Jesus, the NRC, and Nuclear Power

This is probably the first time that Jesus has ever been talked about in the same breath as nuclear power and not as an expletive.  Just bear with me for a moment.  I am not trying to be cute or sacrilegious.

In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the parable of the talents. It goes like this:

14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.

15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.

16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.

17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.

18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.

19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.

20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.

21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.

23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:

25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.

26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:

27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.

28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.

The NRC, of course, in my analogy, is the wicked and slothful servant who went and buried the talent (nuclear energy) since it was created 4 decades ago.  Go ahead and lump the DOE in with the NRC.  It is also wicked and slothful.  The NRC was created by an act of Congress and began operations on January 19, 1975. What has happened since then? Not much of anything.

“Of the 100 reactors now operating in the U.S., ground was broken on all of them in 1977 or earlier.

There has been no ground-breaking on new nuclear plants in the United States since 1974. Up until 2013, there had also been no ground-breaking on new nuclear reactors at existing power plants since 1977. Then in 2012, the NRC approved construction of four new reactors at existing nuclear plants. Construction of the Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station Units 2 and 3 began on March 9, 2013. A few days later, on March 12, construction began on the Vogtle Electric Generating Plant Units 3 and 4. In addition, TVA’s new reactor at the Watts Bar Nuclear Generating Station is at an advanced stage, after construction was resumed after being halted in 1988.”

Oh, and the wicked and slothful NRC gets paid $279/hour to destroy the industry it regulates.  The power to tax is the power to destroy. So, then the power to regulate must also be the power to destroy.

How could we ever think that these jokers would expand the nuclear enterprise, instead of acting just like any bureaucracy and protecting only themselves?

Shame on us for believing that they share a desire to bring nuclear power to the world.

Take from the NRC/DOE (and don’t forget that other evil, FERC) their oversight of all things nuclear and give it to the states and counties.  I am certain that some of the states will create identical NRCs at the state level, but I am also sure that some of the states and counties that are starved for prosperity will adopt a rational approach to nuclear power regulation.  Such is the nature of decentralizing the cosmos that has accumulated on the Potomac.




Intellectual Discovery and Cognitive Dissonance

I enjoy discovering new things, things that I never knew about or never thought of before.  Even when I have spent 30 years studying nuclear energy as an avocation, I find out things that didn’t know.

Recently, I was reading AtomicInsights and followed a link to a guest post by Len Koch, who worked for Idaho National Lab (and its predecessor) on the Experimental Breeder Reactor I and II.  I actually visited EBR-1 a couple of years ago and was impressed to see the technology that was invented before I was born.

What I learned about EBR-II was more interesting.  It produced power for 30 years for the INL site, which, by the way, is very remote and desolate, and it did so as it was producing more fissile material.

Anyway, Len mentioned that the DOE (US Department of Energy) has in its custody 700,000 tons of depleted uranium (DU), which can be bred into fissile plutonium.  Len has a photo of a container of DU, which typically contains 14 tons.  This is the energy equivalent of 100 million barrels of oil.  The DOE has about 50,000  of these containers! This amount of potential energy is incomprehensible!  I love to discover things like this!

Depleted Uranium Cylinder

Deplete Uranium Storage Container

One hundred million barrels of oil times 50,000 containers of DU = 5 trillion barrels of oil! (Other countries have even more DU.)

What are we waiting for? I, for one, am tired of the lame fear and pathetic excuses peddled by fossil fuel interests (and others) that keep us from using this virtually limitless source of energy. That is my cognitive dissonance.


The Tale of Two Power Plants

There are two power plants in Nebraska that vividly illustrate the difference between coal and nuclear power, as explained on pages 38 and 39 of Terrestrial Energy.

Terrestial Energy“Let us look at how this works in real life. The North Omaha Power Plant in Omaha,Nebraska, produces 500 megawatts (MW) of electricity, about one-fifth of the power needed to run the city. Every three days, a 110-car unit train arrives, each car is loaded with 125 tons of coal. One car produces twenty minutes of electricity. The plant occupies more than two square miles—much of it needed to store the mountains of coal.

Each day’s consumption of 4,500 tons of coal at North Omaha will combine with atmospheric oxygen to form 15,000 tons of carbon dioxide…Across the country, America has 600 similar coal plants that provide half our electricity and put 3 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year—10 percent of the world’s total. This is the greatest single source of global greenhouse gases on the planet.

About thirty miles south of Omaha lies the Cooper Nuclear Station on the banks of the Missouri River. The plant occupies two square miles, slightly less than the coal station. Every eighteen months, a single tractor-trailer arrives carrying several dozen bundles of 18-foot nuclear fuel rods. These rods are only mildly radioactive and can be handled safely with gloves. They are loaded into the reactor core, where they will undergo nuclear fission for three years. After the fuel rods are spent, they will be removed from the reactor core looking exactly as they did when they went in, except they will be highly radioactive. They can be stored in a 40-foot-deep, on-site “swimming pool,” where their radioactivity dissipates in six feet of water. There, they can remain for decades. After three years, when the radioactivity has dropped by half, they may be moved to nearby outdoor dry casks. There they may remain for almost a century. The Cooper Station produces no sulfur emissions, no mercury, no soot, no particulate matter, no ash, no slag, and no greenhouse gases. And it does produce more electricity than North Omaha—750 MW.

