ENERGY, CLIMATE CHANGE, NUCLEAR, ELECTRICITY

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XYLENE POWER LTD.

Physical science and professional engineering related to energy, power and climate change.
 
LINKS OF PUBLIC INTEREST:
ENERGY AND SOCIETY     CO2, ENERGY AND POWER REALITIES
INTEGRATED ZERO EMISSION ENERGY PLAN (INZEM)     CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION
COVID-19 RADIATION THERAPY     FEDERAL 2021 BUDGET INPUT

Hydrocarbon pipeline matters are included in the Electricity section under the heading:
ENERGY TRANSMISSION AND DISTRIBUTION.

Synthetic liquid hydrocarbon fuel production is included in the Electricity section under the heading:
ENERGY STORAGE.

Radiation Therapy is included along with Radiation Safety in the Nuclear Power section under the heading:
NUCLEAR WASTE.

 

DENIAL OF REALITY:
A major societal problem today is denial of reality regarding mitigation of climate change. In Canada no elected government has implemented policies and legislation that sufficiently address CO2 emission reduction and no major political party has a published platform which indicates any serious intention to do so. At the root of the problem is the physical reality that in most of Canada the only source of dependable clean power sufficient to sustainably displace fossil fuels is advanced nuclear reactors and present elected politicians are unwilling to face that reality.

Regardless of what any politician promises the law of conservation of energy and practical construction realities dictate that the amount of dependable clean power that will be available in Canada in 2030 will be limited by the amount of new nuclear power plant firmly planned in 2021. All kinds of engineering, siting, energy transmission and regulatory issues require immediate attention.

If Canadians are serious about meeting CO2 emission reduction objectives the politicians who oppose or fail to act on the measures required to meet those objectives must be voted out of office.

Justin Trudeau has committed close to $20 billion of federal taxpayer money to new fossil fuel pipeline infrastructure but has not invested a dime in a facility to efficiently recycle used nuclear fuel.
Erin O'Toole has refused to face the necessity of a fossil carbon tax.
Jason Kenney has committed over $1 billion of Alberta taxpayer revenue to useless heavy oil pipeline construction.
Doug Ford has aggressively campaigned in Ontario against a fossil carbon tax, has refused to replace the aging Pickering nuclear power plant and has refused to allow residents of Ontario to use surplus clean electrical energy for displacement of fossil fuels. He has also prevented Ontario Power Generation from investing in advanced nuclear reactors with sustainable fuel cycles.
Most other politicians are little better. They have repeatedly opposed expansion of the existing nuclear power plant capacity.
 

ABSTRACT:
Mankind is presently heavily dependent on combustion of fossil fuels for heating, transportation, mineral extraction, production of food, production of electricity and production of construction materials.

Combustion of fossil fuels emits carbon dioxide (CO2) which is accumulating in both the atmosphere and oceans, resulting in climate change, ocean acidification and sea level rise. Climate change is damaging plants, animals, forests and agriculture and is causing floods, storm damage and species extinctions. Ocean acidification is an immediate threat to the entire marine food chain. Sea level rise is inundating low elevation property.

The lack of informed democratic government response to the CO2 accumulation problem has set in motion another human extinction mechanism, fissile isotope depletion. Only in China and Russia are national governments seriously addressing this matter. Western democratic governments are blistfully unaware that their failure to address fissile isotope depletion is making sustainable mitigation of climate change impossible. That failure will have far more serious consequences than any possible pandemic.

Energy and power that are produced without production of CO2 are respectively known as "clean energy" and "clean power". Clean energy includes both renewable energy (hydro, wind, solar) and nuclear energy. Nuclear electricity generation provides dependable clean power whereas most renewable electricity generation provides only intermittent clean power. Parties that use renewable energy for electricity generation generally rely on fossil fuels to realize dependable power.

Citizens of western democracies may not like the authoritarian governments of China and Russia, but with respect to sustainable clean energy and dependable clean power production those authoritarian governments are decades ahead of North America. As of 2020 China and Russia collectively have about fifty large nuclear reactor construction projects at various stages of implementation whereas in North America there are only two comparable nuclear reactor construction projects. On a per capita basis the Chinese and Russian CO2 emissions are already far below North American CO2 emissions. China is rapidly electrifying its automotive fleet and is building clean electricity generation capacity to match. Russia is a world leader in fuel sustainable fast neutron reactor technology and already has advanced nuclear power technology supply agreements with China and numerous Middle East, African and Asian countries.

Today the North American fossil fuel industry financally corrupts elected governments to prevent further loss of energy market share to nuclear power. Most elected persons have little understanding of how electricity systems work and what must be done to prevent further climate change. In Canada, in spite of a small fossil carbon tax, federal and provincial taxpayer and ratepayer resources are still being used to subsidize fossil fuels and fossil fuel infrastructure. In Ontario, due to an improper retail electricity rate structure, electricity rate payers indirectly subsidize the liquid fossil fuel industry by about one billion dollars per year while about 20 TWh per year (15% of total Ontario electricity generation) of clean electricity are either exported at a very low price or are discarded.
 

THIS WEBSITE:
This website focuses on the scope of CO2 triggered climate change and on the practical energy system changes that must be made to mitigate CO2 induced climate change by full displacement of fossil fuels with clean energy, clean power and clean heat. The rational for these energy system changes is set out in the document titled: CO2, ENERGY AND POWER REALITIES.

A key issue is to value clean electricity primarily based on dependable power capacity, not energy supplied. That valuation leads to much more effective use of the available non-fossil electricity for displacement of fossil fuels. In Ontario about 70% of wind generated electricity is presently being discarded for lack of a suitable retail price for interruptible electricity.

Due to the output variability of renewable electricity generation, sustainable and dependable clean power must come primarily from advanced nuclear reactors that efficiently recycle nuclear fuel and do not produce either long lived nuclear fuel waste or decommissioning waste. The required technology is briefly summarized in the document titled: CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION .
 

