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By Charles Rhodes B.Sc., M.A.Sc., Ph. D., P.Eng.
Xylene Power Ltd.
Forty-eight years ago Dr. Rhodes was a graduate student in Electrical Engineering at U. of T.
After graduation his work included application of microprocessors to control and monitoring of major electrical and mechanical equipment, energy storage and power control in major buildings, development and implementation of energy cost saving performance contracts, and development, manufacture and application of commercial size high efficiency boilers and co-generation systems. He represented the interests of the high rise building owners at the Ontario Energy Board.
Since 2002 Dr. Rhodes has been a leader in astrophysical analysis of climate change and in development of sustainable nuclear power systems.
My name is Charles Rhodes.
I would like to thank Prof. Aimy Bazylak for inviting me to speak to you.
I will quickly summarize major issues relating to climate change, energy and electricity rates.
I will then focus on electricity system issues in the Province of Ontario.
I am prepared to come back on another day to address climate change. I have astrophysical data which shows that, in spite of the economic disadvantages, we must leave fossil carbon in the ground.
One of my objectives today is to encourage the students and faculty at U. of T to ignore propaganda from the federal and provincial governments and from the fossil fuel industry and to apply the laws of physics to major energy issues.
There is no need to make notes. This presentation is available at www.xylenepower.com.
1) The CO2 related climate change problem is both much more serious and much more urgent than has been depicted by governments and by the IPCC.
2) A high atmospheric CO2 concentration causes ocean warming which in turn causes melting of Arctic ice. Arctic ice melting will cause a projected 20 degree C increase in Earth's emission temperature as viewed from outer space. This temperature increase is referred to as thermal runaway. The geophysical record shows that thermal runaway has occurred in the past.
3) The urgency of the CO2 problem comes from the size, scope and implementation time of the world wide industrial effort that is required to prevent thermal runaway from occurring.
4) Since 1981 Ontario government policy has encouraged electricity to natural gas fuel substitution. To prevent climate change the government of Ontario must now do a complete U turn and focus on fossil fuel displacement, energy storage, and electricity peak demand reduction.
Since 1966 Canadian federal government policy has been to favor CANDU reactors over Fast Neutron Reactors (FNRs). Today the federal government must make a complete U turn on this policy issue.
5) A large fraction of the Ontario public resources devoted to wind and solar generation have been almost completely wasted. In a non-fossil energy system wind and solar energy have little monetary value without sufficient seasonal energy storage, which storage is almost non-existent in Ontario.
6) The Ontario government has repeatedly ignored engineering advice relating to implementation of individual metering and energy storage in major buildings.
7) The Ontario government has done nothing to enable use of low cost interruptible electricity to reduce fossil fuel consumption in Ontario.
8) Thermal runaway can only be prevented by a combination of a major change in the Ontario electricity rate structure, a five fold increase in the Ontario per capita installed electricity transmission capacity, a 10 fold increase in the Ontario per capita installed nuclear power capacity and by a fossil carbon tax sufficient to keep all forms of fossil carbon in the ground.
It will be financially challenging for the next generation to fund the required expansion of the electricity system. As a minimum installed electricity transmission capacity must double every 15 years and installed nuclear power generation capacity must double every 10 years.
9) Load factor is defined as (average power) / (peak power). Load factor is a measure of equipment utilization efficiency. In recent years the load factor of the Ontario electricity system has been hovering at about 50%. A major change in the retail electricity rates is required to financially enable both energy storage and load control so as to improve load factor. Load factor improvement will mitigate the costs of both electeicity transmisssion and nuclear power generation.
10) Due to excessive natural uranium consumption the existing water moderated nuclear reactor technologies are not sustainable for fossil fuel displacement and must be replaced by liquid sodium cooled Fast Neutron Reactor (FNR) technology.
11) The C-14 concentration decay rate in Earth's atmosphere in combination with CO2 concentration data from Mona Loa indicate that the world wide total fossil carbon oxidation rate is about 1.9X larger than indicated by governmental fossil fuel tax and royalty records. This factor of 1.9 is consistent with normal upstream practice in the fossil fuel industry.
12) In energy matters the governments of Canada and Ontario are rife with incompetence and fossil fuel industry influence.
13) The present federal and provincial government plans will neither prevent nor significantly delay the onset of thermal runaway.
14) Intervention by members of this audience will likely be required to change the present Ontario and Canadian government directions.
ENERGY ENGINEERS SOLUTION
Since WWII mankind has been burning fossil fuels at an unprecedented rate. Much of the Arctic floating ice has melted. There is a consequent continuing decrease in planetary Bond albedo. The atmosphere has a record high CO2 concentration and that concentration is continuing to climb.
World wide the actual rate of fossil carbon extraction and oxidation is about 1.9X the rate of fossil fuel use indicated by governmental tax and royalty records. The extra fossil carbon is contained in: methane hydrate melting releases, flared natural gas, fuel consumed for extraction site steam generation, fuel consumed by upstream gas and liquid hydrocarbon processing and pipeline pumping power, fuel consumed by refinery processes, coke, asphalt, resin feedstock, integrated coal and electricity production and unreported fossil fuel extraction.
