipal politicians are not exceptions.
Prevention of further climate change requires leaving fossil carbon in the ground. This is policy guidance that most elected governments refuse to follow. These governments often incent grid connected intermittent renewable electricity generation that, for reliability reasons, effectively locks in large amounts of future fossil fuel powered balancing electricity generation. Governments also sometimes incent water cooled nuclear reactors, but these reactors are not fuel sustainable. Governments are currently being lured by false promises of carbon capture and storage, which is expensive, unreliable, unsustainable and often outright dangerous.
Regretably most elected governments either ignore the opportunity for deployment of sustainable nuclear power, or worse, for irrational reasons they legislatively oppose it. This is the case in both Canada and the USA. This situation is a result of effective control of government policy by the fossil fuel industry. Fossil fuel industry executives have long known that fuel sustainable nuclear power is an existential threat to future fossil fuel sales and have persuaded government officials at every level to create an anti-nuclear education, legislation, regulation and investment environment.
As a result, recent nuclear power reactor deployments in the USA have cost 8X more than similar power reactor deployments in China and South Korea.
Between 2016 and 2023 the government of Canada committed $30 billion of Canadian tax payers money to an oil export pipeline when that money should have been used for incenting deployment of additional CANDU nuclear reactors, Fast Neutron Reactors and related electricity transmission capacity.
Today there is almost no North American public or governmental appreciation that:
a) The existing and presently planned water cooled nuclear power reactors will likely deplete the known economic world uranium U-235 resource before 2070;
b) During normal operation heavy water cooled power reactors (CANDU reactors) efficiently produce about 97 MWhe of electrical energy and about 4 g of Trans-Uranics (TRU) per kg of natural uranium used. TRU are atoms with atomic numbers greater than 92 that perform a critical function in fuel sustainable Fast Neutron Reactors (FNRs);
c) Use of Light Water Reactors (LWRs), instead of CANDU reactors, reduces electrical energy production about two fold and reduces TRU production about four fold per kg of natural uranium used.
d) As the rare uranium isotope U-235 resource is depleted the aforementioned LWR inefficiency will have a major impact on the cost of dependable power;
e) The term sustainable nuclear power refers to nuclear power that, due to use of an abundant fuel, is potentially available for millennia.
f) Sustainable nuclear power can be produced by liquid sodium cooled FNRs that are fueled by the abundant uranium isotope U-238;
g) Fuel sustainable FNRs require TRU as a nuclear quasi-catalyst and require periodic fuel recycling;
h) The maximum sustainable nuclear power that can be supplied by a FNR is limited by the size of that FNR's TRU inventory;
i) From the perspective of young people it is crucial to maximize the total TRU inventory by making all new nuclear power reactor types either CANDU or fuel sustainable FNR;
j) The existing TRU inventory should be used in fuel sustainable FNRs to supply clean power, to maximize the rate of TRU inventory growth and to remove TRU from the nuclear waste stream, thus avoiding the issue of burial of long lived nuclear waste;
k) Prudent measures should be taken to maximize production of TRU, so as to maximize the future supply of sustainable nuclear power;
l) A critical role for national governments is to provide secure supplies of heavy water and TRU based FNR fuel to enable others to finance new CANDU and FNR type nuclear power plants.
Due to its intermittent output, renewable electricity generation, without cost prohibitive amounts of efficient energy storage, cannot supply dependable electric power and can economically provide only about 25% of the required clean energy. Meeting the projected 2070 world thermal power load with clean dependable power and energy will require both maximum economic renewable energy generation and a fleet of dependable clean electricity generators with a total thermal power output of about:
0.75 X 40,000 GWt = 30,000 X 1 GWt,
which could potentially provide a total electric power output of about:
30,000 X 300 MWe.
CANDU reactors usually use natural uranium (0.7% U-235, 99.3% U-238) as fuel.
If CANDU reactors, that require fuel replacement every 1.5 years, are used to meet the projected world thermal load and the CANDU fuel requirement is 50 tonnes of natural uranium per 450 MWe-years there would be a CANDU fuel requirement of:
(50 tonnes natural uranium / 450 MWe-years) X 30,000 reactors X 300 MWe / reactor
= 1,000,000 tonnes natural uranium / year
The present total known economically mineable world natural uranium resource is estimated to be about:
Hence, if just CANDU reactors were used for total fossil fuel displacement, the present known economic natural uranium resource would be consumed in only 8 years.
TRU is produced when low kinetic energy (thermal) neutrons are absorbed by the abundant uranium isotope U-238. In CANDU reactors the net TRU production rate is about 4 grams / kg of natural uranium used.
Hence the resulting used CANDU fuel could provide about:
8,000,000 tonnes U X (.004 tonne TRU / tonne U)
= 32,000 tonne TRU.
Each 0.2 tonne of TRU recovered from used nuclear fuel can be applied to make one tonne of fuel sustainable Fast Neutron Reactor (FNR) core fuel.
Hence the recoverable TRU would be sufficient to produce:
32,000 tonne TRU X (1 tonne FNR core fuel / 0.2 tonne TRU)
= 160,000 tonne FNR core fuel.
Each 300 MWe FNR needs at least 102 tonnes of core fuel (85 tonnes active, 17 tonnes cooling) which would allow construction of:
(160,000 tonne FNR core fuel) X (300 MWe / 102 tonnes core fuel)
= 1568.6 X 300 MWe fuel sustainable FNRs.
Thus, while present trends indicate a 2070 world need for:
30,000 X 300 MWe electric power capacity,
the present known natural uranium resource is only sufficient to enable construction of:
1568.6 X 300 MWe of fuel sustainable FNRs.
This is a very serious FNR capacity shortfall caused by a world TRU shortage. That TRU shortage is aggravated by widespread use of light water cooled power reactors instead of CANDU reactors that are far more neutron efficient. Under the best of circumstances meeting the future dependable power requirement with fuel sustainable FNRs will require a combination of:
a) A major increase in the price of natural uranium;
b) Finding new concentrated natural uranium ore bodies;
c) Wide spread deployment of CANDU reactors instead of Light Water Reactors (LWRs) to maximize production of both clean energy and TRU;
d) Efficient TRU recovery from used CANDU reactor fuel;
e) Recycling of existing used LWR fuel in CANDU reactors;
f) Early deployment of fuel sustainable FNRs to achieve maximum practical TRU inventory growth;
g) Interim safe storage of fission products that have short half lives;
h) Major per capita energy conservation, in part realized by urban siting of nuclear power plants to efficiently use low grade heat rejected by thermal electricity generation for domestic hot water and comfort heating;
i) A major world population reduction;
j) Adoption of distinct dependable and interruptible retail electricity rates that reflect actual system costs and hence allow more effective use of renewable energy sources;
k) A new method of increasing TRU production, likely involving use of high energy proton beams incident on lead to create a neutron flux by spallation or possibly a neutron flux produced by fusion of deuterium and tritium.
The projected shortage of TRU and hence the corresponding shortages of sustainable and dependable clean power capacity may take centuries to correct. In the meantime, if fossil fuel consumption is not promptly halted, much of our present human society will be extinguished by CO2 driven climate change.
Canada is presently exporting about 90% of its natural uranium production. In terms of future supply of clean energy for the benefit of Canadians, this export of our limited natural uranium resource at a low price is foolishness beyond description. Uranium is different from other elements. If in the future mankind needs more iron, nickel, chromium, copper, etc. those atoms can likely be found in a scrap yard, because the number of atoms of each of these elements is conserved. However, when a uranium atom or a TRU atom is fissioned in a nuclear reactor those atoms are gone forever because they have transmuted into other elements.
Ontario presently has an inventory of about 60,000 tonnes of used CANDU fuel containing 0.4% TRU. This inventory should be used to make about:
(60,000 tonnes Used CANDU Fuel) X (.004 tonne TRU / tonne Used CANDU Fuel) X (1 Tonne FNR core fuel / 0.2 tonne TRU)
= 1200 tonnes FNR core fuel
which is sufficient to immediately make about:
(1200 tonnes FNR core fuel) / 100 tonnes core fuel per 300 MWe FNR)
= 12 X 300 MWe fuel sustainable FNRs.
By 2070 Canada's projected human population will be about 60,000,000 and to continue meeting its present average per capita energy use Canada would need about:
[60,000,000 persons X 10 kWt / person X .75 X 0.3 kWe / kWt X 1 MWe / 1000 kWe] = 450 X 300 MWe fuel sustainable FNRs.
If via aggressive energy conservation the average Canadian per capita energy usage is halved, then Canada will still need:
225 X 300 MWe fuel sustainable FNRs
Building these fuel sustainable FNRs and supporting fuel recycling systems will likely take five decades. Instead of encouraging and supporting this work the present Canadian federal government legislatively opposes it. Hence Canadian government sustainable CO2 emission reduction targets are completely without factual foundation.
