Thursday, December 08, 2005

Pro-nuclear blog posts

There's a couple of pro-nuclear blogs i'm bloglisting at the moment, Atomic Insights somehow figured out i linked to him and actually commented on one of my posts (i'm known! ahh, finally the recognition endorphins are kicking in...).
However, it should be stated right up front, i am the most reluctant pro-nuclear guy you'll ever meet. At most i would consider myself neutral-nuclear - i believe that we need another round of nuclear investment, but i'm not at all happy about it.

Hydrogen efficiency - here. Unless you are comparing two very similar technolgies, efficiency is not overly useful as a metric for choosing between them. For instance, if i had two car IC engines, i would obviously choose the most 'efficient' one - the choice gives me more mileage per litre of fuel (and assuming the fuel is similar, that's why well-to-wheels analysis is so important).
If you use hydrogen as a fuel, the 'efficiency' of the engine becomes kinda moot, it is all about how the hydrogen (or hydrogen equivalent like hydrides, chemical hydrates etc) is produced and distributed. If, and only if, the hydrogen comes from renewable sources are we better off. If it comes from oil pumped out of the ground, you may as well just burn the oil in your car and not waste some of it turning it into hydrogen. The key concept here is 'carbon impact'. Efficiency is not an interchangeable unit.

Using bio-derived fuel for cars seems like an eminently sensible idea. Plants are 'only' 30 odd% 'efficient' at turning sunlight into chemical bonds but since sunlight is free, we can discard it from our efficiency calculation and focus on whether it is economic (and some parts of the world are very good at growing things, energy security will come with multiple suppliers and a world-wide distribution network). At the moment, i suspect ethanol subsidies are a more important driver for bio-fuels than GHG emmissions and i think we should be doing more research in bio-tech in this area.

Nuclear - the pros and cons. I don't believe any of the numbers thrown around for justification. not pro, not anti - i don't think anyone actually knows, the whole thing is a viper's nest of lies, damned lies and dodgy business cases. Let's not forget, these are the same people who told us it'd be too cheap to meter, store their waste in 'temporary' pools for decades or dump it in the nearest ocean trench. I don't trust you 'cause you haven't earned it...

Geothermal isn't exactly impossible - if we can send someone 100,000 km's to the moon, why can't we dig a hole 10 km straight down? There's enough heat under (deep under) everyone's feet, if we really wanted we could figure out how to extract it over the next 50 years, but i'm not going to hold my breath.

Another comment at The Ergosphere that i wholeheartedly support - plug-in cars. The potential for spontaneously creating microgrids is huge. When Toyota realises that they are in the portable power pack business, we're gonna see some radical changes to the 'way things have always been done'. Where you get that electricity though is the key question, which grumbling and swearing, leads me back to nuclear (or preferably/in tandem, geothermal)...


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