CLEAN ENERGY AND DEPENDABLE POWER ISSUES:
The term "clean" refers to energy and power produced without production of CO2. There are about twenty-four major issues relating to production of clean energy and dependable clean power that voters and their elected governments must grasp:
a) CO2 driven global warming is causing human migration from tropical countries to more temperate countries. The USA has difficulty preventing unauthorized immigration from Central America and Europe has difficulty preventing unauthorized immigration from North Africa and the Middle East. In Canada recent immigration from tropical countries has drastically changed the national population racial mix;
b) CO2 accumulation is causing collapse of wild fish stocks, sea level rise and increasing ocean storm violence;
c) Measures that reduce CO2 emissions provide little benefit unless the measures are sustainable and have world wide applicability;
d) CO2 capture and underground storage as a compressed gas is simply not sustainable in the long term. The CO2 gradually goes into solution in ground water and by that route migrates toward the surface where it comes out of solution in well water due to the drop in hydraulic pressure;
e) Due to continuing combustion of fossil carbon, the CO2 concentrations in both the atmosphere and oceans are rising. These CO2 concentrations will not stop rising until almost all combustion of fossil carbon is stopped;
f) Stopping combustion of fossil carbon requires both a substantial fossil carbon tax and sufficient economic clean energy and clean dependable power easily available to consumers;
g) The only natural processes that can significantly reduce the accumulated excess CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere and oceans involve formation of fossil fuels and carbonate rock. These processes rely on solar driven biochemical reactions that must operate for hundreds of thousands of years to have significant effect. Most CO2 molecules formed today will remain in the atmosphere and oceans for thousands of years into the future;
h) Renewable electricity generation can provide a fraction of the required clean energy but for lack of sufficient energy storage cannot provide dependable clean power;
i) Only a small subset of advanced nuclear reactor types can supply both sustainable clean energy and dependable clean power without formation of long lived nuclear waste;
j) In the near term the most important nuclear reaction sequence for sustainable and dependable production of clean power is transmutation of the naturally abundant fertile isotope U-238 into the fissile isotope Pu-239 followed by fission of the Pu-239. Excess neutrons produced during the fission of Pu-239 are required to sustain the transmutation process and to enlarge the inventory of fissile isotopes;
k) Reactors that can efficiently perform the required nuclear reactions need substantial initial inventories of fissile isotopes. The only naturally occurring fissile isotope is the relatively rare isotope U-235;
l) The limited world supply of fissile isotopes is presently being squandered in water cooled reactors;
m) Over sufficient time the available fissile isotope inventory could be enlarged using suitable liquid sodium cooled fast neutron reactors, but presently there is no value placed on this reactor feature;
n) In the future the huclear fuel inventory could be expanded by transmuting Th-232 into U-233 and then fissioning the U-233, but practical implementation of this transmutation sequence still faces many developmental challenges;
o) Another possible future source of nuclear energy is fusion of H-2 and Li-6 to make He-4. One of the practical problems with this reaction is that it needs an ongoing supply of the very rare isotope He-3 to serve as a quasi-catalyst. To make this energy process viable it may be necessary to mine He-3 from the surface of the moon.
p) Absent a sufficient inventory of fissile isotopes in the near future there will be insufficient clean dependable power and the consequent formation of CO2 by fossil fuel based dependable power generation will drive mankind into extinction;
q) Fuel sustainable operation of advanced nuclear reactors requires used nuclear fuel recycling instead of used nuclear fuel burial;
r) Economic displacement of fossil fuels used for heating requires siting advanced nuclear reactors in urban areas near their thermal loads;
s) A practical used nuclear fuel recycling program requires ongoing transport of used nuclear fuel between the reactor sites and the fuel recycling site;
t) A clean electricity system must have sufficient clean dependable power generation capacity to reliably meet the annual dependable peak electricity load;
u) Hence, a clean electricity system has varying amounts of surplus power production capacity that can be used to provide interruptible electricity at a very low marginal cost per unit of energy;
v) Interruptible electricity can be economically used for: fossil fuel displacement in hybrid heating systems, economic charging of battery electric vehicles outside times of peak electricity demand and economic production of electrolytic hydrogen;
w) Electrolytic hydrogen can be stored and can be used for: production of ammonia as a marine fuel, production of synthetic hydrocarbon aircraft fuels, to assist in meeting peak winter heating loads and to provide dependable backup of nuclear heating during nuclear reactor shutdowns;
x) Production of high energy density synthetic hydrocarbons for aircraft fuel and like applications requires siting of distributed methanol plants on rural farms to convert waste biomatter into methanol. These methanol plants can operate using inexpensive interruptible electricity. Methanol is much more economic to transport than is solid biomatter and does not remove from farms phospherous and other essential soil elements. These farms will require ongoing fertilization with both ammonia and residue from conversion of biomatter into methanol.
 

CLIMATE CHANGE
Every life form either adapts to changes in its surrounding climate or that life form ceases to exist. Today large scale combustion of fossil fuels is producing carbon dioxide which is accumulating in the atmosphere and oceans.

The increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration has indirectly caused an increase in the rate of Earth's solar radiant energy absorption and has directly caused a decrease in the rate of Earth's thermal infrared radiant energy emission. As a result planet Earth is absorbing more radiant energy than it emits. The net absorbed radiant energy becomes net heat, most of which is absorbed by the oceans. The corresponding increase in lower atmosphere temperatures over dry land is known as global warming.

The consequences of net absorbed heat and increased lower atmosphere temperatures are increased droughts, crop failures, insect infestations, wild fires, violent storms, polar ice melting, floods, sea level rise, species extinctions and large scale human migration. These consequences, generally referred to as climate change, are now an imminent threat to all large land animal species, including humans. This threat was concisely and accurately summarized by 16 year old Greta Thunberg in her September 2019 oral address to the United Nations.

The increase in dissolved CO2 concentration in the oceans causes an increase in water acidity that is killing essential micro-organisms known as zooplankton that are at the bottom of the ocean food chain. Loss of these micro-organisms, which are an important fish food, is causing a precipitous declines in wild fish populations and in the populations of fish dependent animal species further up the food chain.

Slowing climate change and ocean acidification requires repricing of clean electricity, clean power and heat to enable economic displacement of fossil fuels with available zero marginal cost clean electrical energy. Total shut down of fossil CO2 production cannot occur until there is sufficient production of clean energy, clean power and heat to meet reasonable human needs.

The necessary clean energy and clean power production facilities will not be built or operated until that activity makes financial sense for the parties doing it. Creating the business environment for success of that activity requires both changing the electricity retail price structure and a significant fossil carbon tax.

