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Comment: Re:Economics is the problem (Score 1) 213

by Maury Markowitz (#46787691) Attached to: MIT Designs Tsunami Proof Floating Nuclear Reactor

> CANNOT use solar OR wind power as your baseline power source. They aren't dependable sources

Sure they are, they just have lower capacity factors. Right now the Ontario wind fleet is running at about 30% CF, while the CANDUs are around 85. That means you need to build three times as many wind turbines and nukes. Thing is, wind turbines cost about 1/3rd of nukes, so economically it's a wash.

What would be really nice would be a storage system that can outlast any possible wind outage. You know, like this:

> Nuclear IS a dependable, steady source that infrastructure engineers can PLAN for.

Infrastructure engineers can plan for wind and solar just fine, thanks for asking. After all, those are the two fastest growing power sources in the world.

What engineers, and everyone else, finds very difficult indeed is figuring out which of these technologies will be the "winners" 12 years from now. That's about how long it takes to start up a new nuclear plant, end to end, a period of time during which wind power declined in price about 2 times, and PV about 5. Given this, a wait-and-see attitude seems very much warranted, which is precisely what we're seeing.

Comment: Re:Waste? (Score 1) 213

by Maury Markowitz (#46787305) Attached to: MIT Designs Tsunami Proof Floating Nuclear Reactor

> Reprocessing has not been done because Peanuthead declared it to be illegal

That's right, because we all know all politicians are idiots who make snap decisions that can't possibly be correct. In fact, Carter stopped re-processing for very good reasons, after listening to advice from some of the smartest people on the planet. You might not agree with the decision, but saying it was his, and then simply saying that was bad because it was his, is precisely the sort of BS argument that has to be expunged from these debates as rapidly and strongly as possible.

India exploded a nuclear bomb in 1974. They said they were doing it to use nuclear weapons for large construction processes, which they said was within the terms of their agreement with Canada about the peaceful use of nuclear technology. That December the specific wording of the agreement was changed so that no nuclear explosives were allowed, even "peaceful" ones. Canada then withdrew all support and flew all their engineers home.

Much of the CIRUS effort had been supported by the US, and they were very much aware that their hands were dirty in this affair. This led to an extensive series of studies on the potential fuel flows and routes to weaponized material. The US had tested a "reactor grade" weapon, which worked fine, and spent considerable time examining the reprocessing cycles. This led to the clear conclusion that reprocessing is a very real proliferation risk. And I should point out this was not under Carter, but Johnson.

So then, that left the US in the position of either deploying reprocessing and demanding no one else do it, or not doing it themselves. That one was a simple and obvious answer. The fact that it hasn't been taken up since isn't Carter's fault, it's not like that law is part of the constitution. If there was any real support for it, it would happen. But there isn't. There's even less support for reprocessing than there is for new reactors, and they aren't exactly popping up all over the place.

Comment: Re:Not a retarded idea. No way. (Score 1) 213

by Maury Markowitz (#46784239) Attached to: MIT Designs Tsunami Proof Floating Nuclear Reactor

> Fukushima Daiichi comes close to a "man-made disaster".

Not close, entirely. Every one of those reactors could have been safely shut down except for man-made decisions that added to the problems.

Reactor 1, for instance, would almost certainly not have melted down if the isolation condenser had been turned on and left on through the entire event. But the operators started second guessing themselves, and turned it off thinking it was out of water. Not that running out of water was a bad thing, you see they imagined that if it did run out of water that the tubes would melt and vent gas, so they turned if off. Yet nothing of the sort would have happened, and the instructions clearly say never turn it off again.

Of course this or any number of other decisions could have caused the same end story. Which is the whole problem.

Comment: Re:Stop Now (Score 1) 174

by Maury Markowitz (#46732781) Attached to: Cost Skyrockets For United States' Share of ITER Fusion Project

"End all involvement. This is a massive and pointless waste of money. It will never lead to any practical source of energy."
"I'm so glad you're smarter than all the scientists working on it."

Maybe he is, maybe he isn't. But he's still right.

