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Comment: Re:Deliberate (Score 1) 463

by Firethorn (#48462913) Attached to: Two Google Engineers Say Renewables Can't Cure Climate Change

Crops, fisheries, radioactive contamination, the whole system would lead to massive collapse after a decade. Sure, hardly anyone would die from the immediate impact of the annual nuclear meltdown, but once we start ticking off the body count of the millions dying to radiation poisoning and starvation, we might want to reconsider that path.

1. The total death impact from Chernobyl is roughly 4k people. There's some high end estimates like 985k, but those seem to assume that humans are snorting all the radioactive material.
2. The exclusion zone is 1k km, 1 a year would add up to 1M 'off limits', most of it indistinguishable from a natural park. About 2% of our land mass, assuming we don't smarten up and keep plants on previously 'disallowed' areas.
3. 1 Chernobyl/year is an absolute worst case scenario. Even if we multiplied our nuclear power 100 fold we wouldn't have that disaster rate, especially as we transition past the legacy plants the US uses now.
4. Estimates range from 4k to 93k deaths from the accident and resulting radiation. Meanwhile the death toll from coal in the USA alone is 10k..., and 170k world wide.

Comment: Re:Deliberate (Score 1) 463

by Firethorn (#48462363) Attached to: Two Google Engineers Say Renewables Can't Cure Climate Change

Right now, solar power in the US accounts for 0.39% of ALL power generated by the country (or 3% of total renewable energy generation).
Right now, wind power in the US accounts for 2.08% of ALL power generated by the country (or about 16% of total renewable energy generation).

Electricity generation in the USA used to be zero. Lighting and such were done by flame type devices. There used to be zero automobiles, now there's more than 1 per adult in the country. Nuclear electrical generation used to be zero, now it's close to 20%.

Expecting a 500-fold uptake on solar and a 100-fold uptake on wind?

Sure, why not? Hawaii is a limited market and very much an ideal case for it, but look at how fast they're installing solar.

Your plan appears to call for approximately 1/4 the solar and wind mine does, how different is that really when you're complaining about the OOMs difference between my ideal and current production, when your ideal is less than an OOM different than mine?

Otherwise, you seem to like your .39% argument, as for your post from the last week. This comic works both ways. Sorry for taking so long to reply to it, by the way. Not sure how I missed it and I was busy that weekend.

Comment: Fusion power applications? (Score 1) 24

by Ungrounded Lightning (#48462139) Attached to: NASA To Deploy Four Spacecraft To Study Magnetic Reconnection

It will be interesting to see whether this research on the phenomenon in the large scale produces insights useful at the smaller scale of fusion plasma confinement.

In case it's not clear, magnetic reconnection is a phenomenon of magnetic field/plasma interaction. (Without the plasma and its currents (or extreme accelerations like those around black holes) the magnetic field wouldn't be simultaneously twisted up and bent around so it can reconnect differently.

I see two ways this might apply to plasma confinement in fusion systems:
  * It may give insight into the details of plasma instabilities and lead to ways to suppress them - enough for a practical reactor.
  * It might lead to a way to use the phenomenon deliberately, to produce a (probably pulsed) past-breakeven plasma confinement, along the lines of Dense Plasma Focus.

Comment: Re:here we go again (Score 1) 463

by Firethorn (#48462115) Attached to: Two Google Engineers Say Renewables Can't Cure Climate Change

people start coming home and cranking up their A/C and other appliances you reach peak electric use after solar has started its collapse.

The AC is at least solvable. If we install so much solar that prices are cheaper during the day you can have systems set up to chill your house during the cheap period so you still come home to a comfortable house, and keeping it cool should be generally easy at night without too much power.

Government policies like forcing utilities to buy back home-installed solar at retail price just exacerbates the problem as it overemphasizes the economic case for solar

Outside of Hawaii they aren't even touching baseload during the day yet. So it's a very 'eventual', because right now solar tends to displace more expensive peaking plants.

But I agree - the electricity market would change drastically somewhere between 20-30% of electricity produced by solar. I'd actually say massive changes seen at 20% is likely - at that point you're producing enough electricity by solar to negate the average difference between daytime and nightime consumption, as daytime tends use ~50% more power than night. At least in the USA.

Comment: Re:Nuclear (Score 1) 463

by Firethorn (#48462045) Attached to: Two Google Engineers Say Renewables Can't Cure Climate Change

How about 6Mw? That's practically neighborhood level. It's also so small that it could be placed close enough to businesses to be able to do things like provide district heating with the waste heat.

France runs a number of nuclear plants in a lead-following mode. It can be done.

Still, I'd stop at about 40% of our power being produced by nuclear.

Comment: More than half were minority owned, too. (Score 1) 965

by Ungrounded Lightning (#48461993) Attached to: Officer Not Charged In Michael Brown Shooting

The hit is taken by the store owners and their landlords. [Insurance usually has escape clauses for riots.]

Just heard on the news that more than half of the stores destroyed last night in Fergusun were minority owned, too. (I think it was actually "black owned" but I'm not sure.)

IMHO the main point of the burning is so that, once the stores have been looted, the evidence of who did it is largely destroyed. Video survelience tapes, fingerprints, serial number records, ...

