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Comment Re:Great, but (Score 0) 96

The entire 'base load' argument is a red herring; energy storage is already fairly mature and will only get better over time. Further, the major users of electrical power - large industries - rarely need constant power and usually schedule their power needs according to availability. This has nothing to do with being 'green'; they do this to minimize costs and have been doing this for as long as electrical power has been in wide use.

Base load power is actually a burden in many circumstances because you have to figure out what to do with all the excess capacity when you're not using it. The 'ideal' power plant would produce power only when it's needed. Wind and solar have power peaks that are somewhat out of phase with demand but a moderate amount of storage is usually enough to deal with this.

Comment Re:Ignorance? (Score 1) 236

Reading the summary, it looks like this is mostly aimed at the biological sciences. In my experience, they could use something like this, as it's quite common for biology textbooks to continuously be 'updated' with recent and unconfirmed discoveries and to state them as facts. I don't 100% blame them though, as biology has been moving so rapidly in the past few decades that even our most basic assumptions (like the 'genetic code') have turned out to be either entirely wrong or at least grossly disjoint with reality.

But in a lot of other sciences, this could do more harm than good. For one thing, what the teacher or textbook writer is ignorant of might NOT be reflective of what the scientific community is ignorant of. It may just be a reflection of the teacher's ignorance.

Comment Re:Long way to go (Score 2) 96

No, it will just destroy the equipment from the intense heat and radiation flux.

The point of aneutronic fusion isn't lifelong operation. You pretty much forfeit any chance of that when you deal with the power fluxes necessary for fusion. The point of aneutronic fusion is elimination or reduction of high-level radioactive wastes which are extremely dangerous and take centuries to decay.

Comment Great, but (Score 1) 96

Tri-alpha's tech is really amazing, it really is. I've read a couple of their papers. They are a talented group and they've got the funding as well.

But let's not kid ourselves here. Fusion is not going to be a realistic energy source any time soon. Further, even if we had fusion power, we probably wouldn't use it, as we already have far cheaper sources of clean power available: http://reneweconomy.com.au/201...

Comment Re:Peer review (Score 0) 186

> I look at as science being willing to point out when it is full of crap and take corrective measures.

Obviously, but the question is whether these corrective measures are enough.

> When you find the same behavior in religion, politics, or other of life's institutions that people tend to take seriously if not put a lot of faith in, then we can talk.

I don't put a lot of faith in them. Actually, I put zero faith in them. Can we still talk? :)

> However, institutionally it has one of the best track records for identifying and removing that folly, even if it takes a while.

Does it?

Comment Re:Peer review (Score 1) 186

I got a PhD recently. I find this news shocking. I'd known of people making up figures or fudging data, but I thought, "Well, there is so much pressure in academia, sometimes people lose the ability to make proper judgements." Not that that makes it ok, of course.

But this is... just downright evil. How do you even get a bunch of co-authors to get on board with something like this? What institution do these people come from?

Damn, I'm definitely not taking any institution seriously when this kind of stuff happens in it.

Comment Re:And I'm going to continue to insist that... (Score 1) 147

Musk's plan is addressed in the article I linked. It's worth a read. A big part of his idea is to build a cheap reusable rocket so that going to Mars isn't as expensive as it is now.

Terraforming Mars is a distant goal and isn't necessary right now. The first habitats on Mars will probably be pressurized tunnels and domes.

Comment And I'm going to continue to insist that... (Score 1) 147

My plan for flapping my arms and attaining supersonic speed is totally feasible. I just need more money for studies.

But seriously though, this whole thing has been an exercise in watching someone (Bas Lansdorp) gradually become educated about space technology and why going to Mars is hard, except his self-education has been happening publicly and somewhat humiliatingly and against his own will. And this is if we're being charitable and assuming it's not a scam.

Elon Musk has an infinitely better plan for going to Mars, and best of all, he has the smarts and the resources to do it. http://waitbutwhy.com/2015/08/...

Comment Re:Good for experiments, not powerplant ready (Score 1) 337

> It sure is since apparently you just walk away from them and leave huge fields of rusting dangerous eyesores.

No you don't. Wind farms are being decommissioned all the time. Don't be so disingenuous.

> At least nuclear waste is out of sight.

And extremely dangerous. I'm talking about the cost of nuclear waste disposal and reactor decommissioning.

> Also nuclear waste is not killing wildlife by the tens of thousands.

Shill argument.

Comment Re:Good for experiments, not powerplant ready (Score 2) 337

Nuclear waste doesn't take up much space, but I fail to see the relevance to the argument. It's easy and (fairly) cheap to decommission wind farms. It's extremely expensive to handle nuclear waste and decommission nuclear power plants.

> Wind proponents seem to forget spinning things require maintenance and eventually simply wear out - who pays to take them down? No-one apparently.

Disingenuous. There is already a huge market for decommissioning wind farms and many places around the world set aside money for this when the farms are being built. On the other hand, the nuclear industry is notorious for not taking decommissioning costs into account (because doing so would make nuclear prohibitively expensive in all but a small fraction of use cases) and leaving taxpayers holding the bag decades later.

Comment Re:Good for experiments, not powerplant ready (Score 1) 337

I wonder when you thorium freaks will get off it. LFTR technology is nowhere near the maturity level for large-scale power production. I'd be surprised if a pilot plant could be built in 30 years. MSRE had numerous serious/fatal problems which LFTR advocates conveniently never mention. Even if LFTR does work, it would likely be INSANELY EXPENSIVE, in terms of final cost per delivered kWh. There are very good reasons why LFTR would be horrendously expensive, and I'll explain them if you want to know. But suffice to say, solar and wind are most definitely far cheaper and could provide us with all the energy we could ever need.