In Canada and the USA no political party is realistically facing the issue of sustainable provision to consumers of sufficient economic clean power and clean heat when and where consumers need it to enable leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

In Ontario about 85% of all energy consumed is presently supplied by combustion of fossil fuels. The remaining 15% of all energy consumed comes from clean sources (hydro, CANDU nuclear, wind and solar) and is delivered to consumers via electricity. About 20 TWh / year of clean electricity is currently discarded for lack of an appropriate retail interruptible electricity rate.

The "Green New Deal" concept of using only renewable energy to reduce fossil fuel consumption by 50% in 10 years is unrealizable because wind and solar power are intermittent and seasonal. Due to geographical, material and cost constraints the amounts of energy storage, generation and transmission required to obtain dependable power from intermittent and seasonal renewable energy simply cannot be built.

In order to displace fossil fuels for supply of power and heat Canadians must obtain equal amounts of power and heat from sustainable and dependable clean sources. At present the only clean technology with the capacity to economically, sustainably and dependably fully displace fossil fuels is liquid sodium cooled Fast Neutron Reactors (FNRs) with fuel recycling.

In the future, after sodium cooled FNRs have bred a sufficient supply of fissile isotopes, sodium cooled FNRs can be supplemented by thorium (Th-232) fueled molten salt breeder reactors. With appropriate fuel recycling there is sufficient U-238 and Th-232 to fuel world energy needs for thousands of years. A further advantage of sodium cooled FNRs with fuel recycling is that they can reduce production of long lived nuclear waste by more than 1000 fold as compared to existing water moderated nuclear reactors. Other non-fossil energy technologies, including existing water moderated nuclear reactors fuelled by U-235, are not sustainable, not dependable or not economic.

The physical necessity for large scale deployment of liquid sodium cooled FNRs and thorium fueled molten salt breeder reactors is a blunt reality that many elected governments have yet to learn. Today Russia, China and India are far ahead of most other countries in development of advanced reactor technologies.

Required steps for climate change mitigation, as dictated by the laws of physics, are set out in the attached document titled:
CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION LOGIC.

In North America in recent years the financial costs directly attributable to CO2 induced climate change exceeded $300 billion per year. Escalating storm, fire and crop damage, polar ice melting and sea level rise are constantly in the news. Collapse of fish and fish dependent mammal populations is occurring on both Canada's east and west coasts. Denial of the obvious is no longer an acceptable political response.
 

PUBLIC EDUCATION:
One of the most difficult issues relating to implementation of changes in energy systems is lack of North American compulsory public education in the physical sciences. Few career politicians and even fewer voters have sufficient grasp of physics and engineering to make rational energy policy decisions. Even fewer people understand ocean chemistry and the effects of increasing dissolved CO2 concentrations on marine life.

North American public opinion has been biased by fossil fuel promoters with short term vested financial interests. The existing electricity rate structure indirectly subsidizes fossil fuels by constraining surplus clean electricity generation. There is no interruptible electricity retail rate for Ontario consumers. Interruptible clean electricity is either exported at a low price or discarded.

For four decades the fossil fuel industry has minimized its loss of market share to the nuclear power industry by: corrupting politicians, funding anti-nuclear groups and engaging in deceptive advertising. Fossil fuel production has increased in spite of the increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration, decreasing ocean water pH and melting of the polar ice pack.

The solution to this information bias problem lies in improving the public education core curriculum with respect to physics, chemistry, energy and power matters and in removal of all governmental incentives relating to fossil fuel extraction, processing, transport and use. This web site attempts to address the public education deficiency.

Public opinion is further biased by selfish hedonism. Older people are often reluctant to make long term investments in education and sustainable non-fossil energy infrastructure that will only materially benefit younger persons. In this respect the present concentration of wealth and power in older persons is a threat to the continuing existence of human life on planet Earth.

In North America the tolerance of young people for continued political inaction on the issues of climate change and ocean acidification are approaching a breaking point. CO2 emission reduction will likely be a pivotal issue in coming elections. The public has yet to become aware of the emerging fissile isotope shortage.
 

INTEGRATED ZERO EMISSION ENERGY PLAN:
The Integrated Zero Emission (INZEM) Energy Plan is an engineering plan which identifies the only practical path for economic and sustainable elimination of fossil fuels from the Canadian energy sector by the year 2070. This plan was developed during the period November 2017 to May 2018 by a senior engineering team consisting of Paul Acchione, Peter Ottensmeyer and Charles Rhodes. Implementation of the INZEM plan requires: immediate cancellation of all investments in new fossil fuel infrastructure, repricing of electricity as described on the web page titled:
INTERRUPTIBLE ELECTRICITY,
prompt deployment of fast neutron reactors as described on the web page titled:
FAST NEUTRON REACTORS,
and recycling of used CANDU reactor fuel as described on the web page titled:
OTTENSMEYER PLAN.
There is no other viable alternative for sustainably meeting Canada's energy and power requirements while avoiding fossil CO2 production.
 

ENERGY POLICY:
Due to failure of both Canadian federal and provincial governments to promptly make the necessary public policy changes Canada's 2030 CO2 emission reduction commitments, made in Paris in 2015, are already unattainable. The fundamental concept that Canadian politicians have failed to grasp is that the CO2 emission reduction targets set in Paris in 2015 can only be met if fossil carbon is left in the ground. Increasing fossil carbon extraction and reducing fossil carbon emissions are mutually exclusive actions. New public investments in fossil fuel infrastructure will result in stranded assets and increased national debt. The federal Liberal government's May 2018 commitment of $12 billion of Canadian federal taxpayer funds to an increase in Trans-Mountain pipeline capacity was a complete repudiation of its 2015 undertakings with respect to the Paris agreement on climate change. These taxpayer funds would be far better used for levering production of advanced nuclear power.

Further investment in infrastructure for production of fossil fuels from the tar sands is completely unacceptable.

Nuclear power should be complemented by nuclear fuel recycling in Fast Neutron Reactors (FNRs) to increase the fissile fuel resource by about 100 fold and to reduce the long lived nuclear fuel waste stream by about 1000 fold.