There are two definitions of "working" one needs to consider. One is "this device fulfills a minimum technical requirement". The other is "this devices works, and is economically attractive". It is very clear to everyone involved, including "the scientists working on it", that ITER-like devices will almost certainly never fulfill the second of those two definitions.

I don't say this idly. I know some of the scientists working in fusion personally, I've written to and had conversations with a number of others. I've distilled the information down into the majority of the articles you'e read on the topic on the Wikipedia. I have a good overview level of the technology, and more critically, the other technologies fusion completes with. So I can speak with a good level of authority on this topic.

It's that (second) lash point that's important. If fusion were, as someone in this thread put it, "the only solution" to our energy problems, then the two definitions become one. As soon as it works, you start building them. But it's *not* the only form of energy that can solve "all our problems". And those solutions already work, and more importantly, will cost less than fusion of the ITER (or NIF) ever could. Period.

Even if ITER works, and even if there is a follow-on device that works better, there is, in theory, no way to make it cheap enough to compete with existing devices. For instance, on often sees the complaint that solar can't be the solution to our problems because the sun doesn't shine at night. Well actually it does, it just does it somewhere else. It will cost less to build enough panels to power everything AND a HVDC network to spread it around the world than it would to get the same power from fusion.

But don't take my word for it. Here's the word of *the guy that ran the US fusion program*:

First, we have to recognize that practical fusion power must measure up to or be superior to the competition in the electric power industry. Second, it is virtually certain that tokamak fusion as represented by ITER will not be practical.

If you want to know *why* this is, go here:

Comment: Re:I'm playing the world's smallest violin (Score 1) 469

"However, even elite violinists cannot tell a Stradivarius from a top-quality modern violin, a new double-blind study suggests"

Is anyone really surprised to hear this?

"Antonio Stradivarius and his shop built wonderful instruments that probably played like 2x4s when new"

I suspect you would fail the same double-blind test, today, then, or in 100 years.

People convince themselves "they can tell the difference" when they can't. They've been doing it for all of history. Here is the canonical example:

Comment: From what to what? (Score 2, Insightful) 179

by Maury Markowitz (#46676285) Attached to: To Reduce the Health Risk of Barbecuing Meat, Just Add Beer

"polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which damage DNA and thus increase the eater's chances of developing colon cancer"

Pretty rare to start with, so I suspect it's from "one in a million" to "1.5 in a million".

We have actual things to worry about, grilling isn't one of them.

Comment: Who cares? (Score 1) 470

by Maury Markowitz (#46671309) Attached to: It's Time To Bring Pseudoscience Into the Science Classroom

"By incorporating examples of pseudoscience into lectures, instructors can provide students with the tools needed to understand the difference between scientific and pseudoscientific or paranormal claims"

Everyone already has all the tools they need to separate "real" from "pseudo" science. It's not that they can't, they just won't.

People who want to believe in this stuff believe in this stuff. It's not a lack of understanding or intellect, they simply want to (or not to) believe.

Comment: Robot vision (Score 1) 496

by Maury Markowitz (#46647901) Attached to: Will Cameras Replace Sideview Mirrors On Cars In 2018?

I'm surprised how low-tech these solutions are. They appear to be going for the "classic solution" of simply piping a camera's view to a screen, perhaps with some overlays.

I recall seeing a demo many years ago of a robot vision system. If you're not familiar with the term, it uses a number of low-res cameras (all cameras were when the demo was made) pointing in different directions, and fused the imagery together in 3D software to produce a view from any location looking at any location. The idea was to put these in armoured vehicles and allow the guys inside to look anywhere.

This seems like a much better solution here. Instead of simply replacing the mirror with a high-def camera, replace it with a dozen VGA cameras around the car. Fuse the imagery back together and then overlay it on a 3D model of the car as seen from above. Now you get a birds-eye view from the front looking down showing you all the traffic in the area.