Terrestrial [(nuclear)] energy is something completely new in human history, qualitatively different from anything we get from the sun. That is why there has been such a lag in public understanding. Solar energy, in its many forms, has accustomed us to the idea that using energy must create huge environmental impacts, either by polluting or by occupying vast tracts of land. Terrestrial energy is so highly concentrated that it can provide us with enormous amounts of energy while barely leaving a trace. Combined with the contributions of solar power, terrestrial energy offers us the opportunity to power the world while eliminating all manners of environmental degradation.”

So there are the advantages of nuclear; no ash, no soot, no mercury, no exhaust!


Supercritical CO2

If you have been reading about advanced nuclear reactors, including molten salt reactors, it won’t be long before you start hearing about supercritial CO2.

After I explain what is meant by supercritical CO2, you will understand why they are a match made in heaven.

Supercritical CO2 is just carbon dioxide at a temperature and pressure where it continues to act like a gas, but has the density of a liquid.

Watch this video for the first 30 seconds and then at 3:30 for a minute

Why is this property of CO2 important?

Because it means that turbo-machinery that uses CO2 can be made much smaller than conventional steam turbines.Rankine vs Brayton turbine_0

The low pressure section of a typical steam turbine is about 12 feet in diameter, while a similar power supercritical CO2 turbine would be about 1 foot in diameter.  You can imagine the precision metallurgy in both turbines, with a lot less material in the supercritical CO2 turbine!

Nuclear power plants produce heat that is turned into mechanical energy usually by heating water into steam, which then spins a turbine connected to a electrical generator.

Coal-fired power plants produce heat by combusting carbon with atmospheric oxygen to produce heat.  The heat is turned into mechanical energy and then electrical energy using the same technology of steam turbine and electrical generator.

The maximum conversion efficiency of heat to mechanical energy is limited by Carnot’s theorem

Efficiency = 1 – Tc/Th, where Tc is the cold temperature where heat is exhausted and Th is the hottest temperature in the turbine (without getting into a lot of geek talk)

Since molten salt reactors operate hotter than most typical solid fueled reactors, they can turn more of the heat into useful energy. This coupled with much smaller supercritical CO2 turbines can lead to considerable savings and increased efficiency.

Check out this video of research that Sandia is conducting:

Energy from Thorium also as a good explanation of supercritical CO2.



Kirk Sorensen of Flibe Energy

I got to go to the University of Utah a week and a half ago and see Kirk Sorensen speak about thorium energy.IMG_0629I haven’t seen the videos of the presentation yet, but I will keep you posted.  I did see the YouTube video of a TEDx talk Kirk gave and it was very similar. So, enjoy!


New York

I really like this picture of the New York Skyline.  It reminds me of human creativity and society. Millions of people live and breathe and have lives in this city, as reflected by the photo. The new World Trade Tower One (on the left) has since been completed.Downtown_Manhattan_from_heli-April2012 I guess the electrical service to that building alone is 30 MW and probably lower Manhattan maybe totals 500 MW, maybe even 1 GW. (Maybe someone out there knows what the electrical load is and can comment.)

New York is a very concentrated, urban city. I snicker to myself when alternative types talk about powering society with wind or solar power.  Can you imagine the number of windmills, solar panels, and battery backups it would take to power New York 24/7?  Probably about the land area of New Jersey for solar, with the coast plastered 5 rows deep with windmills!

Human society requires concentrated, clean, safe, abundant, reliable energy like that contained in the nucleus of thorium, uranium, and plutonium.

So, if you are a green, please ask yourself if you’re really just advocating a much smaller human population when you talk about wind and solar, or maybe you’re not bright enough to know that’s what the alternatives will lead to?

Musings on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century

The last couple of weeks have given me a Christmas break from the normal routine of work, work, and more work. The mental pause has allowed me to reflect on nuclear power and wonder if I will ever see it flourish? There are many reasons why it is not doing so now and I could list them if I had the time or the inclination, but it mostly boils down to the hot and cold warriors wanting every atom of U235 for bomb making and the entrenched fossil fuel purveyors and their paid stooges in Congress.

Be that as it may, a million eV is still more than one eV and no amount of lying, exaggeration, distortion, obfuscation, fear mongering, etc. can change that, so I still think that nuclear power is the future. But, when?