Financing of dependable power generation (sustainable nuclear power) requires recognition of its economic value to the consumer as compared to interruptible power (renewable electricity generation). To reflect this value dependable power should be priced based on consumer peak demand at times when interruptible power is not available to the consumer. Then electrical and thermal energy can be priced at a relatively low flat rates.
Delays in promptly addressing the shortage of economically mineable natural uranium, deployment of CANDU reactors, production of TRU based FNR core fuel and restructuring of retail electricity rates will result in near term dependable power shortages. The appropriate relief measures are:
1) Deployment of more CANDU reactors which are configured for fissioning both natural uranium and used Light Water Reactor (LWR) fuel;
2) TRU recovery from used CANDU fuel to make FNR core fuel;
3) Deployment of fuel sustainable FNRs;
4) Restructuring of retail electricity rates to reflect the actual costs of dependable and interruptible power.
However, the fuel sustainable FNRs will not exist if the federal government continues to legislatively resist efficient recycling of used CANDU nuclear fuel or if the provinces fail to meet the required deployment schedules for CANDU reactors, fuel sustainable FNRs and new retail electricity rates.
In this nuclear reactor deployment matter, prior to 2023, the Canadian federal government had a tax policy that discouraged use of new nuclear power for climate change mitigation. As of 2023 the Canadian government continues to oppose TRU recovery from used CANDU fuel.
Adoption and promotion of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), that require enriched uranium fuel, is a diversion from the main goal of sustainable climate change relief. Reactors that need enriched uranium fuel are several fold less efficient at both energy and TRU production than are CANDU reactors and have nuclear waste disposal challenges. Furthermore, at present the principal source of enriched uranium fuel is Russia, which is politically unreliable.
As of 2023 the Canadian federal government continues to squander tens of billions of dollars on new fossil fuel infrastructure instead of investing in CANDU reactors, nuclear fuel recycling and FNRs to supply clean, dependable and sustainable nuclear power.
A fossil carbon tax provides no immediate CO2 emission reduction benefit if fossil fuel consumers cannot access economic alternative dependable clean thermal and electrical power. In this respect the province of Ontario foolishly preferentially exports low cost clean interruptible electric power to the USA instead of allowing Ontario residents to use that low cost clean power for displacement of fossil fuels in hybrid heating systems and transportation systems.
Permanently accessible dry and safe interim used nuclear fuel and component storage is required to enable economic nuclear fuel recycling.
A necessary immediate federal government policy change is for the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) to seek permanently accessible dry storage for used nuclear fuel components, as provided by stable granite rock formations high above the local water table, instead of future inaccessible used nuclear fuel storage in unstable limestone or salt formations, far below the local water table. In this respect the geology of south central British Columbia is more favourable for safe interim storage of used nuclear fuel components than is the geology of Ontario.
A necessary legislative change is to allow electricity distributors unrestricted access to the public internet for the purpose of the signaling required to enable fair and smooth delivery of interruptible electricity to consumers.
Absent prompt deployment of the required CANDU reactors, TRU recovery and fuel sustainable FNRs the prospect for sustainable large scale human existence on planet Earth is poor.
|LINKS OF MAJOR PUBLIC INTEREST:|
|MITIGATION OF GLOBAL WARMING||FNR FUEL SUPPLY|
|CO2, ENERGY AND POWER REALITIES||ENERGY AND SOCIETY|
|INTEGRATED ZERO EMISSION ENERGY PLAN (INZEM)||CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION|
|UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES||G&R TRUTH ON RENEWABLES|
|TIME TO GET SERIOUS||WHY NUCLEAR POWER IS ESSENTIAL|
Hydrocarbon pipeline matters are included in the Electricity section under the heading:
ENERGY TRANSMISSION AND DISTRIBUTION.
Synthetic liquid fuel production is included in the Electricity section under the heading:
Radiation Therapy is included along with Radiation Safety in the Nuclear Power section under the heading:
NUCLEAR FUEL RECYCLING.
Fast Neutron Reactors (FNRs) are included in the Nuclear Power section under the heading:
This website identifies the practical measures that are required to enable complete displacement of fossil fuels by clean (non-fossil) energy, clean power and clean heat. The required measures are dictated by physics and power system engineering, not by public opinion or by ill informed government policy. The rational for the required measures is set out in the attached document titled:
CO2, ENERGY AND POWER REALITIES.
The measures required for mitigation of climate change are set out in the attached document titled:
CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION.
A complete engineering plan for elimination of Canadian CO2 emissions by the year 2070 is set out at:
INTEGRATED ZERO EMISSION ENERGY PLAN (INZEM)
An independently written paper which addresses some of the same issues is: Silver Buckshot or Bullet: Is a Future "Energy Mix" Necessary?
PROPER VALUATION OF OF ELECTRICITY:
A key issue in changing from fossil carbon dependent energy to clean energy is to split monthly electricity bills into dependable power and energy portions, where the dependable power delivered to a consumer is the monthly peak power demanded by the consumer at times when interruptible power is not available for that consumer, while the energy portion is the total electrical energy consumed during that month. The energy rate per kWh should be set below the marginal cost of thermal energy from the competing fossil fuel. The demand rate per kW-peak is then set to meet the electricity utility annual revenue requirement. This billing methodology requires interval meters, appropriate electricity billing software and a signal broadcast from the electricity distributor to enable or disable the consumer's interruptible load as described under the sub-heading
NEW ONTARIO RETAIL ELECTRICITY RATE.
The merits of this electricity billing methodology are that it potentially enables sale of 100% of the available clean electricity genertion, it enables commercial financing of nuclear power plants, it much better reflects actual costs of electricity supply and it provides a strong incentive for effective use of available clean energy for displacement of fossil fuels. A fossil carbon tax further improves that incentive.
Consumer use of presently discarded interruptible clean electricity would lower the blended retail price per electric kWhe and would reduce CO2 emissions.
In Ontario during 2020 about 22 TWh per year of clean electricity with a cost to electricity ratepayers of about $2 billion per year was either exported at a very low price or was discarded for lack of a suitable Ontario retail price for interruptible clean electricity.
A direct consequence of this failure to properly address sale of interruptible electricity is the excess consumption by Ontario residents of over $1 billion per year in fuel oil and propane. Another consequence is a loss of about $1 billion per year in potential Ontario financial incentives for use of battery electric vehicles.
Due to the output variability of renewable electricity generation and fuel inefficiency of light water moderated nuclear reactors, future sustainable and dependable clean power must come primarily from:
LIQUID SODIUM COOLED FAST NEUTRON REACTORS (FNRs)
that efficiently recycle nuclear fuel and that do not produce significant amounts of long lived nuclear fuel waste or decommissioning waste. The required technology is briefly summarized in the document titled:
CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION and is reviewed in detail on web pages listed in the section titled: Nuclear Power.
THIS WEB PAGE:
This web page presents a brief summary of climate change related matters discussed in detail elsewhere on this website. On this web page the material is divided into the following topics:
Mankind presently relies on combustion of fossil fuels to produce an average thermal power of about 20,500 GWt for heating, transportation, mineral extraction, construction, production of food, production of electricity and production of chemicals. Within one generation the demand of third world populations for a higher standard of living is projected to increase the average thermal load to about 45,000 GWt. Carbon dioxide (CO2) formed by the combustion of fossil fuels is accumulating in the atmosphere and oceans. The atmospheric CO2 concentration is now about 50% higher than prior to the industrial revolution and is increasing at about 0.6% per year. The ocean surface pH is presently about 7.05 and is declining at about 0.05 / 20 year interval.
CONSEQUENCES OF THE INCREASING ATMOSPHERIC CO2 CONCENTRATION:
During the 20th century scientists, who understood the interaction between electromagnetic radiation and atmospheric gases, realized that Earth's climate is a strong function of Earth's atmospheric CO2 concentration. Continuing large scale combustion of fossil fuels by mankind would, within a few human generations, form sufficient CO2 to trigger both extinction level climate change and a collapse of the marine food chain. The mechanism of atmospheric CO2 induced climate change is briefly summarized starting at
NET RADIANT ENERGY ABSORPTION.
CLEAN POWER AND CLEAN ENERGY:
Power and energy that are produced without emission of of fossil CO2 are respectively known as "clean power" and "clean energy". Clean energy includes both renewable energy (hydro, wind, solar) and nuclear energy. Nuclear electricity generation and hydropower are continuous and provide dependable clean power whereas wind and solar electricity generation are intermittent and provide only interruptible energy. Parties that use wind and/or solar electricity generation generally rely on fossil fuels, hydroelectricity or nuclear energy to obtain dependable electric power.
