Skip to main content

Carbon Capture Caprice

The value of carbon capture and clean coal as an alternative to nuclear energy proved to be a winning argument for the Dutch, but the Guardian takes a far dimmer view of its use in Britain.

The government says that the [carbon capture] demonstration project will take "at least 15 years" to assess. It will take many more years for the technology to be retro-fitted to existing power stations, by which time it's all over. On this schedule, carbon capture and storage, if it is deployed at all, will come too late to prevent runaway climate change.

The article admits that carbon capture is feasible and most of its component technologies are in use, though not especially effectively.

Frankly, though, author George Monbiot (really, the British government) underestimates industry. If carbon capture technology proves truly effective, then those 15 years will melt away to many fewer - there's a very strong motivation to find solutions to carbon emission issues and a large industry that wants badly to do so. There's also the bread-and-butter issue of the wrenching change many, many workers would face if the coal industry in Britain (and elsewhere, too, of course) started to crater. 

Those on the nuclear side of the fence may feel a bit like pointing and laughing at their coal brethren. While they may well want to turn up the volume on a technology that's available now, technologically proven and ready for expansion, it's unnecessary, especially in most of Europe, to do that. 

So now, it's coal's turn - wish it well. The more clean energy there is in the world, the better.

Comments

Rod Adams said…
Mark:

The difference between technical feasibility and commercial scale implementation is HUGE. By most estimates, CCS systems would consume between 15-30% of the energy output of a coal fired power plant, thus increasing the fuel cost of operation in addition to all of the other costs of the enormous chemical plants that would need to be added to each of thousands of large coal plants.

Even if the CO2 were separated from the exhaust, captured and pressurized, you are then faced with finding a secure place to store it. For many plants there are hundreds or even thousands of miles of transport needed to reach a suitable geologic formation for storing massive (tens of thousands of tons per plant per day) quantities of gaseous waste.

Those pipelines would be carrying an inert gas, so, unlike natural gas pipelines, the necessary compressor stations would not be able to consume some of the product, they would need outside energy supplies.

No - the challenges of CCS are not something that will be overcome anytime in the next few decades. There is really no appetite for actually implementing these systems. The talk about CCS is just that; it is talk designed to obscure the environmental hazard of continuing to burn billions of tons of coal each year.

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Why America Needs the MOX Facility

If Isaiah had been a nuclear engineer, he’d have loved this project. And the Trump Administration should too, despite the proposal to eliminate it in the FY 2018 budget.

The project is a massive factory near Aiken, S.C., that will take plutonium from the government’s arsenal and turn it into fuel for civilian power reactors. The plutonium, made by the United States during the Cold War in a competition with the Soviet Union, is now surplus, and the United States and the Russian Federation jointly agreed to reduce their stocks, to reduce the chance of its use in weapons. Over two thousand construction workers, technicians and engineers are at work to enable the transformation.

Carrying Isaiah’s “swords into plowshares” vision into the nuclear field did not originate with plutonium. In 1993, the United States and Russia began a 20-year program to take weapons-grade uranium out of the Russian inventory, dilute it to levels appropriate for civilian power plants, and then use it to produce…

Nuclear Is a Long-Term Investment for Ohio that Will Pay Big

With 50 different state legislative calendars, more than half of them adjourn by June, and those still in session throughout the year usually take a recess in the summer. So springtime is prime time for state legislative activity. In the next few weeks, legislatures are hosting hearings and calling for votes on bills that have been battered back and forth in the capital halls.

On Tuesday, The Ohio Public Utilities Committee hosted its third round of hearings on the Zero Emissions Nuclear Resources Program, House Bill 178, and NEI’s Maria Korsnick testified before a jam-packed room of legislators.


Washingtonians parachuting into state debates can be a tricky platform, but in this case, Maria’s remarks provided national perspective that put the Ohio conundrum into context. At the heart of this debate is the impact nuclear plants have on local jobs and the local economy, and that nuclear assets should be viewed as “long-term investments” for the state. Of course, clean air and electrons …