Friday, October 27, 2006

Captain Ed and Nuclear Power

The influential blogger at Captain'’s Quarters, Ed Morrissey, posted a very strong endorsement for nuclear power as a way to reduce our reliance on foreign oil.

He called for consideration of making most or all of our electricity from nuclear power. The problem is that today, more nuclear power plants will NOT reduce importation of petroleum. We'’ve already displaced oil as a fuel for electricity with our first big nuclear build back in the 70’s and early 80’s. In 1970, almost 35% of US electricity was fueled by oil. Today, it's down to 3%.

The real problem lies with the prospective fuel for generators --– imported liquefied natural gas. As domestic demand increases and North American supplies decline, energy planners and marketers are looking more and more to new LNG terminals to provide the gas to run combined cycle combustion gas turbine plants. Are we adding a NEW addiction to our old bad habit? Nuclear power could and should prevent that.

Morrissey goes on to advocate hydrogen fuel cells for autos and other independent uses. He rightly identifies the problem as the source of hydrogen.

Ed thinks that an "Moon shot"” program can get us off foreign oil and "“make it happen within the next ten to fifteen years."”

Well, as a nuclear engineer, I can feel the love, but it ain't gonna happen. The FIRST new nuke to make electricity is scheduled to come on line in 2015. As some of the commenters note, production of hydrogen for fuel will require nuclear power. The current government plan is first commercial-scale nuclear hydrogen production in 2019. Lab-scale demonstration of the thermo-chemical reaction is not planned until 2008 and that'’s using non-nuclear heat.

Still, as a public discussion of energy policy issues, it is way above what passes for public discourse in the main stream media.

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3 comments:

David Bradish said...

Many may not know this and I didn't up until a couple of weeks ago but the Palo Verde nuclear power plant in Arizona is already contributing a great portion of electricity to the production of hydrogen for cars. Check out APS' Hydrogen Park which has been around since 2002. DOE and APS are conducting a study on the costs of the program due to be released next spring.

Hydrogen cars may be coming around a lot sooner then we think.

robert merkel said...

I'll leave the broader argument on the merits of Morrissey's ideas to others; I'd just like to address the debate on how fast the world can transition over to a sounder energy mix.

Everybody always overestimates what they can achieve in the short term, and underestimates what they can achieve in the long term. But if the USA (and other countries) get the right policy settings now, in 15-20 years pretty massive changes can be achieved. But that clock only starts when the right policies are set.

GRLCowan said...

"Hydrogen cars may be coming around a lot sooner then we think" -- ironically true. They were around 30 years ago.

Nuclear production of hydrogen will no doubt be a practical way of making automobile fuel, but only when it is promptly turned into nuclear gasoline by reaction with CO2.

--- G. R. L. Cowan, nukemobile fan
Burn boron in pure oxygen for car power