A major constraint on the future use of renewable energy is supply and processing of the minerals necessary to build wind and solar electricty generation and companion energy storage. The Energy Transition Delusion: Inescapeable Mineral Realities
Clean electricity is electricity that is produced without emission of CO2.
a) A clean electricity system must have sufficient clean dependable power generation capacity to reliably meet the annual peak demand for dependable electricity;
b) Hence, during most of each year, a clean electricity system has varying amounts of surplus power production capacity beyond that required to meet the instantaneous dependable electricity load. That surplus power production capacity can be used to provide interruptible electricity at a very low marginal cost per unit of energy;
c) Interruptible electricity can be economically used for: fossil fuel displacement in hybrid heating systems, economic charging of battery electric vehicles outside times of peak electricity demand, economic pumping of water to large high elevation reservoirs and economic production of electrolytic hydrogen;
SUPPLY OF DEPENDABLE CLEAN POWER AND SUSTAINABLE CLEAN ENERGY:
Supply of dependable clean power and sustainable clean energy is physically governed by matters related to electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and nuclear physics. These technical issues are seldom adequately understood by the general public.
There are 16 major principles related to supply of clean electricity and clean heat for displacement of fossil fuels that environmentalists must grasp:
a) The object is to minimize fossil fuel consumption, not to minimize electrical energy consumption.
b) Clean energy can only be efficiently transmittted long distances via electricity;
c) Most of the costs of clean electricity are related to provision of dependable power capacity, not to supply of clean energy.
d) In order to enable economic use of clean electricity for fossil fuel displacement the electricity and fossil fuel rate structures must be modified so that the cost to a consumer of a marginal kWhe provided by interruptible electricity is less than the cost of a marginal kWht provided by the fossil fuel;
e) Most of the electricity system revenue must come from consumers' peak electric power demand measured at random times when interruptible electricity is not being supplied;
f) Parties that provide dependable and sustainable electric power generation capacity must be adequately financially rewarded;
g) As shown on the webpages titled: Synchronous and Asynchronous Electricity Generation and Generation Valuation, due to electricity grid stability issues, unconstrained wind and solar electricity generation, without energy storage, can supply at most about 20% of the required annual clean energy and almost none of the required clean power capacity;
h) Hydroelectric generation is geography constrained but can typically meet about 5% of the dependable clean power requirement.
i) Thus full displacement of present fossil fuel consumption requires at least:
20,500 GWt - (0.20)(20,500 GWt) - (0.05)20,500 GWt = 15,375 GWt
of new sustainable and dependable clean power capacity.
j) The costs of energy storage and transmission sufficient to convert unconstrained wind and solar electricity generation into dependable power capacity are usually prohibitive;
k) Urban sited nuclear power plants with synchronous generators are required to supply both dependable clean electricity and district heat;
l) Only nuclear power technologies that efficiently convert abundant fertile fuels into fissile fuels can provide both sustainable energy and dependable power.
m) Development work on new nuclear power technologies should focus on fuel breeding and minimizing production of long lived nuclear waste.
n) Adoption of lower cost unsustainable nuclear energy technologies today consume the fissile isotope inventory making future adoption of sustainable nuclear energy technologies difficult or impossible.
o) For at least the next few decades the only sustainable and dependable source of clean electrical and/or thermal power will be sodium cooled Fast Neutron Reactors (FNRs) with fuel recycling.
p) Due to the relatively high Thermal Coefficient of Expansion (TCE) of Pu, FNRs started with Pu-239 fissile fuel are inherently more stable than similar FNRs started using U-235 fissile fuel.
PREVENTING FURTHER CO2 FORMATION:
In order to prevent further climate change mankind must quickly develop economic and sustainable sources of clean power and clean energy sufficient to fully displace the power and energy presently provided by fossil fuels, so that fossil fuels can be left in the ground.
The first step along this path is to effectively use all presently available clean energy. That step requires changing electricity and fossil fuel rates so that whenever there is surplus clean electrical energy available it is economic for consumers to use it.
Due to electricity grid stability issues, renewable energy, even when fully exploited, can only economically meet about 25% of mankind's present energy requirements. Realizing an economic and sustainable supply of clean power and clean energy sufficient to fully displace fossil fuels requires deployment of urban sited liquid sodium cooled fast neutron reactors with fuel recycling. Irrational public fears regarding this technology are threatening the existence of the human species.
RECENT CLIMATE CHANGE SIGNALS:
In the spring of 2023 Alberta experienced record wid fires.
In 2021 British Columbia experienced record high temperatures and record forest fires followed in the fall by record flooding, the Canadian prairie provinces experienced record drought while Quebec and the Canadian maritime provinces experienced record flooding.
Meanwhile, in the US Pacific North-West forests burned, in the US mid-western states there was a drought and in the eastern US states there was severe flood damage extending from New Orleans to New York.
Due to fires and drought North American farm and forest production were greatly reduced.
Due to record spring hot weather, which prematurely melted the mountain snow packs, the Columbia River flow fell causing a late summer electricity shortage in California.
In Texas in February 2021 there was a record cold snap.
The CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere is damaging plants, animals, forests and agriculture and is causing floods, storm damage and species extinctions. Sea level rise is inundating low elevation property.
The CO2 driven ocean acidification is threatening the entire marine food chain.
Climate change is driving large scale human migration from low elevation and tropical countries to higher elevation and more temperate countries.
INSUFFICIENT HUMAN RESPONSE:
In spite of the aforementioned clear climate change signals and clear knowledge as to how to reduce fossil CO2 emissions, present Canadian and US politicians are failing to promptly fix existing electricity and fossil fuel rates and are failing to address deployment of sufficient dependable and sustainable sources of clean electric and thermal power for fossil fuel displacement.
The lack of informed democratic government response to fossil CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere and oceans has set in motion a related human extinction mechanism, fissile isotope depletion. Only in China, Russia and India are national governments seriously addressing fissile isotope conservation. Western democratic governments are blistfully unaware that their failure to address fissile isotope conservation is rapidly making future climate change prevention much more difficult.
If voters are serious about halting climate change they must elect politicians who will implement the required CO2 emission reduction measures.
INTERIM CANADIAN EMISSION REDUCTION TARGET:
In Canada consumers presently obtain about 20% of their energy from electricity and about 80% of their energy from fossil fuels. The law of conservation of energy dictates that to reduce Canadian fossil fuel consumption by 50% it is necessary to double the dependable capacity of the present electricity system using urban sited Fast Neutron Reactors (FNRs) and to use the low grade heat rejected by urban sited FNR electricity generation for urban district heating.
The goal of doubling the capacity of the entire electricity system using FNRs and partially implementating urban district heating by 2035 will be a challenge. Many related issues require immediate legislative action and funding. These issues include: electricity rate restructuring, fossil carbon taxes, technical personnel training, property and utility easement acquisition, engineering design, pilot plant fabrication and building code modification.
In summary, stopping further CO2 accumulation in Earth's atmosphere and oceans requires world wide deployment of at least 15,375 FNRs, each output rated at about 1 GWt thermal. Canada alone needs at least 300 such FNRs. Each such FNR has about (1 / 3) the thermal output capacity of a present large CANDU reactor.
In order to meet the 2050 zero carbon emission climate goal over the 28 year period 2022 to 2050 in addition to wind and solar electricity generation Canada needs to complete construction of at least 11 such one GWt FNRs per year every year for internal use. Any plan that does not at least meet this minimum FNR capacity construction rate is not consistent with stopping Canadian CO2 emissions by 2050.
Development work on new nuclear technologies should be focused on sustainable nuclear fuel cycles that produce minimal amounts of long lived nuclear waste.
Low grade heat rejected by nuclear electricity generation should be used for urban district heating and/or for enhancing food production.
Every life form either adapts to changes in its surrounding climate or that life form ceases to exist. Combustion of fossil fuels has produced a large amount of carbon dioxide which has accumulated in the atmosphere and oceans, changing Earth's climate.
The increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration is causing planet Earth to absorb more radiant energy than it emits. The net absorbed radiant energy becomes net heat, most of which is absorbed by the oceans. The corresponding increase in lower atmosphere temperatures over dry land is known as global warming.
The consequences of net absorbed heat and increased lower atmosphere temperatures are increased droughts, crop failures, insect infestations, wild fires, violent storms, polar ice melting, floods, sea level rise, species extinctions and large scale human migration. These consequences, generally referred to as climate change, are now an imminent threat to all large land animal species, including humans. This threat was concisely and accurately summarized by 16 year old Greta Thunberg in her September 2019 oral address to the United Nations.
