Daily review 15/01/2020

Written By: - Date published: 6:45 pm, January 15th, 2020 - 26 comments
Categories: Daily review - Tags:

Daily review is also your post.

This provides Standardistas the opportunity to review events of the day.

The usual rules of good behaviour apply (see the Policy).

Don’t forget to be kind to each other …

26 comments on “Daily review 15/01/2020 ”

  1. A 1

    This is why we need to stop further water exports, and reduce commercialisation of water.

    In December, the Southern Downs Regional Council approved the development of the Chinese water operation about 40km away.

    According to The Guardian Australia, residents in Stanthorpe were put under extreme water restrictions a day after the Chinese-owned water mining operation was approved.

    Locals are out of water and rely on several trucks to bring in water each day.

  2. RedLogix 2

    This afternoon I took the time to watch this Kirk Sorensen video. At almost 2hrs long I doubt many here will have the inclination or stamina to watch it all, but this one truly pulls the whole thorium/MSR story together is one brilliantly educational package. Plus it's reasonably entertaining; for an engineer Sorensen is pretty funny.

    Tech warning: it does have some geek-head passages; but the bulk of it is accessible to anyone with a high school science background.

    • Ad 2.1

      O my God please I Beseech You No More

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPwcmsRzPlk

    • Sacha 2.2

      This afternoon I took the time to watch this Kirk Sorensen video. At almost 2hrs long…

      Some of us have to work for a living.

      • McFlock 2.2.1

        even in my off-time I'm struggling to come up with the motivation to watch The Irishman, let alone two hours of something that can only change my mind if I can trust the person to be portraying the risks with the same level of scepticism they portray the benefits. Which I can't.

        • RedLogix 2.2.1.1

          Equally there may be a hugely reduced risk profile, but you would have no way of knowing that unless you are willing to invest the time to understand.

          There are only three options here; you remain ignorant and irrational about the science and engineering … and that is your privilege. Or you accept the authority of people who are demonstrably competent in the field …. yet while you insist scientists must be believed on climate or vaccinations, for some reason they must all be lying about nuclear power. Well I can’t help that either.

          A few years ago I was repeating exactly the same lines you are feeding me here, I thought I knew all the reasons why nuclear power was a dead-end and was happy to dance on it's grave. Maybe I'm just wired to be insatiably curious, and maybe I was deeply troubled by the apparent energy/environment/development trap our civilisation is caught in. As a technologist, along with others here such as Lynn, Andre and Poisson, I was very aware of the implications of this trap, and have been since I first read an article on AGW in New Scientist in the late 1970's. There is real justification to give way to a nihilistic alarmist despair on where we are heading. Inwardly it consumed me for years, everything confirmed the apparent hopelessness of our fossil fuel dependent industrial world.

          But about three years ago I made a promise to myself that I would reject despair, that however bleak the outlook, I would orient myself upward. That's your third choice too Mac.

          • McFlock 2.2.1.1.1

            Equally there may be a hugely reduced risk profile, but you would have no way of knowing that unless you are willing to invest the time to understand.

            Indeed.

            But when that time has been wasted before, why would I?

            The only reason I can see to make thorium would be to clean up the waste left by previous generations made by the same industry. We have alternatives for power generation. My outlook on that is not so bleak as yours.

            • RedLogix 2.2.1.1.1.1

              We have alternatives for power generation.

              Yes we could maybe re-power our current world with solar and wind, but it would be a thin gruel indeed. They would leave much of the developing world barely out of poverty, trap humanity in an energy cul de sac, and have an impact on the environment and resources their proponents persistently ignore. I've presented the cites for this and no-one has even bothered to look at them, much less attempt to refute them.

              Alvin Weinberg, the man whose name is on the patent for LWR's, knew his 1950's invention had serious shortcomings, yet because because it was a reliable source of weapons grade plutonium-239, US Cold War policy makers persisted with it beyond all reason. This was a terrible decision, made for even worse reasons. It's time to loose our irrational fears and fix this.

