Saturday, August 31, 2013

Seeing around corners - NYT opinionator on letting go of nukes

I'm back at the grindstone.

first up:

I'm not sure about all the cost figures but the overall gist "let's remember nuclear has many many expensive and unsolved problems" strikes me as right on.

It makes me think about how by now, if it were going to really be safe we'd have seen the cost  and risk curves go in the right direction but nobody in the private sector is interested in underwriting the risks of new plants both energy wise nor disaster wise.  The formula is supposed to be
1) we produce a product/service for X and
2) sell it for X+
where X+ is enough to justify the risk of doing it in the first place.

YES that is an over-simplification. But if we get too far from it... we get in trouble.  I do see there is a place for keeping the door open to innovation by stimulating experiments and disturbing monopolies.  But the long history of subsidizing nuclear power plants and putting off the disposal issues strikes me as not the same thing. I could be wrong. But the point of the opinionator piece I think lands either way: renewables and distributed power and conservation are all growing fast are mutually reinforcing and could just fill in to address our load with carbon neutral juice and leave conventional plants with less and less to do. If those plants have, wrapped up in their fundamentals a bunch of thousand year poison - that we get if we run the plant or not... seems like we should think twice or thrice.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Just got to keep your eyes out for groovy reports... like this one

Working through the ARPA-E FOE FOCUS Funding Opportunity Announcement and this turns up:


Just read the abstract. I'll wait... 

Pretty darn cool no? It was done with 2008 data but it is not terribly time sensitive information. And I think it over simplified the uses temperature vs the advantageous delivery temperatures (you'll want to  have, in most cases a higher temp on the sources to deliver energy to the "thing to warm." You can touch the hot toast (thing to be warmed) but not the toaster element.  But still, the high quality dense energy we generate at such losses (energy system losses are huge - see the report!) are misused when we drive even "efficient" low-temp loads. Solar thermal is a great (zero emissions) source for low temp heat and a good source for medium temp heat. This report shows how broad the need is for low and medium temp heat and is enticing as to how much in the way of greenhouse gas displacement it can accomplish.