The increase in dissolved CO2 concentration in the oceans is causing a decrease in ocean water pH that is killing essential micro-organisms known as zooplankton that are at the bottom of the ocean food chain. Loss of these micro-organisms, which are an important small fish food, is causing a precipitous declines in larger wild fish populations and in the populations of fish dependent animal species further up the food chain.
CLIMATE CHANGE AND OCEAN ACIDIFICATION MITIGATION:
Slowing climate change and ocean acidification requires repricing of clean electricity, clean power and clean heat to enable economic displacement of fossil fuels with already available zero marginal cost clean electrical energy. Total shut down of fossil CO2 production cannot occur until there is production of sufficient new clean: energy, power and heat to meet reasonable human needs.
The necessary clean: energy, power and heat production facilities will not be built or operated until that production makes financial sense for the participating parties. Creating the business environment for success of that activity requires both immediate change in the electricity retail price structure and a substantial fossil carbon tax.
In Canada and the USA no political party is realistically facing the issue of providing to consumers sufficient sustainable economic clean power and clean heat, when and where consumers need it, to enable leaving fossil fuels in the ground.
In Ontario about 85% of all energy consumed is presently supplied by combustion of fossil fuels. The remaining 15% of all energy consumed comes from clean power sources (hydro, CANDU nuclear, wind and solar) and is delivered to consumers via electricity. About 22 TWh / year of clean electrical energy are currently discarded for lack of an appropriate retail interruptible electricity rate.
The "Green New Deal" concept of using only renewable energy to reduce fossil fuel consumption by 50% in 10 years is unrealizable because wind and solar power are both intermittent and seasonal. Due to geographical, material and cost constraints the amounts of energy storage, generation and transmission required to obtain dependable power from intermittent and seasonal renewable energy simply cannot be built.
The required steps for climate change mitigation, as dictated by the laws of physics, are set out in the attached document titled:
CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION.
In North America in recent years the financial costs directly attributable to CO2 induced climate change exceeded $300 billion per year. Escalating storm, fire and crop damage, polar ice melting and sea level rise are constantly in the news. Collapse of fish and fish dependent mammal populations is occurring on Canada's east, west and north coasts. Denial of the obvious is no longer an acceptable political response.
NET RADIANT ENERGY ABSORPTION:
Planet Earth continuously absorbs a fraction of its incident solar radiation and continuously emits thermal infrared radiation. Over dry land the law of conservation of energy causes these two radiation fluxes to reach approximate balance within a few hours of a step increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration. However, over the deep ocean these two radiation fluxes require centuries to reach balance following a step increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration. Over shorter periods of time the radiation flux difference causes an increase in ocean enthalpy (heat content).
Increasing ocean enthalpy causes increases in Earth surface temperature, humidity, atmospheric CO2 concentration, storms and sea level.
The rate at which Earth emits thermal infrared radiation outside the GHG absorption bands is set by the planetary emission temperature T, which is also known as the top of atmosphere temperature. It is effectively the temperature at the cloud tops. The source of most of the emitted thermal radiation is the freezing of water droplets.
In November 1996 Earth's average planetary emission temperature was measured to be:
T = 270 degrees K
and emissivity was found to be:
Ft = 0.7555
using a thermal infrared spectrometer mounted on the interplanetary spacecraft Mars Global Surveyor.
MULTIPLE STABLE TEMPERATURES:
Due to non-linearity in the radiant energy exchange equations Earth's net emitted radiant power has several real semi-stable zero solutions, a "cold" state corresponding to extensive world glaciation, a "cool" state corresponding to presence of both north and south polar ice, a "warm" state corresponding to absence of north polar ice and a "hot" state corresponding to absence of both north and south polar ice. The "cool" and "hot" stable solutions are separated by temperatures of about 17.5 degrees C. The geologic record shows long term oscillations between the "cool" and "warm" states with occasional excursions into the "cold" and "hot" states.
Past transitions between these semi-stable states occurred as a result of rare combinations of astrophysical and atmospheric phenomena that affect the solar irradiance, Earth's solar reflectivity (planetary Bond albedo) and Earth's thermal infrared emissivity.
In the "cool" state:
T ~ 270 degrees K
as measured by the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft in November 1996.
In the "hot" state:
T ~ 287 degrees K.
as calculated from astrophysical albedo measurements.
The local value of the emission temperature T = Tr at which cool state to warm state transition occurs is:
Tr ~ 273.15 degrees K
where 273.15 degrees K is the freezing point of water. This state change is associated with the melting of ice crystals in clouds and melting of ground and sea level snow and ice which change the local albedo.
In recent decades combustion of fossil fuels has caused an increase in Earth's absorption of solar radiation and has reduced Earth's emission of thermal infrared radiation. As a result there is ongoing net heat absorption by the oceans which is melting floating polar ice and there is a gradual increase in Earth's dry land surface temperature and hence Earth's effective planetary emission temperature T. The rate of rise of emission temperature T is limited by the heat capacity of the oceans and the latent heat of fusion of the polar ice. Absorption of heat by dry land reduces average snow and ice cover which further reduces solar reflectivity.
In early 2017 Earth was still in its "cool" state but a spontaneous transition from the "cool" state to the "warm" state had commenced. This spontaneous "cool" state to "warm" state transition is known as thermal runaway. The term "thermal runaway" is appropriate because due to thermal feedback it will soon be impossible to stop this temperature transition process.
The paramount challenge immediately facing mankind is halting and reversing thermal runaway. If mankind fails in this objective Earth will likely spontaneously transition all the way to its stable "hot" state.
Thermal runaway is an extinction threat to all large land animal species on Earth. The geophysical record shows that over the history of life on planet Earth there have been several transitions back and forth between the "hot" state and the "cold" state. Such past transitions are believed to have been triggered by infrequent astrophysical phenomena such as multi-planet alignments or the random nearby passage of another star. Each past transition into the "hot" state was accompanied by a global extinction of large land animals.
This web site addresses the physical origin of thermal runaway and the measures necessary to halt and possibly reverse thermal runaway.
The present climate change problems will continue to worsen until decades after mankind collectively decides to leave fossil hydrocarbons in the ground. There must be acceptance of widespread use of fast neutron fission energy in place of fossil fuel energy. Due to both intermittency and local insufficiency in most jurisdictions the renewable energy supply cannot meet the needs of the present human population. However, there is sufficient fast neutron reactor (FNR) fuel feedstock to sustainably meet mankind's energy needs for thousands of years. The existing water moderated nuclear reactor technology is not sustainable because it requires about 100X more natural uranium per unit of useful energy output than do FNRs with efficient fuel recycling.
One of the most difficult challenges relating to implementation of changes in public energy systems is lack of North American compulsory public education in the physical sciences. Few career politicians and even fewer voters have sufficient grasp of physics and engineering matters to make rational energy system policy decisions. Even fewer people understand ocean chemistry and the effects of increasing dissolved CO2 concentrations on marine life.
North American public opinion and government policy has been biased for decades by fossil fuel industry propaganda. The existing electricity rate structure subsidizes fossil fuels by making efficient use of surplus clean electrical energy uneconomic. In most jurisdictions, including Ontario, there is no interruptible electricity retail rate to allow consumers to economically access this surplus clean energy. In 2020 about 22 TWh of clean electricity available in Ontario were either exported at a very low price or were discarded.
For four decades the fossil fuel industry has minimized its loss of market share to the nuclear power industry by: corrupting politicians, funding anti-nuclear groups and engaging in deceptive advertising. Fossil fuel production has increased in spite of the increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration, decreasing ocean water pH and melting of the polar ice pack.
The solution to this information bias problem lies in improving the public education core curriculum with respect to physics, chemistry, energy and power matters and in removal of all governmental incentives relating to fossil fuel extraction, processing, transport and use. This web site attempts to address the public education deficiency.
Public opinion is further biased by selfish hedonism. Older people are often reluctant to make long term investments in education and sustainable clean energy infrastructure that will only materially benefit younger persons. In this respect the present concentration of wealth and power in older persons is a threat to younger generations.
In North America the tolerance of young people for continued political inaction on the issues of climate change and ocean acidification is approaching a breaking point. CO2 emission reduction will likely be a pivotal issue in coming elections. The public has yet to become aware of the emerging fissile isotope shortage.