Conceptually there is nothing wrong with expanding use of renewable energy, but the present system of retail electricity pricing is not consistent with effective use of intermittent non-fossil electrical energy. Governments must reprice electricity in order to enable effective use of all available non-fossil electrical energy. Presently about 70% of the wind generated electricity in Ontario is discarded for lack of a suitable retail electricity price structure. This issue costs rural electricity ratepayers in Ontario about $1 billion per year in unnecessary liquid fossil fuel expenditures, causes corresponding excess fossil CO2 emissions and points to entrenched incompetence and corruption within the Ontario government.

A practical remedial measure is to use intermittent surplus non-fossil electrical energy for charging electric vehicles and to produce both electrolytic hydrogen and heat for fossil fuel displacement.

Canadian fossil fuel exports should be replaced with exports of high energy content foodstuffs and high energy content chemicals such as ammonia, aluminum, lithium, nickel, sodium, nitrate fertilizers, synthetic jet fuel and methyl cyclohexane (a reuseable hydrogen transport liquid) that can be synthesized or refined using nuclear energy.

There is merit in near term Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) exports only to the extent that foreign CO2 emissions are reduced when natural gas displaces coal and oil for production of heat and electricity. However, the 2.5 um particulates emitted by natural gas fired combustion turbines accelerate ice melting and cause human asthma. It is generally a better strategy to convert base load coal fired electricity generation into nuclear electricity generation.

The climate change problems will continue to worsen until decades after mankind collectively decides to leave fossil hydrocarbons in the ground. There must be widespread acceptance of use of fast neutron fission energy in place of fossil fuel energy. Due to both intermittency and local insufficiency in most jurisdictions the renewable energy supply cannot meet the needs of the present human population. However, there is sufficient fast neutron reactor (FNR) fuel feedstock to sustainably meet mankind's energy needs for thousands of years. The existing water moderated nuclear reactor technology is not sustainable because it requires about 100X more natural uranium per unit of thermal output than do FNRs with fuel recycling.

This author believes that it is morally unacceptable for people living today to act in a manner that deprives future human generations of an equal quality of life.

The other big public policy issue with respect to energy is reducing the world's human population. Between 1960 and 2010 Canada reduced its average human female fertility from 3.9 children per woman to 1.6 children per woman. While human population control is not a main subject on this web site many nations could benefit by adopting the Canadian social policies which led to this reduction in average Canadian human female fertility.
 

FOSSIL HYDROCARBON DISPLACEMENT:
1) Complete displacement of fossil hydrocarbons will require a several fold expansion in electricity system capacity using only clean prime energy. The required electricity system capacity increase can be minimized by siting small nuclear power plants in cities to minimize the required amount of electricity transmission and to allow use of reactor supplied heat for local district heating.

2) If this electricity system capacity expansion is further delayed atmospheric thermal runaway caused by accumulating CO2 will likely become impossible to stop.

3) The available significant clean energy sources are hydroelectric, nuclear, solar and wind.

4) In most jurisdictions the economic hydroelectric capacity is already fully exploited. In most industrialized countries nuclear electricity generation is much less expensive than intermittent solar and wind electricity generation in combination with the extra: power transmission, energy storage and reserve power generation capacity required to achieve electricity supply dependability.
 

THE NUCLEAR ALTERNATIVE:
In most jurisdictions the available renewable energy supply and energy storage options are not sufficient for complete displacement of fossil fuels, so rapid deployment of advanced nuclear reactors and corresponding electricity transmission/distribution is essential.
 

THE CASE FOR NUCLEAR ENERGY:
Michael Shellenberger presents the case for nuclear energy

1) There is insufficient public recognition that the cost of nuclear electricity delivered to an urban load is much less than the cost of equal reliability wind and solar energy delivered to the same urban load. A faulty electricity price structure originally designed to accommodate use of fossil fuels is largely to blame. Nuclear electricity kWh measured at the generator are more expensive than wind generated kWh measured at the generator but unlike wind, nuclear electricity is dependable, is 3 fold less expensive to transmit per kWh-km, involves about 4 fold shorter average transmission distances, does not require expensive or unavailable seasonal energy storage, does not incur energy storage related losses and does not require balancing generation.

2) These issues collectively make dependable electricity delivered to an urban load from a nuclear power station many fold less expensive than equally dependable electricity supplied by wind and solar generation.

3) There are many types of nuclear reactors. However, only liquid sodium cooled Fast Neutron Reactors (FNRs) with breeding blankets provide the combined economic fuel sustainability and long lived nuclear waste elimination required for complete fossil fuel displacement. FNRs have inherent safety features that are not available in water moderated reactors and can be designed to avoid production of decommissioning waste.

4) FNRs require reprocessing of recycled nuclear fuel to minimize natural uranium consumption and to avoid production of long lived nuclear waste.

5) FNRs typically require about 20% plutonium in the initial core fuel. In order to rapidly deploy FNRs the limited supply of plutonium must be conserved, not buried or expended as fuel in water moderated fission reactors. To prevent nuclear weapon proliferation FNRs should be operated so as to produce the plutonium isotope Pu-240 along with Pu-239.

6) After uranium fueled liquid sodium cooled FNRs are fully deployed their U-238 fuel supply can can be extended as much as 5 fold using Th-232. The Th-232 readily breeds into U-233. However, unlke fissioning of Pu-239, fissioning of U-233 does not yield enough spare neutrons per fission to significantly grow the core fuel inventory as required to increase the number of reactors in operation. Fissioning of U-233 also yields long lived transuranium isotopes that can only be economically eliminated by fissioning in a U-238 / Pu-239 FNR.

7) In urban centers the heat output from nuclear power stations should be used for district heating, dehumidification, water purification and desalination. The thermal energy should be delivered to customers via buried insulated water and/or steam pipes. At customer premises far from the nuclear power station the thermal energy can be upgraded using electric heat pumps.

8) The nuclear energy supply alternative requires transparency, political stability, public education, and a trained work force. Making nuclear power safe and sustainable requires enlightened government policies relating to: fast neutron nuclear reactor technology, reactor siting, district heating, natural draft cooling towers, nuclear fuel reprocessing, radioactive material transport and radio isotope interim storage.

