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Earth Power

The EPA Carbon Plan: Coal Loses, But Who Wins? 268

Lasrick writes: Mark Cooper with one of the best explanations of some of the most pressing details on the new EPA rule change: 'The claims and counterclaims about EPA's proposed carbon pollution standards have filled the air: It will boost nuclear. It will expand renewables. It promotes energy efficiency. It will kill coal. It changes everything. It accomplishes almost nothing.' Cooper notes that although it's clear that coal is the big loser in the rule change, the rule itself doesn't really pick winners in terms of offering sweet deals for any particular technology; however, it seems that nuclear is also a loser in this formulation, because 'Assuming that states generally adhere to the prime directive of public utility resource acquisition—choosing the lowest-cost approach—the proposed rule will not alter the dismal prospects of nuclear power...' Nuclear power does seem to be struggling with economic burdens and a reluctance from taxpayers to pay continuing subsides in areas such as storage and cleanup. It seems that nuclear is another loser in the new EPA rule change.
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The EPA Carbon Plan: Coal Loses, But Who Wins?

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  • by Ichijo ( 607641 ) on Friday June 20, 2014 @06:23PM (#47285365) Journal

    I think you can be sure no matter how this plays out, power is going to be more expensive

    If you ignore external costs, yes.

    In addition, if the coal-fired plants are removed from the equation before replacement sources of power are in place, there will be power shortages.

    If electricity will be priced below market equilibrium, yes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 20, 2014 @06:27PM (#47285395)

    The American people lose as more expensive less reliable power is substituted for base load coal power.

    Obama said the price of electricity will necessarily sky rocket...yup for once he told the truth.

    And for what? Some green energy pipe dream. If their plan works as they intend, according to EPA's own models (MAGICC) we would avert 0.02 degrees of warming !
    Industry, especially high tech industry like chip fabs cannot have power interruptions, even a few seconds shuts the line down, scraping wafers and days at best. This past cold winter here in Illinois, the grid was taxed to the maximum. If we remove solid base load power there will be brown or blackouts when it is minus 10 degrees .

    The earth atmosphere has not warmed for 12-17 years depending on which temperature series you look at. This shows at a time of the most CO2 emitted (25% of historical amounts) temperature has not gone up, so the computer models are wrong.

    It is not about air pollution, which is declining in the US, it is about destroying the energy and manufacturing infrastructure in the US.

  • by Scottingham ( 2036128 ) on Friday June 20, 2014 @06:35PM (#47285451)
    Of course nuclear power doesn't seem viable if you look at it's current state! All the reactors we have now were designed in the '50s. They use water as a moderator (ie thermal neutrons) and coolant, requiring complex assemblies of fuel rods and control rods. Thermal neutrons also cause way more incidental nuclear waste (irradiated steel cores, wires, etc). They use
    It doesn't have to be that way! The most recent design for a fast reactor seems to be the most legitimate and feasible new design to date. It's called the dual fluid reactor. []

    It separates the fuel loop from the coolant loop. This has numerous advantages. You can alter the rate of either independently to best suit the current need. The coolant used isn't liquid sodium. Which, aside from not playing nice with air and water has a low boiling point and high neutron cross section. This reactor uses liquid lead as its coolant. Its so stable and resistant to radiation that the coolant loop can be piped into the non-containment area for power generation. In the papers I've read they mention coupling it to an MHR generator then a super-critical water loop en route to turbines.

    It is engineered to run at 1000C, which at that temperature, makes it possible to do pyro-chemistry with electrodes to filter out the daught products in line with the fuel loop. The separated daughter products are then sent to a passive cooling chamber (the super short lived ones are hooked up to the coolant loop where it contributes to energy production) where they remain hella hot for a few hundred years. Then they become inert. There are supposedly lots of valuble metals after about 90 years that make the waste itself a hot commodity.

    The reactor is designed to be a 2 meter cube, for simple production there are no bowed parts, only 90 angles with straight pipes. A reactor this size can put out 1500MW thermal.

    Couple this with the recent advancement of laser-based particle accelerators and you wouldn't even have to start with enriched fuel! The power required to drive the laser would be
    As Elon Musk would say (probably): Seriously guys, it's the 21st century, act like it!
  • Re:Oy You! (Score:5, Informative)

    by riverat1 ( 1048260 ) on Friday June 20, 2014 @06:56PM (#47285577)

    Because of our dear President's own stance, we will not be opening new nuclear plants until he's gone.

    Perhaps you can explain why the two new units at the Vogtle Plant in Georgia [] were allowed to go through then and even offered federal loan guarantees.

    (From the article): On February 16, 2010, President Obama announced $8.33 billion in federal loan guarantees toward the construction cost,

    Would Obama have done that if he was against nuclear power like you believe?

    Nuclear is the cheapest per megawatt power source we currently have.

    What have you been smoking? The main reason so few nuclear plants have been built in the US since the 1970's was that it was far more expensive than building a coal plant. Now planned coal plants have been cancelled because they weren't expected to be able to compete with solar when they were finished.

    I agree with you that we should reprocess the spent fuel rods.

  • by riverat1 ( 1048260 ) on Friday June 20, 2014 @07:03PM (#47285621)

    Solyndra was just a talking point for the Republicans to pound the President on. The program that the Solyndra loan was a part of was budgeted for a 10 or 11% loss rate and even with Solyndra it still had less than 5% losses. Solyndra lost out because of the unexpected drop in prices of solar modules from China that it couldn't compete with. It's unreasonable to expect that everything that gets tried like this will work out.