              • McFlock

                However bleak the outlook, orient yourself upward.

                longer answer: if you’re right and they follow my idea, we take renewables to the limit and then try to explore the latest ideas on the fission front (although maybe by then we’ll have something better than fission anyway).

                If I’m right and they follow your idea, various nations experience the joys of 30km exclusion zones over the next hundred years and we go to renewables anyway.

                • RedLogix

                  Why would you have a 30 km exclusion zone when all the activities and fission products are chemically locked up in the salt?

                  Even if you breached an MSR core all that can happen is the salt would leak out under no pressure, then solidify into a cooling lump in the basement sump. Fuel damage, explosions, melt downs and releases of iodine, strontium and cesium simply don't happen. Physics and chemistry ensure this.

                  • McFlock

                    So you say.

                    Running them a hundred years with TEPCO-style management and it might say something different.

                    Maybe some unforseen combination of events happens. Maybe someone uses it in a manner well out of spec. Maybe some secondary system of the plant causes the explosion that sprays the salt all over the place in a fine powder.

                    You know, the same unforseen shit that happened before when nuclear engineers were assuring us everything was safe.

                    • RedLogix

                      All early generations of any technology turn out to have some surprises, we learn from them and the next gen is better. It's odd how you'd happily allow for solar panels, batteries and wind power systems to improve, to be more efficient, cheaper and safer … yet for some unspecified reason nuclear fission technology is locked into the 1950's. No progress allowed.

                      There is a fundamental chemistry reason why MSR's are so much safer. Sodium for example is a highly reactive metal, it violently reacts with everything. Chlorine gas is lethally toxic. Yet sodium chloride is a stable salt you add to your food … both elements are chemically bound together.

                      The salts used in MSR's are some eutectic variation on a fluoride or chloride. These two highly reactive elements chemically bind with everything in the core except some small volume of noble gas fission products, principally xenon. (In normal operation these gases simply bubble out of the salt and are removed, there is no substantial build up of them in the core.) Everything, most especially any strontium, iodine and cesium is chemically locked into the salt.

                      This combined with the fact that they operate at normal atmospheric pressure means there is no physical or chemical reason for anything to escape beyond the salt itself. Even worst case if someone managed to explode a core with a bomb, the now frozen salt droplets/powder would travel no more than blast radius of a few 10's metres at most. Absolutely it would create a very real radiation hazard locally, but nothing can escape and be widely dispersed into the environment that might justify a 30km exclusion zone.

                      As for operating them 'out of spec', you simply cannot do this. Load too much fuel in, remove all the control rods and all that happens is the salt temperature rises, it thermally expands which lowers the density of fissile material and the chain reaction slows down. It has to.

                      Still not happy? If you want a brace to your belt, trip a pump, or melt a freeze plug and the salt in the reactor vessel drops under gravity into a drain tank where because either there is no moderator or the geometry is wrong, no chain reaction is possible and the decay heat is easily and passively removed with no power, no pumps, no operator intervention at all.

                      This isn't esoteric stuff, it's basic physics and chemistry that doesn't change. On this basis it’s entirely reasonable to argue that while nothing is absolutely safe, MSR’s are objectively orders of magnitude safer than their LWR predecessors.

                    • McFlock

                      Again, all well and good until TEPCO run them for a few decades and figure out an interesting way to fuck them up.

                      Because nuclear power’s been safe ever since it was first introduced, according to its proponents.

                    • RedLogix

                      Because nuclear power’s been safe ever since it was first introduced, according to its proponents.

                      That's because it is.

                      https://ourworldindata.org/what-is-the-safest-form-of-energy

                      https://ourworldindata.org/what-was-the-death-toll-from-chernobyl-and-fukushima?

                      (Incidentally this is a different reference that clearly states they are using the worst case data for nuclear power. This answers your earlier objections.)