9) Obtaining such enlightened government policies from legislators who lack any advanced science education is extremely difficult. The legislators respond to irrational demands of voters and special interest lobbies neither of which understand or care about the relevant technical issues. The North American education system has failed to teach the general pubic basic energy related physics and economics. Both the general public and elected representatives are unaware of advances in fast neutron reactors that, as compared to CANDU reactors, have improved uranium utilization 100 fold, have reduced long term spent fuel storage requirements by more than 1000 fold and have reduced required public safety exclusion zones around reactors to zero. Comment on this issue was recently provided by the popular and respected magazine Scientific American
 

10) Nuclear power is by far the safest form of electricity generation. However, part of the public has an irrational fear of nuclear energy. This fear is in part a result of failure by elected governments to properly address nuclear education, nuclear safety, nuclear fuel supply sustainability and sustainable disposal of nuclear waste.

11) Since the early 1980s at every opportunity the fossil fuel industry has acted to prevent loss of market share due to expansion of nuclear power. However, the blunt reality is that in most jurisdictions due to lack of economically accessible hydroelectric seasonal energy storage capacity there is no practical non-fossil alternative to nuclear power for base load electricity generation.

12) The on-going failure of elected governments to rationally choose nuclear power over power obtained by combustion of fossil hydrocarbons may ultimately lead to the extinction of large land animal life on planet Earth, including the human species.

13) In most jurisdictions fast neutron nuclear fission together with nuclear fuel recycling is the only technology that can sustainably, economically and safely supply sufficient power, when and where required, to completely displace fossil hydrocarbons.
 

14) Practical fusion based electricity generation requires a large supply of the fuel isotope He-3 which is rare on Earth but in the future might be mined from the surface of the moon. Practical fusion also requires sustained magnetic confinement of a random plasma composed of particles with 400 keV per particle kinetic energies, which is a major technological and economic challenge. Fusion reactions emit equipment damaging high energy (13.6 MeV) neutrons, that must be used to breed additonal fusion fuel. There is no realistic expectation of generation of dependable and economic fusion power within the foreseeable future.
 

ELECTRICITY ISSUES:
1) Nuclear and renewable electricity are both more economic if each customer has behind-the-meter energy storage controlled to match the electricity load to the available non-fossil electricity generation.
 

2) Installation of behind-the-meter energy storage and displacement of fossil fuels by non-fossil electricity will not occur until the retail price of dependable electricity is made primarily proportional to the customer's monthly peak demand (kW or kVA) instead of being proportional to the customer's energy consumption (kWh). The delivery charge must also be made proportional to the customer's peak demand (kW or kVA). For consumers with load control the projected future dependable retail electricity rate for Ontario is:
[($30.00 / kW-month) + ($0.02 / kWh)]. A key enabling issue is that the marginal cost per electrical kWhe must be significantly less than the cost per kWht of the competing fossil fuel.

3) For a customer with a 50% load factor the corresponding blended dependable electricity rate per kWh is projected to be:
[($30.00 / kW-month X 1 kW-month) + 0.5 (730.5 kWh X $0.02 / kWh)] / [0.5 (730.5 kWh)]
= $0.1021 / kWh

4) In terms of both fossil fuel cost savings and reduced CO2 emissions it is more beneficial to displace liquid hydrocarbon fuels with surplus non-fossil electricity than to displace natural gas with surplus non-fossil electricity.

5) In order to effectively sell interruptible electricity a customer's monthly peak demand (kW) calculation must be disabled during metering intervals when interruptible electricity is available for that customer.

6) Timely full displacement of fossil fuels by non-fossil energy will likely require a price on fossil carbon emissions of at least $200 / tonne of emitted CO2. The revenue from a fossil carbon emissions tax should be applied to construction of new nuclear power stations and supporting power transmission.
 

SYNTHETIC FUELS:
Absent sufficient energy storage solar and wind power are only useful for fossil fuel displacement and electrolytic hydrogen production. These interruptible electricity applications will become financially viable when dependable electricity is primarily priced by peak capacity demand (kWe or kVA) rather than by absorbed energy (kWhe).
 

NET RADIANT ENERGY ABSORPTION:
Planet Earth continuously absorbs a fraction of its incident solar radiation and continuously emits thermal infrared radiation. Over dry land the law of conservation of energy causes these two radiation fluxes to reach approximate balance within a few hours of a step change in atmospheric CO2 concentration. However, over the deep ocean these two radiation fluxes require centuries to reach balance following a step increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration. Over shorter periods of time the radiation flux difference causes an increase in ocean enthalpy (heat content).

Increasing ocean enthalpy causes increases in Earth surface temperature, humidity, atmospheric CO2 concentration, storms and sea level.

The rate at which Earth emits thermal infrared radiation outside the GHG absorption bands is set by the planetary emission temperature T, which is also known as the top of atmosphere temperature. It is effectively the temperature at the cloud tops.

In November 1996 Earth's average planetary emission temperature:
T = 270 degrees K
and emissivity:
Ft = 0.7555
were measured using a thermal infrared spectrometer mounted on the interplanetary spacecraft Mars Global Surveyor.
 

MULTIPLE STABLE TEMPERATURES:
Due to non-linearity in the radiant energy exchange equations Earth's top of cloud temperature T has several real stable solutions, a "cold" state corresponding to extensive world glaciation, a "cool" state corresponding to presence of both north and south polar ice, a "warm" state corresponding to absence of north polar ice and a "hot" state corresponding to absence of both north and south polar ice. The "cool" and "hot" stable solutions are separated by about 17.5 degrees C. The geologic record shows regular oscillations between the "cool" and "warm" states with occasional excursions into the "cold" and "hot" states.

Past transitions between these stable states occurred as a result of combinations of astrophysical phenomena that affect the solar irradiance and atmospheric phenomena that affect Earth's solar reflectivity (planetary Bond albedo) and thermal infrared emissivity.

In the "cool" state:
T ~ 270 degrees K
as measured by the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft in November 1996.

In the "hot" state:
T ~ 287 degrees K.
as calculated from astrophysical albedo measurements.

The local value of the emission temperature T = Tr at which cool state to warm state transition occurs is:
Tr ~ 273.15 degrees K
where 273.15 degrees K is the freezing point of water.

In recent decades products of combustion of fossil fuels have caused an increase in Earth's absorption of solar radiation and have reduced Earth's emission of thermal infrared radiation. As a result there is ongoing net heat absorption by the oceans which is melting floating polar ice and there is a gradual increase in Earth's dry land surface temperature and hence Earth's effective planetary emission temperature T. The rate of emission temperature T rise is limited by the heat capacity of the oceans and the latent heat of fusion of the polar ice. Absorption of heat by dry land reduces snow and ice cover which further reduces solar reflectivity.