Comment Re:Oh boy, here we go... (Score 1) 413

> Sometimes cost isn't the most important issue. Safety should be

It's possible to get carried away with safety. I think that a minimum standard of safety should be established and then designs should be compared based on that standard. PWRs - especially modern PWRs - are safe by any reasonable standard.

> Look at solar power (something that I'm not really a fan of) - it used to be heinously expensive, but thru research into cell design and improvements in manufacturing, it's really come down in cost to where it's actually cost-effective in some situations.

Not a good analogy. Solar technology benefited from semiconductor advances. Solar panels can be mass produced. You can't mass-produce reactors - not cheaply anyway. Not all things can be made cheaper through mass production. The economics of nuclear actually favor huge, multi-gigawatt, one-off constructions. That's another thing that LFTR proponents often get wrong. Small modular reactors are a step backward in terms of both cost and safety.

Nuclear technology has had 7 decades now to become cheap. It's actually become more expensive over time! (This was due to the realization that, "oh crap, those old reactors were really unsafe!")

> No one has any idea where or how much building a facility to deal with all that wasted fuel will cost, and exactly how well it'll stay in containment for 10k years.

Multiple analyses of this have been carried out. Deep geological storage is by far cheaper than reprocessing. Yucca mountain was a reasonably good site; even better sites are available. The opposition is mostly political rather than based on any sound rational reasoning.

> The real answer to the waste issue is to not generate it in the first place

Then you've effectively made nuclear technology impossible in practice. It is literally impossible to not generate waste. You might be able to not generate high-level waste, but you'll wind up generating more low-level waste than before (this is what reprocessing does; this aspect of the process is rarely discussed). Nuclear is messy. You will always have lots of waste. The physics dictates this.

> it's important, and needs to be a part of the solution.

Meh. Nuclear has so far failed to impress me. I'm open to funding new ideas and proposals. But existing PWR designs are more than enough to meet the niche that nuclear is best suited to (clean baseload power generation near large population and industry centers) and solar is more than enough to meet all the rest of our needs. Thorium solves none of the real issues we are facing and it's unnecessary.

Comment Re:Oh boy, here we go... (Score 1) 413

> That's disingenuous - I've been following the nuclear power saga since the 70's. I majored in physics (ended up w/ a minor) and I've also been inside the control room and containment vessel of an actual commercial PWR and toured a couple of research swimming pool reactors.

None of that is actual knowledge or expertise about nuclear power. Last I checked, you don't learn about the nuclear industry doing a physics degree. At best, you learn how fission works and maybe a bit about the very basics of how to sustain criticality. I did a MS in engineering before taking up engineering science for a PhD. I haven't worked in the nuclear industry either but at least I have engineering experience. (No complaining about comparing credentials; you're the one who brought them up first).

> LFTRs just happen to be the latest 'new old' idea that's been brought back to the fore. LFTRs may not be the wave of the future, and that's ok with me, but at least someone, somewhere is thinking out-of-the-box and is concerned about the viability of nuclear power beyond our rather over-complicated existing PWR's.

I have no problem with people thinking about new ways of using nuclear power. Actually, I enthusiastically support them. I don't even think LFTRs are a terrible idea per se, even though they remain far from being practically demonstrated. But the reality remains: Nuclear tech is expensive. LFTR is probably going to be extra expensive. The economics of power generation do not favor nuclear power.

> Once-thru fuel cycles, one-off designs, and using a high pressure phase changing primary coolant is just silly.

Why? Once-thru fuel cycles are the most cost-efficient. Deep geological storage is the safest way of dealing with waste. Reprocessing is expensive and unsafe.

When choosing a coolant there are a huge number of factors to choose from. It's always a trade-off.

> A building capable of withstanding a jet impact is a lot easier to build than one that also has to contain a flash-to-steam event.

Steam is actually a lot easier to contain, in many ways, than hot molten radioactive salt. You can just use a thick stainless steel vessel. No known material has been demonstrated to be capable of containing the LFTR salt over the long time periods required. MSRE suffered from dangerous levels of corrosion and thermal creep. This made it very dangerous to approach and they had to fill the entire reactor building with concrete after a few years. Prove to me that a LFTR design that meets regulations for nuclear safety is going to be cheaper than a comparable PWR.

Comment Re:Oh boy, here we go... (Score 1) 413

"Everything I know about nuclear power, I learned from watching LFTR videos."

> you'll see that most of the design of a conventional reactor is there to deal with the possibility of a primary coolant pressure loss and the resultant massive steam release.

Not really; containment of pressure is just one concern out of many. Even if pressure loss wasn't a concern, you'd still need to protect against leaking of radioactive material, explosive/radioactive gases (hydrogen, xenon, etc.) and attacks/accidents. US laws mandate a containment structure strong enough to withstand impact by a passenger jet. You'd still need a huge containment building for your LFTR. Worse, it would need to contain not just the reactor core, but the fuel reprocessing system. It would probably be bigger, not smaller, than a PWR reactor building of equivalent power.

> This is an enormous risk in all existing power plants.

All? Nope. British nuclear power plants don't even use steam in the primary coolant loop. They're still expensive. Actually, far more expensive than PWR. Passively safe reactor designs have been around for decades.

PWR remains the least expensive and most practical form of nuclear power. Yet, it's still the most expensive widely-deployed way of producing electrical power.

As long as we're going to reinvent the wheel again, we might as well try making it round this time. - Mike Dennison