Anyone suggesting nuclear technology provides the best solution to our global energy shortage is almost immediately dismissed or attacked because of supposedly, “how dangerous all that ‘nukular’ stuff is…” Most Environmentalists go into immediate paroxysms of fear, paranoia and loathing for anyone that would suggest such a thing. However, the evidence shows not only is it the safest, cleanest and most reliable in its current 3rd generation incarnations but the next generation will be an order of magnitude better, cheaper, far cleaner and safer.
Fourth generation (4G) reactors have many different designs, almost all them better than 3G designs and light years away from 2G designs. The difference between 2G and 4G nuclear reactor tech is similar to the difference between a Bell Telephone 2500 Deskset from the 60s and a Motorola Dynatac (“The Brick”) cellphone from the 80s. Or, the difference between the Dynatac and the iPhone 6. They’re not really even comparable except in the fundamentals that they both employ electronic circuitry and electrical signalling. That’s about it. Similar things can be said about 2G and 4G nuclear reactor tech; both use a form of fission. That’s about it.
The genesis of the current heightened interest in 4G nuclear power comes from a 2013 movie release at the Sundance film festival of “Pandora’s Promise” Of course the film, its creator and participants have been attacked from virtually every possible standpoint by other environmentalists and climate change interest groups. They do that because the movie breaks just about every myth that exists about the present and future nuclear power industry. Primarily it breaks the myth that “renewable” solar and wind power is going to provide any long term solution to power generation in order to reduce the carbon output of modern civilization. It also breaks the myth of atomic power as a dirty, dangerous technology.
The key to all energy production/consumption is “energy density.” Energy density is the amount of energy stored in a given system or region of space per unit volume or mass, though the latter is more accurately termed specific energy. Solar and wind-based generation has exceptionally low energy density. Thus, the giant wind turbine and solar panel farms. Carbon-based energy generation (primarily coal and natural gas) provides much higher energy density than solar or wind power. Nuclear energy provides orders of magnitude higher energy density than carbon-based sources. In addition, the unreliable nature of wind and solar renewables (no power when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine) means that a “watt-for-watt” back-up must be built to provide 7×24 power. Currently that means carbon-based (mostly natural gas) plants.
To provide the electrical energy for the US requires approximately 1,100,000 Mega-watts (Mw) of peak generating capacity to meet summertime consumption. As of 2013, the total of all “renewable sources,” other than hydroelectric, was 6% of total generation. Globally renewables, other than hydroelectric, account for less than 1%. In the US, carbon-based generation is 68%. To significantly impact those proportions would literally require millions more acres for distributed solar and wind power generation. It is not a matter of opinion, it is a simple matter of physics. There will also be no appreciable expansion of hydroelectric power (7%) in the US since most every river source for major dam projects have already been sited. That leaves nuclear, alone, as the alternative.
The great news is that 4G generation has many advantages even over 3G reactors. It is cheaper, safer, requiring far less safety and control systems and has far more inherently stable designs. Of the six classes of designs, the best of class seems to be the Gas- and Sodium-cooled Fast Breeder Reactors. However, the Molten Salt Reactor and Integral Fast Reactor designs also offer very attractive possibilities. All of these various designs offer many different inherent safety and low-waste possibilities.
Beside being inherently stable and safe, one of the key characteristics is elimination of more than 98% of the primary nuclear waste (the most radioactive) over current operating lightwater designs like Fukushima Dai-Ichi. Eliminating 98% of the primary waste over 3G reactors is not the only advantage of 4G waste. It also means a 300 year half-life before it is completely safe instead of the 300,000 year half-life of the 2G and 3G lightwater reactor’s primary waste. That eliminates a huge storage hurdle.
Modularity of design in the best classes will cure several other significant problems with existing US power generation of all types: Long-lines transmission loss, grid vulnerability and reliability. With the reduced cost, simpler control and significantly fewer added safety systems due to inherently safer and stable 4G designs, the plant footprint can be far smaller than current 2G and 3G plants. Smaller plant and output capacity means plant siting can be much closer to the consumers and have more redundancy. Those factors will reduce long lines transmission and the consequent construction, maintenance and vulnerabilities those lines carry along with their electrical transmission.
The next key consideration is the fuel source cycle usable by 4G reactors. The best choice is Thorium-232. Thorium-232 is a naturally occurring element 3-4 times more abundant than uranium . Thorium-232 requires no enrichment and can be used directly in the fuel cycle to “breed” it’s own fuels and consume most of its own waste in the fuel cycle. It is a “fertile” rather than a “fissile” material. Another of the many advantages is that Uranium-233 produced from Thorium -232 tends to be very unattractive for weapons production for a variety of reasons. Finally, there is enough high-grade thorium in the US to likely power all of the electrical generation needs for more than 1000 years. As the World Nuclear Association explains some of the possible benefits
“The thorium fuel cycle offers enormous energy security benefits in the long-term – due to its potential for being a self-sustaining fuel even without the need for fast neutron reactors. It is therefore an important and potentially viable technology that seems able to contribute to building credible, long-term nuclear energy scenarios.”