In early 2017 Earth was still in its "cool" state but a spontaneous transition from the "cool" state to the "warm" state had commenced. This spontaneous "cool" state to "warm" state transition is known as thermal runaway. The term "thermal runaway" is appropriate because it will soon be impossible to stop this temperature transition process.
 

THERMAL RUNAWAY:
The paramount challenge immediately facing mankind is halting and reversing thermal runaway. If mankind fails in this objective Earth will likely spontaneously transition all the way to its stable "hot" state.
Thermal runaway is an extinction level threat to all large land animal species on Earth.
This web site addresses the physical origin of thermal runaway and the measures necessary to halt and possibly reverse thermal runaway.

The geophysical record shows that over the history of life on planet Earth there have been several transitions back and forth between the "hot" state and the "cold" state. Such past transitions are believed to have been triggered by relatively infrequent astrophysical phenomena such as the random nearby passage of another star. Each such transition was accompanied by a global large land animal extinction.
 

REMEDIAL MEASURES:
The knee-jerk political reaction to global warming has been to attempt to partially displace fossil fuels with renewable energy.

In Ontario politically driven attempts to conserve electricity and implement solar and wind based electricity generation, without seasonal energy storage, achieved little net reduction in fossil CO2 emissions. Without sufficient seasonal energy storage wind and solar electricity generation cannot meet electricity system dependability requirements. In Ontario, due to geographic constraints, seasonal electrical energy storage is both prohibitively inefficient and prohibitively expensive. Furthermore, over commitment to wind and solar electricity generation without corresponding generator equivalent moment of inertia causes electricity grid instability and threatens the electricity grid black start capability.

However, a major reduction in fossil CO2 emissions was achieved by replacing coal fired synchronous electricity generation with nuclear synchronous electricity generation.
 

The optimum energy supply mix depends on the availability and reliability of local sources of renewable energy, the availability and sufficiency of geography permitting economic local seasonal energy storage and on the political stability, public education and work force training required to support nuclear power.
 

ELECTRICITY RATE:
The present retail electricity rate structure in Ontario and most other jurisdictions is primarily proportional to kWh consumed rather than being proportional to peak kW or peak kVA demand. The present electricity rate structure: does not reflect actual non-fossil electricity system costs, prevents use of available non-fossil electricity for fossil fuel displacement and prevents construction and use of consumer owned energy storage. At the root of these problems is a faulty government policy of encouraging minimization of electrical kWhe consumption instead of encouraging minimization of electrical peak kWe demand at times of non-fossil electricity shortage and encouraging minimization of fossil fuel consumption.

An issue of paramount importance is adopting electricity rates that financially enable energy storage, load management and displacement of fossil fuels with surplus non-fossil electricity. These same electricity rates are required to enable investment in additional nuclear power capacity.

As a result of prolonged heavy dependence on fossil fuels, in most jurisdictions the electricity rate is primarily based on measured kWh consumed. However, that electricity rate encourages use of fossil fuels in preference to non-fossil electricity even when there are surplus non-fossil kWh available at zero marginal cost to the electricity system. In order for non-fossil electricity to economically displace fossil fuels the electricty rate must be primarily based on the peak kWe or peak kVA demand during times of electricity supply inadequacy during each billing period. A peak kWe or peak kVA based electricity rate, in addition to encouraging conservation of energy, financially encourages construction and appropriate use of consumer owned energy storage and financially enables substitution of electricity for fossil fuels when surplus non-fossil electrical energy is available. Measurements of kWhe consumed are still required for allocating surplus non-fossil electrical energy to parties with hybrid heating and energy storage systems that can usefully use intermittent electricity for fossil fuel displacement, for electric vehicle charging and for production of electrolytic hydrogen.

In order to enable displacement of fossil fuels with non-fossil electricity the cost of a marginal electrical kWhe to the consumer must be less than the cost of a marginal fossil fuel thermal kWht. To meet this requirement the electricity system revenue must be primarily obtained from a charge proportional to each consumer's metered monthly peak kWe or peak kVA. The peak kWe or kVA billing should be automatically disabled at times of non-fossil electricity surplus when interruptible electricity is being made available to the customer.

A new retail electricity rate rate of the form:
[($30.00 / peak kWe-month) + ($0.02 / kWhe)]
would allow economic use of surplus non-fossil electrical kWh for displacement of fossil fuels in Ontario while maintaining the required gross electricity rate revenue. This electricity rate would also encourage implementation of behind the meter energy storage.

Changing the electricity billing methodology involves transition issues relating to consumer education. Consumers must be taught that to reduce their electricity and fossil fuel costs they should invest in energy storage, load management and hybrid heating (fossil fuel displacement) equipment. That education process will take several years. It is recommended that to encourage consumer acceptance in the initial years adoption of the new electricity rate should be voluntary.
 

GOVERNMENTAL FAILURES:
Today, in spite of decades of overwhelming scientific evidence, most governments have failed to adopt the energy system changes required to prevent severe climate change. These governmental failures include:
1) Continued investment in new fossil fuel infrastructure;

2) Failure to build sufficient non-fossil electricity generation, transmission and energy storage capacity to replace fossil fuels;

3) Failure to impose a price on fossil CO2 emissions sufficient to keep fossil carbon in the ground;

4) Failure to set aside and suitably zone river valleys that are potentially suitable for hydraulic energy storage;

5) Failure to set aside and suitably zone the land corridors needed for the high voltage electricity transmission lines, rail lines and district heating pipelines required for fossil fuel displacement;

6) Failure to set aside and suitably zone sites for the required distributed nuclear power plants and commuter railway parking lots;

7) Failure to set aside and suitably zone depleted hard rock mines that have features which make them suitable for interim nuclear fission product storage;

8) Failure to set aside and suitably zone natural salt cavern sites and depleted oil well sites suitable for annual storage of compressed hydrogen gas.

9) Failure to adopt an electricity rate structure that financially rewards consumers for appropriate use of load management and energy storage;

10) Failure to adopt an electricity rate structure that enables economic use of intermittent surplus non-fossil electricity generation capacity for displacement of fossil fuels.