Comment: Re:We need a *social* change (Score 1) 463

by Firethorn (#48461921) Attached to: Two Google Engineers Say Renewables Can't Cure Climate Change

I had to look up the 1974 thing. I'll admit to being shocked. If there wasn't a valid reason for doing stuff like discounting a woman's income(probably already lower) by 50% when computing her limits, I can't help but think that if I went back in time to before 1974 I'd do the same thing as happened in 1975 - open a bank for women* that offers services that more accurately asses the risk, IE a lot cheaper for women, hiring female workers(for less, but still more than market), etc... and still make a killing as they all flock to my services!

*I couldn't call it a 'women's bank' because I'm not a woman.

Comment: Re:It boils down to energy storage costs (Score 1) 463

by Firethorn (#48461823) Attached to: Two Google Engineers Say Renewables Can't Cure Climate Change

efficiency isn't really relevant outside the amount of real estate needed to do the job.

I think you're mixing up efficiency and density of power/energy.

Remember that there's human costs tied up in generating the power in the first place - both capital in creating the equipment to do so*, and the maintenance required to keep it generating.

As such, a system that's highly efficient - it produces 90%+ of the energy you feed it back when you demand it, can actually be better even if it requires more human labor to keep it going, because it means that team x needs to get onto fewer roofs to install solar, and team Y needs to erect fewer wind turbines, and team Z doesn't need to build another nuclear plant.

I actually figure that Batteries might actually cut it. There's already massive battery banks in the power system. For example, Fairbanks has a 27Mw, ~6.75Mwh battery as part of the grid backup system. If Elon Musk gets his way with his 'gigafactory' for LiIon battery packs for Tesla, that's a stream of relatively huge batteries being produced for HALF the current price per kWh. That would be approaching lead-acid cost levels. Give them 10 years and they'll be entering the waste stream - but I figure a 85kWh pack will be replaced by the time it hits 60kWh. If, rather than recycling it immediately, what if we reuse it? The old pack should be pretty cheap, but let's say we use them as grid-connected UPS units, until they average out at ~40kWh. That's roughly a day of power usage for a household per EV battery we put towards it. Still at roughly 90% efficiency, which is a heck of a lot better than water's 50-60%.

*I'm keeping it power agnostic.

Comment: Re:It boils down to energy storage costs (Score 1) 463

by Firethorn (#48461679) Attached to: Two Google Engineers Say Renewables Can't Cure Climate Change

i.e. until fossil fuels have to pay for the cleanup of the CO2 they are releasing it's simply not a fair comparison for renewable sources.

I'd look at a heck of a lot more than just CO2. Consider the effects of acid rain, especially back in the day - excess SO2 and NOx releases not only harmed people, it also harmed infrastructure. For the longest time living next to a coal power plant would give you the same odds of lung cancer as being a lifelong smoker.

And yes, by the time you force them to clean up their act(still cheaper than absorbing the resulting medical and social costs from the pollution) renewables look a lot better.

Comment: Re:Is Nuclear going to be acknowledged? (Score 2) 463

by Firethorn (#48460939) Attached to: Two Google Engineers Say Renewables Can't Cure Climate Change

2.2 kTons of waste a year!!! Scary. Meanwhile a single coal plant averages something like 200k tons of sludge waste a year. 125ktons of ash.

"Spent nuclear fuel is about 95% uranium" - This means it's still 95% fuel. Reprocess the sucker! That would reduce your high level waste down to about 110 tons a year.

"extremely long half-life" = it's not very radioactive. Seriously, a substance with a halflife of half an hour might be able to cook you alive with a few grams. A substance with a half-life 100k times longer = 100k less energy during a given period of time*. It wouldn't even be 'hot' enough to kill tumors if implanted into them, like the radioactive seeds they stuck in my grandfather's prostate to kill his cancer.

If we started reprocessing we'd have enough fuel for a couple centuries without further mining.

*It's a little more complicated, but accurate within around an OOM.

Comment: Re:Deliberate (Score 2) 463

by Firethorn (#48460839) Attached to: Two Google Engineers Say Renewables Can't Cure Climate Change

What happens if someone discovers a flaw?

The person, who has to be an expert and not some lay-person expressing a vague concern, submits the documented problem to the company and relevant safety organization.

The problem at it's worst was that I could write a letter to the EPA 'What about the 3 dotted tree-frog' and plant construction shuts down for a month before they figure out that the plant isn't even being built on '3 dotted tree-frog' territory. Or I express some crazy concern and again, construction has to stop until they address my 'concern'.

As for training costs - I don't think we need to follow 'military standards'. For the most part they're stupid outside of the actual skills necessary for running a nuclear plant, and I haven't seen too much in the way of accidents that can be put down to training. Keep in mind that 'in violation of all training' isn't something that can be fixed with more training...

On increasing mass production to reduce costs - we don't have enough volume right now, but I once figured out that we'd need about 200 new ~1GW plants in order to raise nuclear to 40% of the grid, eliminating coal power on the way and retiring most or even all of the current legacy nuclear plants. If they're all one of, say, 5 designs, that's 40 plants per, and who knows how many parts we can keep in common even between the 5 designs. That's enough to start seeing some economy of scale.

If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts. -- Albert Einstein