Due to failure of both Canadian federal and provincial governments to promptly make the necessary public policy changes Canada's 2030 CO2 emission reduction commitments, made in Paris in 2015, are already unattainable. The fundamental concept that Canadian politicians have failed to grasp is that the CO2 emission reduction targets set in Paris in 2015 can only be met if fossil carbon is left in the ground. Increasing fossil carbon extraction and reducing fossil carbon emissions are mutually exclusive actions. New public investments in fossil fuel infrastructure will result in stranded assets and increased national debt. The federal Liberal government's commitment of $30 billion of Canadian federal taxpayer funds to an increase in Trans-Mountain pipeline capacity is a complete repudiation of its 2015 undertakings with respect to the Paris agreement on climate change. These taxpayer funds could have been far better used for matching provincial investments in production of advanced nuclear power.
Further investment in fossil fuel infrastructure is completely unacceptable.
Nuclear power should be complemented by nuclear fuel recycling in sodium cooled Fast Neutron Reactors (FNRs) to increase the fissile fuel resource by about 100 fold and to reduce the long lived nuclear fuel waste stream by about 1000 fold.
Other than cost, conceptually there is nothing wrong with expanding use of wind and solar generated electricity, but the present system of retail electricity pricing does not permit effective use of this interruptible electricity. Governments must reprice electricity in order to enable effective use of all available clean electrical energy. Presently about 70% of the wind generated electricity in Ontario is discarded for lack of a suitable retail electricity price structure. This issue costs rural electricity ratepayers in Ontario over $2 billion per year in unnecessary liquid fossil fuel expenditures, causes major excess fossil CO2 emissions and points to entrenched incompetence and corruption within the Ontario government.
A practical remedial measure is to use interruptible clean electricity for liquid fossil fuel displacement, charging electric vehicles and for production of electrolytic hydrogen.
Since the early 1980s at every opportunity the fossil fuel industry has acted to prevent loss of market share to nuclear power. However, the blunt reality is that in most jurisdictions, due to lack of economically accessible hydroelectric seasonal energy storage capacity, there is no practical clean alternative to nuclear power for dependable base load electricity generation and clean urban district heating.
The on-going failure of elected governments to rationally choose nuclear power over power obtained by combustion of fossil hydrocarbons may ultimately lead to the extinction of large land animal life on planet Earth, including the human species.
Canadian fossil fuel exports should be replaced with exports of high energy content foodstuffs and high energy content chemicals such as ammonia, aluminum, lithium, nickel, sodium, nitrate fertilizers, synthetic jet fuel and methyl cyclohexane (a reuseable hydrogen transport liquid) that can be synthesized or refined using nuclear energy.
There is merit in near term Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) exports only to the extent that foreign CO2 emissions are reduced when natural gas displaces coal and oil for production of heat and electricity. However, the 2.5 um particulates emitted by natural gas fired combustion turbines accelerate ice melting and cause human asthma. It is generally a better strategy to convert base load coal fired electricity generation into nuclear electricity generation with provision for load following.
Another big public policy issue with an impact on energy use is peaceful reduction of the world's human population. Between 1960 and 2010 Canada reduced its average human female fertility from 3.9 children per woman to 1.6 children per woman. While human population control is not a main subject on this web site many nations could benefit by adopting the Canadian social policies which led to this reduction in average Canadian human female fertility.
FOSSIL HYDROCARBON DISPLACEMENT:
1) Complete displacement of fossil hydrocarbons will require a several fold expansion in electricity system capacity using only clean prime energy.
2) The available significant clean prime energy sources are hydroelectric, nuclear, solar and wind.
3) In most jurisdictions the economic hydroelectric capacity is already fully exploited.
4) In most jurisdictions fast neutron nuclear fission together with nuclear fuel recycling is the only proven technology that can sustainably, economically and safely supply sufficient clean power, when and where required, to completely displace fossil hydrocarbons.
5) If this electricity system capacity expansion is further delayed atmospheric thermal runaway caused by accumulating CO2 will likely become impossible to stop.
6) In most industrialized countries nuclear electricity generation is much less expensive than intermittent solar and wind electricity generation in combination with the extra: power transmission, energy storage and reserve power generation capacity required to achieve electricity supply dependability.
7) The required electricity system capacity increase can be minimized by siting small nuclear power plants in cities to minimize the required amount of electricity transmission and to allow use of reactor supplied heat for local district heating.
THE CASE FOR NUCLEAR ENERGY:
1) Michael Shellenberger presents the case for nuclear energy
2) Since the early 1980s at every opportunity the fossil fuel industry has attempted to prevent loss of market share by preventing expansion of nuclear power. However, the blunt reality is that in most jurisdictions, there is no practical clean alternative to nuclear power for sustainable dependable safe electricity generation, so rapid deployment of advanced nuclear reactors and corresponding electricity transmission/distribution is essential to completely displace fossil hydrocarbons.
3) There is insufficient public recognition that advances in liquid sodium cooled fast neutron reactors and related technologies have potentially enabled: a large increase in nuclear plant life, a 100 fold improvement in natural uranium utilization efficiency, a hundred fold reduction in used nuclear fuel short term storage requirements and a 1000 fold reduction in production of long lived nuclear waste.
4) There is insufficient recognition of the grid load following capacity of liquid sodium cooled fast neutron reactors;
5) There is insufficient public recognition that the cost of nuclear electric and thermal power delivered to an urban load from an urban sited reactor is much less than the cost of equal reliability wind and solar energy delivered to the same urban load.
6) Nuclear electricity kWh measured at the generator are more expensive than wind generated kWh measured at the generator but unlike wind, nuclear electricity is dependable, is 3 fold less expensive to transmit per kWh-km, involves about four fold shorter average transmission distances, does not require expensive or unavailable seasonal energy storage, incurs much smaller energy storage and transmission related losses and does not require balancing generation. Furthermore, urban sited nuclear power provides as much useful heat as it does electricity, which wind and solar generated electricity do not.
7) These issues collectively make dependable power and energy delivered to an urban load from an urban sited nuclear power station many fold less expensive than equally dependable electricity supplied by remote wind and solar generation.
8) Nuclear power is by far the safest form of electricity generation. However, part of the public has an irrational fear of nuclear energy. This fear is in part a result of failure by elected governments to properly address nuclear education, nuclear safety, nuclear fuel supply sustainability and sustainable disposal of nuclear waste and is in part a result of propaganda from the fossil fuel industry.
9) An issue that governments must face is that economic deployment of nuclear power requires consistent government nuclear policy. It is totally uneconomic for a government owned electricity utility to finance training of 20,000 nuclear industry related workers and then fire them all at the first economic downturn.
10) The on-going failure of elected governments to rationally choose nuclear power over power obtained by combustion of fossil hydrocarbons may ultimately lead to the extinction of large land animal life on planet Earth, including the human species.
REQUIRED CLEAN ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES:
1) In order to displace fossil fuels for supply of energy, power and heat Canadians must obtain equal amounts of energy, power and heat from sustainable and dependable clean sources.
2)At present the only clean technology with the capacity to economically, sustainably and dependably fully displace fossil fuels is liquid sodium cooled Fast Neutron Reactors (FNRs) with fuel recycling.
3) As compared to present CANDU power reactors, FNRs feature: a 100 fold improvement in natural uranium utilization, a 100 fold reduction in interim used nuclear fuel storage requirements and a 1000 fold reduction in production of long lived nuclear waste.
4) Other nuclear energy technologies, including existing water moderated nuclear reactors fuelled by U-235, are: not sustainable and not economic.5) Hence, for expansion of nuclear power capacity to make economic and environmental sense, there must also be a major investment in deployment of liquid sodium cooled Fast Neutron Reactors (FNRs) and related fuel recycling.
6) In the future, after sodium cooled FNRs have bred a sufficient supply of fissile isotopes, sodium cooled FNRs can likely be supplemented by thorium (Th-232) fueled molten salt breeder reactors.
7) With appropriate fuel recycling there is sufficient U-238 and Th-232 to meet world energy needs for thousands of years.
8) The physical necessity for large scale deployment of liquid sodium cooled FNRs followed by thorium fueled molten salt breeder reactors is a physical reality that many elected governments have yet to accept. Today Russia, China and India are far ahead of most other countries in development and deployment of advanced nuclear reactor technologies.
9) A possible distant future source of nuclear energy is fusion of H-2 and H-3 to make He-4. The H-3 can be bread from Li-6. However, there are enormous unresolved technical difficulties related to practical implementation of this process. For fundamental thermodynamic reasons there is no realistic expectation of economic generation of dependable fusion power as long as fission fuels are available.
10) Use of nuclear energy requires transparency, political stability, public education, and a trained work force. Making nuclear power safe and sustainable requires enlightened government policies relating to: fast neutron nuclear reactor technology, reactor siting, district heating, natural draft cooling towers, nuclear fuel reprocessing, radioactive material transport and radio isotope interim storage.