11) Failure to adopt legislation related to: distributed nuclear power plant site zoning, combined electricity and thermal energy utility operation, sub-surface pipe easements and building codes necessary to enable nuclear district electricity and heating/cooling supply in urban areas.

12) Failure to educate the public with respect to critical energy related matters including:
a) the law of conservation of energy;
b) lower atmosphere thermal runaway;
c) the nature of electricity;
d) photon energy quantization;
e) sustainable non-fossil energy sources;
f) constraints on utility supplied power and energy;
g) long distance electricity transmission;
h) energy storage;
i) electricity rate structure;
j) nuclear energy;
k) fast neutron reactors;
l) nuclear fuel reprocessing;
m) nuclear waste disposal.

13) When legislators comprehend the scope of the work that must be done to prevent lower atmosphere thermal runaway they often feel overwhelmed and do nothing. Legislative action is driven by public demand and most voters do not understand the basic physics of energy systems and climate change.
 

POLITICAL FAILURES:
In North America no major political party is facing the full scope of the required fossil carbon emission reduction. Nowhere in North America is net new nuclear power capacity being built. In every case governmental corruption by the fossil fuel industry is driving wrong decisions. In the USA CO2 emissions are increasing due to irrational replacement of nuclear electricity generation capacity by natural gas fuelled electricity generation.

In Ontario there are firm plans to close the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station in 2024 but there is no plan to replace its nuclear capacity.

The failure of elected governments to adopt advanced nuclear power technology is highly troubling. If present governmental behavior patterns continue much of the existing world population will die of starvation within the 21st century. This starvation will be triggered by agricultural failures due to drought and aquifer depletion at equatorial and middle latitudes. As Earth's average atmospheric temperature continues to rise so also will the sea level and soil moisture evaporation. Absent sufficient nuclear power for desalination of sea water and for pumping of desalinated water inland for crop irrigation, in many places there will not be enough fresh water in the dry season to support intensive agriculture.

Already there are substantial reductions in land suitable for agriculture in Australia, Africa and North America due to lack of irrigation water. At the time of writing millions of people in Somolia, Etheopia, South Sudan and neighboring equatorial regions are facing death due to drought induced starvation. Less well covered by the news media are ongoing droughts in parts of South America and southern Africa. In Capetown, South Africa the public fresh water supply is close to exhaustion and the electricity supply is intermittent.

In Ontario the successive governments have failed to adopt peak kVA based electricity rates to enable displacement of fossil fuel consumption by surplus non-fossil electricity. Instead governments have squandered electricity ratepayer funds on incenting electrical energy conservation that increases fossil fuel consumption.

In Ontario the improper retail electricity rate structure makes construction of behind the meter energy storage financially impossible and acts as a huge disincentive to further construction of reliable nuclear generation.

In Ontario CO2 and soot emissions are increasing due to increasing use of natural gas fueled electricity generation in place of non-fossil nuclear electricity generation.

In Ontario ratepayer funds have been squandered on wind and solar electricity generation, over 70% of which is discarded for lack of energy storage and for lack of a suitable retail electricity price structure.

Major reductions in fossil CO2 emissions can only be achieved by both construction of additional nuclear power capacity and changing the electricity rate structure. The fossil fuel industry funds multiple parties which lobby against construction of additional nuclear capacity. This problem is compounded by a voting public that lacks education in basic energy issues.

The 2017 Ontario Long Term Energy Plan does not address displacement of fossil fuels in the heating and transportation markets with nuclear heat and non-fossil electricity. The Ontario government has yet to face the reality that to completely displace fossil carbon the nuclear reactor capacity in Ontario must be increased at least 3 fold and most new nuclear capacity must be located in urban areas. For efficiency and economy small modular fast neutron reactors must be sited to provide both electricity and district heating.

Non-fossil energy requirements that are completely missing from the 2017 Ontario Long Term Energy Plan include energy: for biomass processing to make synthetic liquid hydrocarbon fuels, for additional cement and metal production to replace asphalt and for non-combustion municipal waste processing to recycle hydrocarbon resins.

In recent years in Ontario there has been a disproportionate investment in wind and solar electricity generation without sufficient investment in nuclear power, energy storage and electricity transmission. Over investment in intermittent renewable electricity generation without sufficient seasonal energy storage creates stranded assets having little market value.

There is no recognition that the cost per kWhe of transmitting intermittent wind and solar generated electrical energy from distant rural generation sites to urban load sites is at least 12X the cost per kWhe of transmitting dependable nuclear electricity from relatively nearby nuclear generators to urban load sites.

As nuclear electricity generation displaces fossil fueled electricity generation the market value of intermittent renewable electricity generation will decrease unless there is sufficient energy storage. However, in Ontario there is almost no seasonal energy storage and little prospect of new daily energy storage until the retail electricity rate structure is changed to be peak dependable power oriented rather than energy oriented. That rate change would financially enable production and storage of electrolytic hydrogen as a vehicle fuel.

As a result Ontario's blended electricity rates are extremely high and much of the non-fossil electricity generation capacity is discarded. This policy of discarding useful non-fossil energy has been concealed by improper electricity rates and by deceptive accounting by parties with vested interests and short term political and profit agendas. The ongoing cost of this scam to the Ontario rate payers and taxpayers is over $2 billion per year.

Ontario has been in the ridiculous position of exporting electricity at about $0.016 / kWh while charging Ontario rural consumers as much as $0.270 / kWh. This electricity pricing strategy has increased consumption of fossil fuels in Ontario and has made many Ontario businesses internationally uncompetitive. The Ontario government has repeatedly ignored engineering advice to allow consumers to voluntary change from the obsolete retail electicity rate primarily based on measured kWhe to a new retail electricity rate primarily based on measured peak kWe or peak kVA. The proposed new rate would reflect the true cost of electricity generation and transmission in Ontario and would allow Ontario consumers access to the intermittent surplus non-fossil electricity generation that is presently discarded or exported at an extremely low price.

A new retail electricity rate rate of the form:
[($30.00 /peak kW-month) + ($0.02 / kWh)]
would:
a) maintain the required electricity system gross revenue;
b) encourage implementation of behind the meter energy storage;
c) allow economic use of surplus non-fossil electrical kWhe for displacement of fossil fuels;
d) reduce the blended cost of electricity per kWhe by enabling larger kWhe consumptions without increasing the metered peak kWe demand;
e) Encourage load control which would minimize future electricity system costs.