Some of the largest and highest quality deposits of Thorium-232 in the world are in the Rocky Mountain west. The Lemhi Pass, along the Idaho-Montana border, has one of the world’s largest known high-quality thorium deposits. The US is estimated to be second only to India in overall deposits. Even 2G and 3G generation nuclear power is far and away safer than carbon-based sources when one adds up the worldwide mining, drilling, processing, refining and transportation deaths and injuries each year in those industries. That doesn’t count the estimated 3 million deaths every year from particulate- and pollution-caused respiratory illness from burning carbon fuels. Fourth generation nuclear power industrial deaths and injuries, of any type, will be vanishingly small compared to carbon-based generation.
The largest current problem with 4G reactor development and construction in the US is the ignorance and irrational hysteria the term “nuclear power” strikes in the heart of the average citizen. Years of hysterical anti-nuclear propaganda and a population with a low scientific literacy rate have done their job. While China, India, Russia, France and others are moving to proliferate 4G power plants to supply their electrical energy needs, the US sits on its thumbs. The average age of our nuclear plant infrastructure is 33 years and we haven’t constructed a single new nuclear plant in more than 18 years. While the rest of the world moves to solve the carbon-based generation and energy problems, the US is frozen in time.
China was just reported to have passed the US in purchasing power equivalent GDP at $17.6 trillion. It appears that the future of cheap, reliable and safe non-carbon-based energy belongs to them and the others moving that direction. How long will it take to shake the local , state and federal officials, environmentalists, thought-leaders and verily, the citizens of the US out of their stupor and start moving again? The future is only ours to lose.
The historic vote in Scotland against independence has separatists around the world crying in their Scottish ale. Although, while not successful, subdivision of centralized government is still a boon and not a bust for such causes going forward. However, folks here should not confuse what might have happened in Scotland with what should happen in the United States.
There is a significant difference between Scotland’s historic try at separating from the United Kingdom and secession of a state from the United States. The UK IS a top-down centralized, legal, national state in two forms; monarchical and by governmental structure. The Union of United States of America IS NOT regardless of the clever ploys and propaganda by nationalists over 150 years to get the population to believe otherwise. Nowhere in our FEDERATED UNION legally, structurally or organizational was such formation put into it’s organizing documents. We are a group of federated nation-states, each (supposedly) independent joined together by contract and the common bond of principles instituted in a Constitution.
This point, due to the lost understanding of the population, cannot be emphasized enough. The United States were never formed to be governed or operated as or by a centralized, national government. A federal government was formed as an agent government subservient to the States in every aspect EXCEPT to carry out a strictly defined and limited (17 in the original) set of delegated powers.
The myth of a top-down, legal, national state is solely an invention of nationalists and a complacent, dumbed down or ignorant population and the political class they elected. It is a complete misnomer that the United States “is” anything relevant at all. It should be stated in the plural form, not singular. The proper way to refer to the United States should always be that the United States “are” a constitutionally (contractually) joined entity of co-equal nation-states. The Federal government is only there TO SERVE those nation-states NOT RULE them. It serves them by staying within the strictly limited bounds specified in the contract. Otherwise it is a complete contradiction to the phrase, “free and independent states.”
That is why Secession or legal independence is not a useful tool for the any of the United States to employ. They are already “free and independent.” The problem, as Chief Justice John Roberts recently pointed out in his leading opinion in the NFIB v. Sebelius holding, is that “The States are separate and independent sovereigns. Sometimes they have to act like it.” That quote is an earthquake that very few have felt yet in the states. Most legislators, Governors and State Attorney Generals have yet to wake up and smell the coffee on a wide variety of State powers that have been neglected for more than a century.
On every thing from control of public lands, to environmental regulation, education, endangered species and economic activity the states are treated as bastard baby brothers and sisters because they ACT LIKE THEY ARE. No state need to secede, nor likely will be successful in doing so. What needs to happen is to take the proper control of their own destinies as independent nation-states of the world and once again subordinate the federal government in EVERY AREA EXCEPT those listed powers of the Constitutions. The best way to do that is by the recent example given by Colorado in approving Amendment 64. “Just Say No” to federal prohibition and control of Marijuana within their borders. Opting -out and interposition of the state between its citizens and the Feds can be accomplished again and again and again in every area of interference.
They only have to follow the Nike model of governance. “Just Do It!”