11) Obtaining such enlightened government policies from legislators who lack any advanced science education is extremely difficult. The legislators tend to respond to irrational demands of voters and special interest lobbies neither of which understand or care about the relevant technical or safety issues. The North American education system has failed to teach the general pubic basic energy related physics and economics.
LIQUID SODIUM COOLED FAST NEUTRON REACTORS (FNRs):
1) There are many types of nuclear reactors. However, at this time only urban sited liquid sodium cooled fast neutron nuclear reactors used for supply of both electricity and district heat can economically supply the required sustainable clean energy and dependable clean power without formation of long lived nuclear waste;
3) Only pool type liquid sodium cooled Fast Neutron Reactors (FNRs) with breeding blankets and isolating guard bands provide the combined public safety, fuel sustainability and long lived nuclear waste elimination required for complete fossil fuel displacement.
4) A pool type liquid sodium cooled Fast Neutron Reactor (FNR) consists of a pool of primary liquid sodium containing centrally immersed nuclear fuel tubes which keep the primary liquid sodium surface temperature nearly constant at 460 degrees C. Also immersed in the primary liquid sodium pool, around the pool upper perimeter, are isolating intermediate heat exchange bundles which transfer heat to secondary non-radioactive liquid NaK. The NaK conveys heat to NaK-salt heat exchangers located in nearby heat exchange galleries which, for safety reasons, are located outside the pool space.
5) A molten nitrate salt mix conveys heat from the NaK-salt heat exchangers to remote steam generators for electricity generation and district heating. In normal operation the secondary NaK inlet and discharge temperatures are almost constant. The reactor thermal power output is adjusted by varying the secondary NaK flow rate. There are 48 identical independent heat transport systems that each provide three independent safety isolation barriers between the turbine water/steam and the primary liquid sodium.
6) In an extreme emergency, such as an FNR enclosure roof failure caused by a meteorite strike which precipitates a primary sodium fire, the steam generators are vented to the atmosphere to rapidly remove heat from the primary sodium pool.
7) FNRs are located on local high ground to ensure against future flooding.
8) FNRs have inherent safety features that are not available in water moderated reactors.
9) FNRs have a large negative temperature coefficient of reactivity which passively shuts down the nuclear chain reaction when the FNR temperature exceeds its setpoint.
10) Loss of control power triggers withdrawal of the FNR movable fuel bundles, causing a reactor cold shutdown.
11) Pool type FNRs with sufficient sodium guard bands around their fuel assemblies do not produce decommissioning waste.
12) Pool type FNRs operate at a low pressure and do not require a public safety exclusion zone outside the FNR NPP perimeter wall.
13) Economic displacement of fossil fuels used for comfort heating requires siting FNRs in urban areas near their thermal loads.
14) In urban centers the heat output from nuclear power plants can be used for commercial steam, district heating, dehumidification, water purification and water desalination.
15) The thermal energy should be delivered to customers via buried insulated pipes. At customer premises low grade thermal energy can be upgraded using electric heat pumps.
16) FNRs can use closed cycle reprocessing of used nuclear fuel to minimize natural uranium consumption and to avoid production of long lived nuclear waste.
17) FNRs typically require 15% to 20% Pu-239 in the initial core fuel. In order to rapidly deploy FNRs the present limited inventory of plutonium must be conserved, not buried in deep geologic repositories or expended as fuel in water moderated fission reactors.
18) To prevent nuclear weapon proliferation FNRs should be operated with long fuel cycles that produce the denaturing plutonium isotope Pu-240 along with the bred Pu-239.
19) If the FNR start fuel is obtained by reprocessing used power reactor fuel the Pu-240 content will already be sufficient to denature the plutonium.
20) After liquid sodium cooled FNRs are fully deployed their U-238 fuel supply can can potentially be extended as much as 5 fold using Th-232. The Th-232 readily breeds into Pr-233 which must be promptly chemically extracted to allow it to decay, without further neutron absorption, into U-233.
FNR FUEL RECYCLING:
1) Absent a sufficient inventory of fissile isotopes in the near future there will be a shortage of clean dependable power and the consequent use of fossil fuel based dependable power generation may drive mankind into extinction;
2) Fuel sustainable operation of advanced nuclear reactors requires recycling of used nuclear fuel instead of burial of used nuclear fuel;
3) A practical used nuclear fuel recycling program requires ongoing transport of used nuclear fuel back and forth between the reactor sites and the fuel recycling site;
4) Reactors that can efficiently perform the required nuclear reactions need substantial initial inventories of fissile isotopes. The only naturally occurring fissile isotope is the relatively rare isotope U-235. Two man made fissile isotopes are Pu-239 and U-233;
5) The limited world supply of fissile isotopes is presently being squandered in water cooled reactors and deep geological repositories;
6) Over sufficient time the available fissile isotope inventory can be enlarged using liquid sodium cooled fast neutron reactors to transmute U-238 into Pu-239, but presently there is no economic value placed on this key reactor feature;
7) In the future the nuclear fuel inventory could be expanded by transmuting Th-232 into U-233 and then fissioning the U-233, but practical implementation of this transmutation sequence still faces many developmental challenges;
8) To prevent nuclear weapon proliferation FNRs should be operated with sufficiently separated fuel changes to produce denaturing plutonium isotope Pu-240 along with the bred Pu-239.
9) After liquid sodium cooled FNRs are fully deployed their U-238 fuel supply can can potentially be extended as much as 5 fold using Th-232. The Th-232 readily breeds into Pr-233 which must be promptly chemically extracted to allow it to decay into U-233 without further neutron absorption.
A practical FNR is an assembly of heat emitting active fuel bundles encircled by passive fuel bundles. In addition to the normal reactor power control mechanism (thermal expansion) there is the fuel disassembly system and there are two independent emergency cold shutdown systems. Each FNR features:
1) Natural circulation of primary sodium;
2) Passive shut down if the average fuel temperature exceeds its setpoint;
3) Independent temperature setpoint control for each movable fuel bundle.
Each FNR based power plant has many (48) independent secondary heat transport systems. On loss of power to the secondary NaK induction type circulation pumps there is sufficient natural circulation in the secondary NaK heat transport systems to remove fission product decay heat.
Underneath the fuel assembly is a primary sodium pool bottom structure that, in the unlikely event of fuel melting, will prevent formation of a critical mass on the bottom of the primary sodium pool.
Each FNR has a sufficient thickness of blanket fuel, gadolinium and liquid sodium outside the core zone to absorb all leakage neutrons. This structure extends equipment life and prevents production of decommissioning waste.
FNRs are sited at an elevation where they will never be exposed to flood water.
CANADIAN FNR ACCEPTANCE:
In Canada many of the legislative changes required for urban FNR siting lie within provincial jurisdiction but the existing tax system provides little financial motivation for provincial governments to focus on CO2 emission reduction. Converting from fossil fuel supplied energy and power to sustainable clean energy and power is likely a fifty year project that will not significantly progress until provincial electricity rates are suitably restructured and FNR technology is properly funded.
Until Canadian voters are willing to embrace urban sited FNRs serious reduction of Canadian fossil CO2 emissions will likely be impossible.
FOREIGN FNR ACCEPTANCE:
With respect to sustainable production of clean energy and dependable clean power the authoritarian governments of China and Russia are decades ahead of North America. Large FNRs (600 MWe to 800 MWe per reactor) have been operating in Russia for many years but have received little North American media coverage.
With respect to sustainable production of clean energy and dependable clean power the authoritarian governments of China and Russia are decades ahead of North America. As of 2021 China and Russia collectively had about fifty large nuclear reactor construction projects at various stages of implementation whereas in North America there were only two comparable nuclear reactor construction projects. On a per capita basis the Chinese and Russian CO2 emissions are already far below North American CO2 emissions. China is rapidly electrifying its automotive fleet and is building clean electricity generation capacity to match. Russia is a world leader in fuel sustainable liquid sodium cooled fast neutron reactor technology and has nuclear power technology supply agreements with China and numerous developing countries.