Up until the present the government of Ontario has been unwilling to act rationally to displace fossil hydrocarbon fuels with available zero cost surplus non-fossil electricity, which would reduce the blended electricity cost per kWhe. The only explanation for this governmental inaction is deep seated corruption. The financial beneficiaries of this corruption are US bulk electricity purchasers and Canadian liquid fossil fuel suppliers.
 

FAST NEUTRON REACTORS (FNRs):
There is only one sustainable path for displacement of fossil fuels and that path requires widespread deployment of liquid sodium cooled fast neutron nuclear reactors for supply of both electricity and heat. Hence, for expansion of nuclear power capacity to make economic and environmental sense, there must also be a major investment in liquid sodium cooled Fast Neutron Reactors (FNRs).

A liquid sodium cooled Fast Neutron Reactor (FNR) heats a pool of primary liquid sodium. Immersed in the center of this primary liquid sodium pool are fuel tubes which keep the primary liquid sodium surface temperature nearly constant at 460 degrees C. Immersed in the primary liquid sodium around the perimeter of the primary liquid sodium pool are pipes which deliver hot radioactive primary liquid sodium to intermediate heat exchangers which heat secondary non-radioactive liquid sodium. The secondary liquid sodium is heated by the primary liquid sodium and delivers that heat to steam generators for electricity generation and district heating. Since the primary liquid sodium temperature is constant the reactor thermal power output is set by the variable flow rate of the secondary liquid sodium. The heat transfer systems provide four independent safety isolation barriers for radioactive species.
 

FNR SAFETY:
A practical FNR is an assembly of heat emitting active fuel bundles encircled by passive fuel bundles. In addition to the normal power control mechanism there are two independent emergency shutdown systems. Each movable fuel bundle features:
1) Natural primary sodium circulation;
2) Passive shut down if the average fuel temperature exceeds its setpoint;
3) Independent temperature setpoint control for each movable fuel bundle.

Each FNR power plant has multiple independent secondary heat transport systems. On loss of power to the secondary sodium induction type circulation pumps there is sufficient natural circulation in the secondary heat transport systems to remove fission product decay heat.

Underneath the fuel tubes is a primary sodium pool bottom structure that, in the unlikely event of fuel melting, will prevent formation of a critical mass on the bottom of the primary sodium pool.

Each FNR has an ~ 4 m thickness of blanket fuel and liquid sodium around the outside of the reacting core zone which absorbs all leakage neutrons and hence extends equipment life and prevents production of decommissioning waste.

FNRs must be sited where they will never be exposed to flood water.
 

FNR POLITICS:
In 1994 former US president Bill Clinton, for reasons of corruption and political expediency, cancelled the highly successsful US fast neutron reactor development program. Due to lack of program funding the USA, which until that time was a world leader in FNR nuclear engineering matters, totally lost its leadership role.

There has been a failure by all levels of North American government to recognize that in high latitude countries, such as Canada, the only technology that can sustainably displace fossil fuels is liquid sodium cooled fast neutron reactors (FNRs). The FNRs require substantial plutonium inventories so the existing policy of intentional disposal of plutonium in thermal reactors or by burial must be changed.

There is also insufficient public recognition that advances in liquid sodium cooled fast neutron reactors and related technologies have potentially enabled: a large increase in nuclear plant life, an over 100 fold improvement in natural uranium utilization efficiency, an over 1000 fold reduction in production of long lived nuclear waste and electricity grid load following by nuclear generation.

Due to repeated political procrastination with respect to fossil carbon taxes, electricity rates and new nuclear reactor development there is now no certainty that atmospheric thermal runaway can be halted. Under the best of circumstances the time required to build the nuclear reactor capacity necessary for total fossil fuel displacement is at least 50 years. Absent prompt construction of this FNR capacity thermal runaway will likely become impossible to stop.
 

SUMMARY:
In summary, stopping thermal runaway requires:
a) Immediate halting of investment in new dedicated fossil fuel infrastructure such as tar sand pipelines;
b) A fossil carbon emissions tax sufficient to keep fossil hydrocarbons in the ground;
c) Immediate construction of much more nuclear power capacity with sustainable fuel cycles;
d) Siting of new distributed nuclear power capacity at high elevation points in urban population centers;
e) Widespread deployment of modular liquid sodium cooled fast neutron reactors (FNRs) and nuclear fuel recycling;
f) Use of intermittent renewable energy when and where available for electrolytic hydrogen production and displacement of fossil fuels;
g) Adoption of dependable electricity rates primarily based on each consumer's monthly peak kW or peak kVA measured during metering intervals when interruptible electricity is not being supplied;
h) Widespread adoption of consumer owned behind-the-meter energy storage;
i) Large scale production of synthetic liquid hydrocarbon fuels for fueling aircraft;
j) Large scale production of anhydrous ammonia for fueling small and meduim size ships;
k) Wide spread adoption of lithium batteries and compressed electrolytic hydrogen for automotive, train and truck propulsion;
l) Repurposing of the natural gas piping system for hydrogen distribution;
m) Repurposing of existing natural gas storage caverns for storing hydrogen;
n) Development of toluene/methylcyclohexane facilities for rural distribution and storage of hydrogen;
o) Adoption of nuclear district heating in urban areas;
p) Adoption of nuclear district energy source heat pumps for comfort and water heating.
 

NOTES TO READER:
Most of the material on this web site is suitable for persons with a high school science education. However, some of the material requires the reader to have a deeper understanding of mathematics, physics, chemistry or engineering.

The web page ENERGY AND SOCIETY gives an overview of some of the major issues that are more fully developed elsewhere on this web site.

Visitors to this web site should review the tables of contents that are accessible via links located at the top and bottom of each web page.

Web site visitors are encouraged to email constructive comments to the author.

Documents worthy of careful study are a March 2016 report by the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers titled: Ontario's Energy Dilemma: Reducing Emissions at an Affordable Cost.
and an April 2019 report by the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers titled: Summary Report Retail Electricity Price Reform. There are related explanatory documents available on the web page titled: ELECTRICITY RATE PROPOSAL.
 

These reports detail a continuing multi-billion dollar per year incompetence and corruption scam within the energy sector perpetuated by the Ontario Provincial Government.

This web page last updated April 10, 2021.

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