Comment: Re:Cents per Watt (Score 5, Informative) 79

by Maury Markowitz (#46579811) Attached to: Scientists Develop Solar Cell That Can Also Emit Light

> Can someone who understands the subject matter better than I do please explain
> to me how "cents per watt" is an applicable comparative metric for fossil fuels and solar cells

The price of electricity is basically the total money you put into running the plant over its lifetime divided by the total amount of power you get out of it during that lifetime. That's called the "levelized cost of electricity" or LCoE.

For plants that don't use fuel - wind, hydro, PV - the total amount of money is basically the price of the plant, the price of repairs and operations, and the price of borrowing the money to pay for the first two. For systems that go up in a short time, like wind and PV, the costs are utterly dominated by the price of the equipment.

For other sources the total cost of operations varies. Nuclear plants use fuel, but so little of it that it's not a major factor. However, these plants have enormous up front costs and decades long building cycles, so their LCoE tends to be utterly dominated by the prevailing interest rate. Coal and natural gas plants cost about 1/4 that of a nuclear plant and are therefore more heavily dominated by fuel costs, so their cost of operations goes up and down with the cost of the fuel.

So when you're trying to compare the price of a PV plant to a coal plant, for instance, the key metric in the case of PV is the cost of the panels. That's because there's no fuel cost and almost zero maintenance (had mine 5 years, done exactly $0 work on them so far).

Since the amount of sunlight shining in a particular area is averaged over long periods and available online, you can then predict the amount of power the plant will produce over its lifetime. For instance, in Toronto 1000 W worth of panels (i.e., a set of panels that will produce 1000 watts under specific conditions) will produce about 1200 kWh of power every year, after all conversion losses are factored in. We expect those panels to last about 25 years. So then

LCoE = (cost in cents/watt * size of system in watts) / (25 years * 1200 kWh * system size in KILOwatts)

So let's say the system, *all in*, costs you $3.50 a watt (about right these days). Then if you put up a system with 12 panels like mine, you get

LCoE = (3.50 * 3000) / (25 * 1200 * 3) = 11.66 cents/kWh

I think you'll find that is very comparable to what you are paying from your local utility, which is why PV is the fastest growing power source in the world today.

This same basic formula can be used with any power source, but the inputs will differ. For instance, the equivalent number for a nuclear power plant is about 7500 to 8000 kWh per kW of panels installed, because they run full out 24/7, or at apt 85% full power, or "capacity factor". But as you might expect, construction costs are much higher, about $8/W or more (that plant in Florida came in at about $11/W, which is why they cancelled it).

Likewise, wind turbines here in Ontario average about 30% "capacity factor" (CF), so that's about 2600 kWh/kW. That sounds bad until you consider they cost about $2/W installed. So when you compare the two head up it's something like (2 / 0.3) = 6.66 for wind vs. (8 / 0.85) = 9.41 for nuclear, which is why wind is the second fastest growing power source on the planet.

And that's why we measure everything in terms of cents per watt. If you know that (although dollars per watt is the typical figure) and the capacity factor, everything else sort of disappears. So you can get a *very* good idea of the economics simply by dividing the ($/W) by (CF).

If you'd like to do this on your own, with real numbers and more factors, you can. It's actually very easy and you can run through a given location in about 2 minutes:

Comment: Re:Yay! (Score 1) 125

by Maury Markowitz (#46576869) Attached to: Google Glass Signs Deal With Ray Ban's Parent Company

> You can never have a monopoly on a web page

Balogna. Google has content that they have captured both themselves and from other people that they use to feed their search results. Examples include AdWords, Books and YouTube. Since those two already exist, and block competitors from getting the data, you will find it very difficult to make a search engine that comes anywhere near as close to being as good. You'll have access to public works, but not the private ones that Google has swallowed.

Comment: Re:fuck me (Score 1) 125

by Maury Markowitz (#46572845) Attached to: Google Glass Signs Deal With Ray Ban's Parent Company

> The portability, sharing and collaboration of Gdocs is light years ahead of the others

But not light years ahead of sending an xls in an email.

Sorry, but that's what the real world still uses.

Maybe someday someone will figure out how to change that fact, but so far GDocs is not that solution.

Money is the root of all evil, and man needs roots.