I don’t expect this website to convert the whole of California to my way of thinking before we have a nuclear renaissance. Actually, I don’t expect to convert any one in California. I’ve pondered about that too. I suspect that there are those in CA that want everything to be more expensive in the CA so that fewer people come and fewer still stay. Getting rid of base load nuclear power is one way to achieve that, while funneling money to those entrenched fossil fuel interests.

I don’t claim to have a crystal ball on what needs to be done to bring about the nuclear renaissance, I only have a few ideas that I believe will help. I feel slightly motivated as I write this in the evening before I go back to work after my two week break. I like lists and so here it goes:

  1. Move your company to Canada where there is legislation that supports licensing of new reactor designs
  2. Move to other off shore locations
  3. Start a massive and expensive lobbying campaign for new US laws that support licensing of new reactor designs. (This reminds me of what Lew Rockwell once said, “Political victories are hard won and easily reversed.” Needless to say, I don’t favor this one.)
  4. Develop your new reactor design under the authority of the US Army, so the NRC doesn’t have a say in what you do. (This is the path chosen by Flibe.)
  5. Pray for the feddle gummint to default on its financial obligations. Then when they aren’t looking, build your new reactor. Give the electrical power at cut rates to some big local cities to get them in your good graces. This should buy their support if Uncle Sam comes calling.
  6. Ask Barrack to sign an executive order stating that licenses are not needed for experimental reactors, but are under the auspices of the DOE and the national labs.
  7. Lobby your congressperson to defund the NRC and turn the regulations of nuclear over to the states.
  8. Have Texas pave the way for the rest of us by trying number 7.
  9. Have a drug cartel in Mexico build a nuclear power plant in Tijuana and sell the power at loan shark rates to the Californians. (Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and Oregon take note.)
  10. Vote California out of the union and then stage a legislative takeover of the NRC. (I know, I’m a hater, or so I’m told. I really don’t have anything against CA other than scorn for shutting down a $13 billion asset just because they don’t like nuklear.)
  11. Have Congress pass a simple law (an oxymoron, I know) that says the NRC “must issue” a license after filing out a one page application, similar to concealed carry permits.
  12. Defund the NRC, EPA, and DOE. Heaven knows we could use the money elsewhere.
  13. Do nothing and wait for gasoline to someday hit $20 per gallon. Maybe then, Americans will accept nuclear power at 4 cents per kWh.
  14. Get rid of FERC (defund) and let other political entities (cities, towns, counties, etc. contract with providers of nuclear power directly on their own terms)
  15. Regulatory arbitrage similar to what Elon Musk is doing with his “Gigafactory”.

I know, some of these ideas are a bit tongue in cheek (or outright offensive), but progress is made (sometimes) by thinking outside the box.

Kirk Sorensen in Utah!!!

Kirk Sorensen will be presenting a lecture on LFTR technology at the University of Utah on Tuesday, January 13th at 2pm local time. Interested parties are invited to attend.

Intermountain Network and Scientific Computation Center (INSCC) at the University of Utah, 155 South 1452 East – Salt Lake City, UT 84112



“…the already mined depleted uranium in the United States alone is enough to supply the entire energy demand of all of humanity for almost a century if converted to plutonium.”

So concludes an excellent and detailed article by guest commenter, NNadir on I highly recommend the website and the article.

There are so many solutions to the problem of supplying energy to humanity that it reminds me of a scene from the comedy movie, “Bruce Almighty”. Jim Carrey’s character is praying for sign.  God sends him sign after sign, but he doesn’t recognize them or respond to them in any way.

Are we stuck in the same “scene” with so many different ways of obtaining energy from nuclear binding energy, but refusing to see or use any of them?



Winter Arrives

20141003_185800After and long, mild and beautiful fall, winter came with a vengeance. The wind blew for three straight days out of the canyon and the overnight temps were in the single digits.  Then, on Thursday, the snow came.  It has since warmed up and now it is raining gently.

So, what you say? Unless you live in the Sun Belt, the weather probably sucks were you are too.  In fact, it may suck even worse, like in the Dakotas or Wisconsin or the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.IMG_0999The point that I want to make is that so called alternative energy sources like wind and solar are unable to deliver when the energy is most needed, in winter on a cold, cloudy day.

Utah is famous for winter inversions where the overcast traps cold air in the windless valleys for weeks at a time.  Of what use are solar panels and wind turbines then? Can the energy they sometimes produce be stored for weeks to be delivered on those gloomy days?

One small modular reactor of any flavor you prefer (molten salt, thorium, uranium, plutonium, light water, heavy water, fast, slow, or epithermal, etc.) could provide my entire town with electricity and even heat a substantial portion of it, day and night, for decades without refueling.

Most of the US has similarly harsh winters.  They are only endurable because we have access to relatively cheap fossil fuels, but for how much longer?  And, there is no reason why the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of humans can’t be unlocked to make energy even cheaper and more abundant.  Just get the incumbents and their paid federal obfuscators out of the way.


PS. I wrote this back in November.