In my home state of Idaho, during the recent primary and at the Republican State Convention, a phrase kept coming up again and again: “This fight is for the heart and soul of the Party!” The various factions in conflict within the Idaho Republican Party thought that gave special emphasis for their faction’s case. Actually, that thinking is pretty small potatoes (excuse the pun but this is Idaho). The fight we have going on is really for the heart and soul of America and the people of the world.
Everywhere we turn these days the various struggles here and around the world are between those that love freedom and liberty and the tyrants, dictators, narcissistic megalomaniacs and every day statist, a-hole controller-types that seem to inhabit almost every nook and cranny of every culture one could name. The biggest conflict of our existence is the never-ending struggle between those who want (or demand) to control every one else and those who reject the various attempts at control.
The natural tendency of the vast majority of individuals is to be free to live their life as they choose in a peaceful manner without interference and without interfering with others. However, that tendency always runs headlong into the 1-2% who, by golly, believe they were put here to tell everyone else how to live those lives. Or, they are the violent malcontents who create the problems within every civil society.
What most fail to recognize is that the controllers inhabit every portion of the political spectrum including that portion of so-called “anarchists.” The only difference is that the proportion of controllers that inhabit the opposite end, the Social Democrats to Communists, is much higher than the anarchy end of the spectrum. They are larger in number because the mass tends to go along with their schemes due to belief in the “Six Political Illusions.”
Compounding the convenience of negligent attachment to various liberal utopias, the vast majority of individuals also tend not to engage in the various political struggles of their time. That flows from the hope to avoid all the apparent nastiness and drudgery that comes with being active, involved citizens. Instead, they prefer to believe that a Republic somehow runs largely on autopilot and that somehow their complacency will be a ‘free lunch’ of good governance.
That leaves the various types of loathsome personalities free to occupy the space with open-field running in front of them. At best the electorate gets a mixed bag of benignly incompetent, statist-narcissists as candidates, then electeds, to carry water for the status quo. That leaves the field open for a small number of controllers to run the show. And the damage done continues to pile up, unresolved.
There will be no change as long as this “comfort paradigm” is maintained. Change only comes as an explosive series of reality checks which overcome the long held status quo. Those explosive realities began going off on 9/11/2001, politically, financially, fiscally and culturally ever since. With the center of both major parties failing to act to repair any of the damage done, they have instead proceeded to make it much worse. As our state GOP is learning it’s an evolutionary process, a “back-to-the-future” re-establishment of principles that have been corrupted or forgotten over decades. It’s not reliance on the same ol,’ same ol’ candidates, nostrums and the re-emergence of the Chamber of Commerce Republicans that’s going to fix ANY of this mess, they created.
Some will argue, as they drone on in various corners of the Republican Party, that the current compromised principles represents the “new reality.” They argue, very ineffectively but with passion, that it is they who recognize “reality” for the Republican Party of 2014. It’s amazing they do it with a straight face given the mess the entire country is in, largely because of the compromise and outright ignorance of principles by many on the right for more than 85 years. To them, a President such as Calvin Coolidge was an extremist, even though he was light years ahead in understanding the importance of a much toned-down presidency. Many Republicans and Conservatives have grown to promote the ‘modern’ imperial presidency as much as the Democrats and Progressives.
The one reality that the old guard establishment seems to fail at recognizing is that their time is running out, fast. All one has to do is to look at the graying visages of any Republican Central Committee. Virtually none of the youngest Republicans and conservatives coming on board right now have any solid connection or agreement with the old guard, Nixon-Bush Republicans. The younger ones see the failures of those Republicans as readily as they see those of the Democrat Progressives. They are smarter, more knowledgeable and very passionate on the Constitution and the Republic than their elders were at the same age or many of them are, even now. They’re wired and wireless and share information lightening fast. The short of it is; they scare the hell out of the old guard and, so, the establishment reacts with contempt and attempts to restrict and control them while smiling to their faces and pretending to welcome them.
However, the old guard/establishment cannot stop them. Hence the current travails of many state GOPs, around the country, just like Idaho’s. Can Idaho, or any other, Republicans mend their rifts? Or will the Republican controllers continue the slow disintegration and marginalization? At this point the answer, my friend, seems to still be “blowing in the wind.”
The Blog-and Punditspheres are once again agog lately with the failed state of Iraq and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (or “Levant,” take your choice). They want you and me once again to agree to get bogged down in the sands of the Middle East. The same Left-Right, train full-passenger list of Bozos is trotted out on every pundit show to excuse away every mistake made, explain away every previous failure and point the blame to everyone else except those that caused those failures. The only question that remains is how many of us will once again fall for this sideshow and allow the United States to lose more blood and our fast dwindling treasure, in the largest global train wreck of the 21st Century (and maybe the 20th combined)?