                    • McFlock

                      Yeah, your reckless interpretation of "safe" doesn't provide reassurance.

                      Especially as your comparison link only compared nuclear with fossil – compared to hitler, most rulers aren't all that bad.

                    • Andre

                      Then when it comes to the land footprint – the exclusion zone for the Fukushima disaster is a finger pointing northwest measuring approximately 5km x 30km. Call it 150 sq km, or 38,000 acres.

                      That's the one and only significant area of land where humans are excluded due to an accident in a western nuclear power generation facility. That's quite an astonishing safety record, considering the relatively low priority put on safety (compared to now) at the time they were designed and built. In contrast, for many of the newer designs, walk-away safety and radioactive waste minimisation are absolute top priorities.

                      Even considering what a colossal disaster Fukushima was, it's not entirely bad news, apparently the exclusion zone has become quite a haven for wildlife.

                      Compare that to the devastation caused by coal mining – in the US apparently over 100,000 acres are surface strip mined every year. Then there's the ash ponds that leach all sorts of toxics into groundwater, and the air pollution (which incidentally is also often significantly radioactive). And success stories for land rehabilitation after strip mining are relatively scarce.

                    • RedLogix

                      Well if you don't like that cite I have others:

                      https://www.iaea.org/sites/default/files/publications/magazines/bulletin/bull21-1/21104091117.pdf (Page 2 is the quick takeaway)

                      This paper comes to much the same conclusion; when you do a proper risk accounting, solar and wind fare much worse than people imagine. Our intuition fails because most people only consider the final and visible part of the process, and they don't include the total hazard per unit of power generated.

                      @Andre

                      And the Chernobyl exclusion zone has long been a substantial wildlife haven. Hell there are even people who refused to move, quietly living in corners of it with no ill-effect.

                      https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2019/may/28/chernobyl-wildlife-haven-tour-belarus-created-nuclear-disaster-zone

                      Have to look at the dates; some articles from over a decade ago are not so optimistic, but either way the idea the zone is a toxic wasteland incompatible with life for thousands of years is bunk.

                    • RedLogix

                      Yeah, your reckless interpretation of "safe" doesn't provide reassurance.

                      If you are going to demand absolute safety, then nothing, but nothing will be good enough. Otherwise known as the nirvana fallacy.

                    • McFlock

                      lol

                      You're not getting it.

                      This isn't about data, it's about not being able to trust the people who provide the data.

                      But I suppose we can relabel "radiation leak" as "sudden implementation of a wildlife reserve", if you really want to roll it in glitter 🙄

                      edit: to put it another way, no doubt in the journal of renewable energy whoopdydoo or whatever there will be similar articles talking about how solar is better than nuclear. There might even be a couple of academics who have tit-for-tatted about it for decades, arguing about assumptions and aggregate estimates.
                      I don’t care. Thorium reactors have their uses, in the middle of a nice geologically stable deserted area where they clean up the mess of their cousins. And then shut down.

                    • RedLogix

                      This isn't about data, it's about not being able to trust the people who provide the data.

                      If you have ever wondered McF how it is flat earthers, faked moon landing conspiracists, CC deniers and vaccination alarmists get to be quite so obdurately and wilfully stupid … well now you know.

                    • McFlock

                      Interesting point.

                      Correct me if I'm wrong, but the heliocentric model of the solar system hasn't forced the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people because someone fucked up, vaccine alarmists have to explain why their smallpox isn't acting up, and the moon landing crowd never ask the Russians why they didn't point out that zero transmissions came from the moon when Apollo was allegedly there.

                      On the other hand, you have a massively expensive facility to build when every previous generation has had an individual go "pop" and take 50 years or more to clean up… because apparently solar panels involve mining the raw materials for the structure, and nuclear doesn't.

    • Graeme 3.1

      Well one side of the party is courting evangelical funding, most likely from US, and the other side's getting money from CCP rammed down their throats (charitable interpretation), what could go wrong….

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