Major issues relating to CO2 are:
a) CO2 driven global warming is causing human migration from tropical countries to more temperate countries. The USA has difficulty preventing unauthorized immigration from Central America and Europe has difficulty preventing unauthorized immigration from North Africa and the Middle East. In Canada recent immigration from tropical countries has drastically changed the national population racial mix;
b) CO2 accumulation in the oceans is causing collapse of wild fish stocks, sea level rise and increasing storm violence;
c) Measures that reduce CO2 emissions provide little benefit unless the measures are sustainable and have world wide applicability;
d) CO2 capture and underground storage as a compressed gas is simply not sustainable in the long term. The compressed CO2 forms bicarbonate ions in ground water and by that route migrates toward the surface where it comes out of solution due to the drop in hydraulic head pressure. This CO2 escape problem is amplified by the presence of hundreds of thousands of existing deep bore holes made by parties seeking oil, natural gas and irrigation water.
e) Due to continuing large scale combustion of fossil carbon, the CO2 concentrations in both the atmosphere and oceans are rising. These CO2 concentrations will not stop rising until almost all combustion of fossil carbon is stopped;
f) Stopping combustion of fossil carbon requires both a sufficient supply of economic clean energy and clean dependable power easily available to consumers and a fossil carbon tax sufficient to keep fossil fuels in the ground;
g) The only natural processes that can significantly reduce the accumulated excess CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere and oceans involve formation of fossil fuels and formation of carbonate rock. Both of these processes rely on solar driven biochemical reactions that must operate for hundreds of thousands of years to have significant effect;
h) Most CO2 molecules formed today will remain in the atmosphere or oceans for thousands of years into the future;
GOVERNMENTAL AND POLITICAL FAILURES:
Today, in spite of decades of overwhelming scientific evidence, most governments have failed to adopt the energy system changes required to prevent severe climate change. These governmental failures include:
1) Continued investment in new fossil fuel infrastructure;
2) Failure to impose a price on fossil CO2 emissions sufficient to keep fossil carbon in the ground;
3) Failure to build sufficient clean electricity generation, transmission and energy storage capacity to displace fossil fuels;
4) Failure to set aside and suitably zone river valleys that are potentially suitable for hydraulic energy storage;
5) Failure to set aside and suitably zone the land corridors needed for the high voltage electricity transmission lines, rail lines and district heating pipelines required for fossil fuel displacement;
6) Failure to set aside and suitably zone sites for the required FNRs and for commuter railway parking lots;
7) Failure to set aside and reserve existing naturally dry depleted hard rock mines that have features which make them suitable for interim nuclear fission product storage;
8) In North America no major political party is facing the full scope of the required fossil carbon emission reduction. Nowhere in North America is sufficient new nuclear power capacity being built.
9) Governmental corruption by the fossil fuel industry is driving wrong decisions. In both Canada and the USA CO2 emissions are increasing due to irrational replacement of nuclear electricity generation capacity by natural gas fuelled electricity generation.
10) In Ontario there are firm plans to close the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station in 2024 but there is no practical plan to replace its nuclear power capacity.
11) In 1994 former US president Bill Clinton, for reasons of corruption and political expediency, cancelled the highly successsful US fast neutron reactor development program. Due to lack of program funding the USA, which until that time was a world leader in FNR engineering matters, lost its leadership role to Russia.
12) Due to poor funding priorities, the US lost its leadership role in molten salt reactor development to China.
13) There has been a failure by all levels of North American government to recognize that in high latitude countries, such as Canada and Russia, the only technology that can sustainably displace fossil fuels in the near term is liquid sodium cooled fast neutron reactors (FNRs). These FNRs require and maintain substantial plutonium inventories so the existing policy of intentional disposal of plutonium must be changed.
14) In North America the fossil fuel industry financally corrupts elected governments to prevent further loss of energy market share to nuclear power. Most elected persons have little understanding of how electricity systems work and the measures necessary to prevent further climate change.
15) In Canada, in spite of a modest fossil carbon tax, federal and provincial taxpayer and ratepayer resources are still being squandered to subsidize fossil fuels and fossil fuel infrastructure.
16) In Ontario, due to an improper retail electricity rate structure, electricity rate payers indirectly subsidize the liquid fossil fuel industry by over two billion dollars per year while as much as 22 TWh per year (17% of total Ontario electricity generation) of clean electricity are either exported at a very low price or are discarded. The only rational explanation for this continued huge waste of clean energy is deep seated incompetence and corruption within the provincial government led by premier Doug Ford.
17) The failure of elected governments to adopt advanced nuclear power technology is highly troubling. If present governmental behavior patterns continue much of the existing world population will die of starvation within the 21st century. This starvation will be triggered by agricultural failures due to drought and aquifer depletion at equatorial and middle latitudes. As Earth's average atmospheric temperature continues to rise so also will the sea level and soil moisture evaporation. Absent sufficient nuclear power for desalination of sea water and for pumping of desalinated water inland for crop irrigation, in many places there will not be enough fresh water in the dry season to support intensive agriculture.
18) Already there are substantial reductions in land suitable for agriculture in Australia, Africa and North America due to lack of irrigation water. At the time of writing millions of people in Somolia, Etheopia, South Sudan and neighboring equatorial regions are facing death due to drought induced starvation. Less well covered by the news media are ongoing droughts in parts of South America and southern Africa. In Capetown, South Africa the public fresh water supply is close to exhaustion and the electricity supply is intermittent. In 2022 these problems were further magnified by the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
19) In both Europe and North America there is major human migration driven by ongoing climate change.
20) Due to repeated political procrastination with respect to fossil carbon taxes, electricity rates and new nuclear reactor development and deployment there is now no certainty that atmospheric thermal runaway can be halted. Under the best of circumstances the time required to build the nuclear reactor capacity necessary for total fossil fuel displacement is at least 50 years. Absent prompt construction of this FNR capacity atmospheric thermal runaway will likely become impossible to stop.
21) As projected in the book titled: Real Green Deal, a consequence of continued political inaction with respect to large scale deployment of sustainable nuclear power will be a massive human population die off later this century. In North America wind and solar energy generation have received major financial subsidies while nuclear power has not, in spite of the reality that wind and solar energy can at best provide only 20% of the required clean energy.
1) In Ontario successive governments of different political stripes have failed to adopt the peak kW or peak kVA based electricity rates that are required to enable use of clean electricity for displacement of fossil fuels. Instead governments have squandered electricity ratepayer funds on incenting electrical energy conservation which actually increases fossil fuel consumption.
2) In Ontario the absence of peak kW or peak kVA electricity billing makes installation of behind the meter energy storage financially unrewarding and acts as a disincentive to further adoption of reliable nuclear generation.
3) In Ontario CO2 and fine soot emissions will increase due to increasing use of natural gas fueled electricity generation in place of clean nuclear electricity generation.
4) In Ontario ratepayer funds have been squandered on wind and solar electricity generation, over 70% of which is presently discarded for lack of both energy storage and a suitable retail electricity price structure.
5) Major reductions in fossil CO2 emissions can only be achieved by both construction of additional nuclear power capacity and by changing the electricity rate structure.
6) The fossil fuel industry funds multiple parties which lobby against adoption of electricity rates that reflect actual costs. This problem is compounded by a voting public that lacks education in basic energy issues.
7) The Ontario government has yet to face the reality that to completely displace fossil carbon the nuclear reactor capacity in Ontario must be increased more than 4X and most new nuclear capacity must be located in urban areas so that small modular fast neutron reactors are sited to provide both electricity and district heat.
8) The most recent Ontario Long Term Energy Plan does not include the clean energy required for: biomass processing to make synthetic liquid hydrocarbon fuels, additional cement and metal production to replace asphalt and non-combustion municipal waste processing to recycle hydrocarbon resins.
9) In recent years in Ontario there has been a disproportionate investment in wind and solar electricity generation without sufficient investment in nuclear power, energy storage and interruptible electricity market development. Over investment in intermittent renewable electricity generation without sufficient seasonal energy storage and without an interruptible electricity market creates stranded assets.
10) There is no recognition that the cost per kWhe of transmitting intermittent wind and solar generated electrical energy from distant rural generation sites to urban load sites is at least 12X the cost per kWhe of transmitting dependable nuclear electricity from relatively nearby nuclear generators to urban load sites.
11) As nuclear electricity generation displaces fossil fueled electricity generation the market value of intermittent renewable energy will decrease unless there is sufficient energy storage. However, in Ontario due to geography limitations there is almost no seasonal energy storage and there is little prospect of significant new daily energy storage until the retail electricity rate structure is changed to be peak demand oriented rather than energy oriented. That rate change would incent peak demand minimization, behind the meter energy storage and production of electrolytic hydrogen.
12) As a result of poor government policy Ontario's blended electricity rates are extremely high and much of the clean electricity generation capacity is discarded. This policy of discarding useful clean energy has been concealed by improper electricity rates and by deceptive accounting by parties with vested interests and short term political and profit agendas. The ongoing cost of this scam to the Ontario rate payers and taxpayers is about $2 billion per year.
13) In recent years Ontario has been in the ridiculous position of exporting electricity at about $0.016 / kWh while charging Ontario rural consumers as much as $0.270 / kWh. This electricity pricing strategy has increased consumption of fossil fuels in Ontario and has made many Ontario businesses internationally uncompetitive.