  • by stomv ( 80392 ) on Friday June 20, 2014 @07:39PM (#47285813) Homepage

    > I think you can be sure no matter how this plays out, power is going to be more expensive.

    No, you can't be sure of that. Wind power in the central portion of the country is cheaper than coal now. PV is cheaper than market power in the Southwest and the Northeast now. Many coal plants in tUSA are 50+ years old -- they're going to retire soon one way or another. And, not for nothing, wholesale electric power is cheaper now than it was five years ago due to cheap natural gas (and, by the way, switching from coal to gas helps comply with 111(d) and saves money).

    > if the coal-fired plants are removed from the equation before replacement sources of power are in place, there will be power shortage

    If my aunt had nuts, she'd be my uncle. There's absolutely no chance that 111(d) will result in reliability performance below the industry standard 1-day-in-10-years. Just won't happen. Retiring a unit requires years of planning. Google "integrated resource plan IRP" for your favorite utility and hunker down to a ~120 page report, produced every 3-5 years, laying out the company's plan, including projected retirements, new units, new transmission, etc.

    111(d) doesn't require any coal plants to retire. It requires our fraction of electricity generated from coal to be reduced. The coal plants can still be "plugged in" and operated during times of peak load (weekday summer afternoons and winter mornings); what they can't do is operate much the rest of the time. Instead, a combination of new energy efficiency measures, new renewable energy production, more frequent operating of combined cycle natural gas generators, and squeezing even more MWh out of existing nuclear units through uprates or reduced downtimes will be the way states will comply with 111(d).

    Seriously slashdot. Pithy remarks more frequently display ignorance than insightfulness.

  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Friday June 20, 2014 @07:49PM (#47285907) Homepage Journal

    Yes. Because STORAGE was the problem at Fukushima.

    Sorry son. Shitty MANAGEMENT and lazy engineering practice, plus a metric fuckton of "Mother Nature Always Wins"

    The plant actually SURVIVED a magnitude 9.0 earthquake.
    The reason it finally overheated was because the asshats at TEPCO ignored the calls of real engineers for a MUCH higher sea wall. So the tsunami set off by the TÅhoku quake may as well have had valet parking at the reactor when it hit land.

    Right now we have the ability to build reactors that are PASSIVELY safe. It means you don't have to worry about failures in ACTIVE, mechanical cooling systems. When such a reactor is shut down, it dumps its fuel into a dump tank and the entire reactor simply cools off. No need to worry if the generators will kick in. No need to worry if the facility loses power. Natural, powered by a little thing we call GRAVITY. It's about as idiot proof as you're going to get until we figure out how to spot-reverse gravity.

    And yes, there's always going to be SOME waste.

    The stuff that they're pulling out of reactors today? Mildly radioactive. And will be for hundreds or thousands of years.

    The stuff you would pull out of a liquid fuel reactor?

    1: Medically useful.
    2: Shitty bomb-making material.
    3: Scientifically useful (and an element we actually can't get any more of).
    4: HIGHLY radioactive. But INCREDIBLY short-lived. Some of it is gone within hours of extraction. The longest lived stuff will be a few years cooking off. As opposed to MILLENNIA with current solid-fuel reactors.

    Ideal application for reactors such as these is to take them and bury them in concrete. Let them run their usable lifetime and then decommission them. Once it hits EOL, you drain the device and cap it. Then give it a decade or two to cool off (radiologically speaking).

    Maybe we CANNOT guarantee that we can build a facility that'll last thousands of years, through god-knows-what. But storage bunkers intended for product with a 10-50 year shelf-life? Pfft. []

    Half a century (plus) and counting.

    And remember, these things can be fairly compact and relatively light (they were initially designed as a power system for a plane). These things could replace diesel generators and even small hydro installations. WORLDWIDE.

    Yes. Dropping one into the San Andreas Fault, or Yellowstone National Park, or the New Madrid Fault would probably be a FUCKING DUMB IDEA.

    So here's a smarter one. We don't DO that. We drop them in more geologically stable areas instead. []

  • by riverat1 ( 1048260 ) on Friday June 20, 2014 @08:05PM (#47286017)

    The government has been running different programs like that for a long time (more than 50 years) to help encourage new technologies to get off the ground. They always write in a 10 or 15% loss rate into them and the programs seldom reach that rate. In fact the boost to the economy for the ones that do succeed probably far outweigh any losses in the programs.

  • by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Friday June 20, 2014 @09:49PM (#47286535)

    wrong, you are the one short sighted. the truth is use of fossil fuel has increased human lifespan, health, and driven civilization forward, far outweighing the downsides. Now we have alternatives but they are not yet developed enough to be viable replacement globally

  • by sgtsquid ( 1372843 ) on Friday June 20, 2014 @11:10PM (#47286807)
    As a CSU alum, I wouldn't put much faith in anything coming out of there. Most of the admins have Ernie Guevara posters in their offices and a lot of the "research" coming out of there is just laughable. I mean that literally, I have had some good laughs from what passes as research there. When I did my work there I had to pay for it out of my own pocket since I'm not the right race and my work had nothing to do with "social justice". It's been taken over by Mexican nationalists and turned into a 3rd world school.
  • by Enigma2175 ( 179646 ) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @01:25AM (#47287185) Homepage Journal

    The coal plants can still be "plugged in" and operated during times of peak load (weekday summer afternoons and winter mornings); what they can't do is operate much the rest of the time.

    The problem with this is that coal plants can't operate this way. A typical coal plant takes 4-8 hours to reach full power from a warm start and can take 24 hours to cold start. This is why we currently use them for baseload power and use other sources (mostly natural gas and hydro) for load following.

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