It is really remarkable how we allow the same blithering idiots who set-up and put us into this mess continue to fill the airwaves with their prognostications and laughable nostrums to “fix Iraq.” Those in official positions that pushed and drove us there should be tried, convicted of public policy malfeasance and stripped of all their assets to be paid to the families of the military dead and wounded, tarred-and-feathered and “run out of town on a rail.”
They have bankrupted the United States, made us even more vulnerable to attack, and squandered most of the goodwill that was left us since WWII and the Cold War. As predicted, the destruction of Iraq has destabilized the Middle East and sent tens, if not hundreds of thousands into the Madrassas and subsequently into the creation of an ever-growing panoply of terrorist groups.
We have no more capital of any kind to expend, our “betters” have blown it all like the drunken politcos they are. Anyone that would either follow or show any tolerance of the NeoCon and Progressive miscreants, who continue to find new incompetencies to foist on the People, should all be drafted into the military immediately and shipped off to be our “boots on the ground” in every overseas conflict they have put us into.
To stop the devolving cycle of conflict, disengagement and more conflict, it must first be recognized that most Middle East (ME) countries should have broken up along very different borders decades ago. The borders of almost every ME country were drawn by outsiders and their various colonial or imperial empires. Nothing will be repaired for the current inhabitants until once again partitioned into traditional and historic borders. They will not look anything like today’s borders.
So how long will the current train wreck go on and how long until the next one hits? doesn’t appear we’ll have long to wait at this point.
In 2006 Gen. William Odom, former Director of the National Security Agency, was one of the few and first to break ranks and declare that Iraq was, “the greatest strategic disaster in American history.” Very few of his colleagues have done the same.
So…all the genius’ out there, Republican and Democrat, are once again getting an enormously expensive lesson in Realpolitik. Let’s hit a few of their names; Kristol, Wolfowitz, Cheney, Bremer, Bolton, McCain, Clinton, Feinstein, Pelosi, Panetta……and let’s not forget Bush and Obama. Then there’s a whole Yacht full of Generals and Admirals who simply follow along in order to protect their pensions and rank rather than do the honorable thing and resign.
The real problem is that the lessons involved have been and will continue to be paid by the front-line rank-and-file military members, the American taxpayer and our grandchildren, not the fools who get us into these Wars of Opportunity. Those Wars which all can see come at the expense of American security and our strategic defense posture in the world.
After attacking Iraq with “shock and awe,” expending hundreds of thousands of American and Iraqi lives, hundreds of thousands of other casualties, trillions of dollars, hollowing out the American military and moving toward plunging an entire region into endless war we come to the inevitable result. The Neocon-chickenhawks and Progressive-liberal warmongers each move through the media punditsphere shoring up their position with endless excuses, new and old justifications. So when will they pay the price? Or do they always get off scot-free?
The Bozos that have been running this bus off a cliff for more than a decade deserve nothing less than public trial, impeachment, imprisonment and perhaps even an oldtimey public floggin’ or two. My son keeps telling me, “we need a return to using the stocks.” I think he might be right. Instead, we do nothing to the perpetrators of all the follow-on death and destruction.
Every excuse that can be imagined will once more be trotted out to basically say, “It’s not our fault. No one could have known it would all fall apart!” That line of total bullshit is going to be run out in front of the public again and again in the coming months. They saw none of this coming. Not the dissolution of Iraq as a state, or Syria, Egypt or any of the others. All of our experts who demand we do as they tell us and then fail at every turn to see the outcome in foreign policy, in economic bubbles and monetary crisis, cultural and moral destruction of our entire country.
It’s almost as if they had no understanding whatsoever that virtually every country in the Middle East has completely artificial and arbitrary national boundaries drawn by the victors of WW1 and WW2 and various colonial empires (which in several cases are the same players). It is the same story in virtually every sphere of public policy that is being destroyed by the comic road show that is the Right/Left political and “expert” class. The track record of our “leaders” is abysmal and yet the American public continues to follow like hungry puppies after the bitch.
In March, 2003 I wrote the initial essay that became the Foreword (click on “look inside” the cover on the Amazon page) for the intricately researched “Petrodollar Warfare” by William Clark. That Foreword detailed, almost as a blow-by-blow script with near precision, the events that have occurred since then. It didn’t take a genius to be able to predict the flow of events that have transpired in that region or in our economy and policy structure since.
I’m just wondering if Americans are really starting to understand that the Left-Right ideological paradigm and its “expert” outliers are the real enemy here. An enemy that soon must be expunged from the American political structure and replaced with principled and disciplined individuals of apparently uncommon common sense. Or will they instead continue to play dumb and take their cues from the corrupt opportunists and politicians who infest the body politic like a viral infection?
We can have hope for only 2016 I fear as there doesn’t appear to be enough movement yet in 2014. The American public is still largely in a collective coma from the look of it.