14) The economics of both nuclear and renewable electricity generation are improved if each customer has behind-the-meter energy storage controlled to match the customer electricity load to the available interruptible clean electricity generation.
15) Wind and solar electricity generation can provide up to 20% of the required energy but due to lack of sufficient energy storage and transmission cannot provide dependable clean power;
16) Absent sufficient energy storage solar and wind power are only useful for fossil fuel displacement, charging battery electric vehicles and electrolytic hydrogen production. These interruptible electricity applications will become financially viable when dependable electricity is primarily priced by peak monthly demand (kWe or kVA) rather than by absorbed energy (kWhe).
17) The economics of both nuclear and renewable electricity generation are improved if each customer has behind-the-meter energy storage controlled to match the electricity load to the available interruptible clean electricity generation.
NEW ONTARIO RETAIL ELECTRICITY RATE:
1) Up until now the government of Ontario has been unwilling to act rationally to displace fossil hydrocarbon fuels with available zero cost surplus clean electricity, which would reduce the blended electricity cost per kWhe. The only explanation for this governmental inaction is embedded corruption. The main financial beneficiaries of this corruption are US bulk electricity purchasers and Canadian liquid fossil fuel suppliers.
2) The Ontario government has repeatedly ignored engineering advice to allow consumers to voluntarily change from the obsolete retail electicity rate primarily based on measured kWhe consumed to a new retail electricity rate primarily based on measured peak kWe or peak kVA. The proposed new rate would reflect the true cost of electricity generation and transmission in Ontario and would allow Ontario consumers access to the intermittent surplus clean electricity that is presently either discarded or exported at an extremely low price. The proposed new electricity rate would trigger use of interruptible electricity for reduction of liquid fossil fuel consumption.
3) A new Ontario residential retail electricity rate rate of the form:
[($30.00 /peak kW-month) + ($0.02 / kWh)]
a) maintain the required electricity system gross revenue;
b) encourage implementation of behind the meter energy storage;
c) allow economic use of surplus clean electricity for displacement of fossil fuels;
d) reduce the average cost of electricity per kWhe by enabling larger kWhe consumptions without increasing the metered peak kWe demand;
e) Encourage load control which would minimize future electricity system costs.
f) A key enabling issue is that the marginal cost per electrical kWhe must be significantly less than the marginal cost per kWht of the competing fossil fuel.
4) Installation of behind-the-meter energy storage and displacement of fossil fuels by clean electricity will not occur until the retail price of dependable electricity is made primarily proportional to the customer's monthly peak demand (kW or kVA) instead of being proportional to the customer's energy consumption (kWh). The transmission charge must also be made proportional to the customer's peak demand (kW or kVA).
5) For a customer with a 50% load factor the corresponding blended dependable electricity rate per kWhe is projected to be:
[($30.00 / kWe-month X 1 kWe-month) + 0.5 (730.5 kWhe X $0.02 / kWh)] / [0.5 (730.5 kWhe)]
= $0.1021 / kWhe
6) In terms of both fossil fuel cost savings and reduced CO2 emissions it is more beneficial to displace liquid hydrocarbon fuels with surplus clean electricity than to displace natural gas with surplus clean electricity.
7) In order to effectively sell interruptible electricity a customer's monthly peak demand (kW) calculation must be disabled during metering intervals when interruptible electricity is available for that customer.
8) Timely full displacement of fossil fuels by clean energy will likely require a price on fossil carbon emissions of at least $200 / tonne of emitted CO2. The revenue from a fossil carbon emissions tax should be applied to construction of new nuclear power stations and supporting power and heat transmission/distribution.
1) Absent sufficient energy storage solar and wind power are only useful for fossil fuel displacement and electrolytic hydrogen production. These interruptible electricity applications will become financially viable when dependable electricity is primarily priced by peak capacity demand (kWe or kVA) rather than by absorbed energy (kWhe).
2) Electrolytic hydrogen can be stored and can be used for: production of ammonia as a liquid fuel, efficient production of biomethanol, production of synthetic hydrocarbon aircraft fuels, to assist in meeting the peak winter heat demand and to provide dependable backup of nuclear district heating during nuclear reactor shutdowns;
3) Production of high energy density synthetic hydrocarbons for aircraft fuel and like applications requires siting of distributed methanol production plants near rural farms to convert waste biomatter into methanol. These methanol plants can operate using inexpensive interruptible electricity. Methanol is much more economic to transport than is solid biomatter and local methanol production does not remove from farms phospherous and other essential soil elements. These farms will require ongoing fertilization with ammonia.
CLIMATE REMEDIATION ATTEMPTS:
1) The knee-jerk political reaction to global warming has been to attempt to partially displace fossil fuels with renewable energy.
2) In Ontario politically driven attempts to conserve electricity and implement solar and wind based electricity generation, without seasonal energy storage, achieved little net reduction in fossil CO2 emissions.
3) Without sufficient seasonal energy storage, wind and solar electricity generation cannot meet electricity system dependability requirements.
4) In Ontario, due to geographic constraints, seasonal electrical energy storage is both prohibitively inefficient and prohibitively expensive.
5) Furthermore, over commitment to wind and solar electricity generation without corresponding synchronous generator equivalent moment of inertia causes electricity grid instability and threatens the electricity grid black start capability.
6) However, a major reduction in fossil CO2 emissions was achieved by replacing coal fired synchronous electricity generation with nuclear synchronous electricity generation.
CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION SUMMARY:
In summary, stopping thermal runaway requires:
a) Immediate halting of investment in new dedicated fossil fuel infrastructure such as tar sand pipelines;
b) A fossil carbon emissions tax sufficient to keep fossil hydrocarbons in the ground;
c) Adoption of dependable and interruptible electricity rates where the dependable electricity rate is based on each consumer's monthly peak kWe or peak kVA measured during metering intervals when interruptible electricity is not being supplied and the energy rate is less than the cost of the competing fossil fuel;
d) Widespread adoption of consumer owned behind-the-meter short term energy storage;
e) Use of intermittent renewable energy when and where available for electrolytic hydrogen production and for displacement of fossil fuels;
f) Immediate construction of much more fuel sustainable nuclear power capacity;
g) Siting of new distributed nuclear power capacity at relative high elevation points in urban population centers;
h) Widespread deployment of modular liquid sodium cooled fast neutron reactors (FNRs) and nuclear fuel recycling;
i) Adoption of nuclear district heating in urban areas;
j) Adoption of water source heat pumps for urban space and water heating;
k) Large scale production of synthetic liquid hydrocarbon fuels for fueling aircraft;
l) Large scale production of anhydrous ammonia for fueling small and medium size ships and for supplementary rural heating;
m) Wide spread adoption of high energy density batteries and compressed electrolytic hydrogen for automotive, train and truck propulsion;
n) Repurposing of the natural gas piping system for hydrogen distribution;
o) Repurposing of existing natural gas storage caverns for storing compressed hydrogen gas;
p) Development of toluene/methylcyclohexane facilities for storage and world distribution of hydrogen.
INTEGRATED ZERO EMISSION ENERGY PLAN:
The Integrated Zero Emission (INZEM) Energy Plan is an engineering plan which identifies the only practical path for economic and sustainable elimination of fossil fuels from the Canadian energy sector by the year 2070. This plan was developed during the period November 2017 to May 2018 by a senior engineering team consisting of Paul Acchione, Peter Ottensmeyer and Charles Rhodes. Implementation of the INZEM plan requires: immediate cancellation of all investments in new fossil fuel infrastructure, repricing of electricity as described on the web page titled:
prompt deployment of fast neutron reactors as described on the web page titled:
FAST NEUTRON REACTORS,
and recycling of used CANDU reactor fuel as described on the web page titled:
There is no other viable alternative for sustainably meeting Canada's clean energy, power and heat requirements while avoiding fossil CO2 production.
NOTES TO READER:
Most of the material on this web site is suitable for persons with a high school science education. However, some of the material requires the reader to have a deeper understanding of mathematics, physics, chemistry or engineering.
The web page ENERGY AND SOCIETY gives an overview of some of the major issues that are more fully developed elsewhere on this web site.
Visitors to this web site should review the tables of contents that are accessible via links located at the top and bottom of each web page.
Web site visitors are encouraged to email constructive comments to the author.
Documents worthy of careful study are a March 2016 report by the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE) titled: Ontario's Energy Dilemma: Reducing Emissions at an Affordable Cost.
and an April 2019 report by the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE) titled: Summary Report Retail Electricity Price Reform. There are related explanatory documents available on the web page titled: ELECTRICITY RATE PROPOSAL.
These reports detail a continuing multi-billion dollar per year incompetence and corruption scam within the energy sector perpetuated by the Ontario Provincial Government.
This web page last updated November 13, 2023.
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