WIND AND SOLAR
The fundamental problem with wind and solar generation is that without sufficient high efficiency energy storage they increase rather than decrease the costs of the balance of the electricity system. A secondary problem is that wind and solar generation, as implemented in Ontario, rely on external synchronous generation to set the grid voltage and frequency.
Intermittent wind and solar energy, without fossil fuel balancing, are today worth only $0.01 to $0.02 per kWh. Wind costs more than $0.12 / kWhe to generate and costs about 12X as much as nuclear power to transmit. Solar costs are much higher. The underlying problem is that in addition to high transmission costs storing wind and solar energy in Ontario requires at least 250 kWh of energy storage per kW of power output. Even if the cost of lithium ion battery storage can be reduced from $1000 / kWh to $200 / kWh the cost of this energy storage at:
250 kWh / kW X $200 / kWh = $50,000 / kW
REQUIRED NUCLEAR REACTOR CAPACITY:
. Displacing fossil fuels, coke, asphalt, resins and refinery loads in Ontario will require about 10X the present installed nuclear power capacity.
World wide the actual rate of fossil carbon oxidation is about 1.9X the rate of total fossil fuel production rate reported by governments.
Provision must also be made for population growth, standard of living improvement and power for water desalination.
A minor reduction in nuclear capacity is possible if nuclear reactors can be located within urban centers to provide district heating / cooling.
Nuclear Power is he only economic source of major new non-fossil energy in Ontario. Nuclear reactors are economic when the load factor is high.
There are a few rivers in northern Ontario that if harnessed might collectively displace a few nuclear reactors, but their power generation capacity is small compared to the total non-fossil power requirement. Currently the cost of nuclear electricity generation from refurbished reactors in Ontario is about $60 /kW-month or $0.082/ kWh. The cost of new nuclear power will likely be 2X to 3X that amount, depending on the prevailing interest rate. For comfort heating purposes urban consumers could potentially use nuclear district heating and heat pumps to reduce the average cost of thermal energy.
CANDU reactors are a 1960s technology that gave Canada energy independence but that is extremely wasteful in terms of usage of natural uranium. CANDU reactors produce large amounts of long lived nuclear waste with a disposal cost that rivals the original cost of the reactors. CANDU reactors are not a sustainable solution for ongoing fossil fuel displacement. They are labor intensive to build and maintain. Their main advantage is that we have them and we have a work force and a supply chain that on short notice could build more of them.
FAST NEUTRON REACTORS:
The only currently available sustainable non-fossil energy source is liquid sodium cooled fast neutron reactors (FNRs) fueled by U-238. As compared to CANDU reactors on a per kWh basis FNRs require 100 fold less uranium and produce 1000 fold less nuclear waste requiring long term isolated storage.
FNRs can also dispose of the existing highly toxic spent CANDU fuel inventory.
FNRs can follow a rapidly changing electricity load.
An important feature of FNRs is that most of their fabrication and fuel processing can be highly automated.
Every day that the governments of Canada and Ontario fail to seriously address this nuclear power issue is another day that we don't have FNRs installed and working. We have experience building, operating and maintaining CANDU reactors. The liquid sodium cooled FNR physics was developed in Canada 50 years ago and the FNR technology was proven by Canadians working in the USA more than 25 years ago. If the resources that have been squandered on wind and solar had been invested in FNRs today we would again be a technology leader. Instead we are decades behind Russia, China, South Korea, India, France and the UK in a technology that is crucial to our economy.
In the energy sector our federal government is responsive only to the fossil fuel lobby.
The costs of nuclear electricity generation depend on peak kW, not kWh.
Load Factor = (average power kW) / (peak power kW).
In a nuclear electricity system the blended cost of electricity per kWh to an end user is inversely proportional to that user's load factor.
Load factor improvement through proper use of energy storage can reduce blended electricity system costs by about 30%.
We need electricity rates that reward installation of energy storage and load control in every building. That objective is not difficult to achieve. In the early 1980s there were ~ 40,000 homes and apartment suites in Toronto, East York and Scarborough with energy storage and load management. I know because I was responsible for a large fraction of them.
ONTARIO ELECTRICITY DEMAND GRAPHS
Note that currently on average only about half of the generation and transmission capacity is actually used.
In order to be reliable any electricity system needs generation and transmission capacity at least 15% greater than the highest grid demand in the year. Much of the time there is surplus non-fossil generation capacity that could be sold at a discount as interruptible electricity.
In a non-fossil electricity system the marginal cost of generating and transmitting interruptible electricity is almost zero. All that is necessary to sell interruptible electricity is an appropriate electricity rate, an appropriate electricity meter and a radio or internet connection. Currently the people of Ontario are losing $2 billion to $4 billion per year through failure of the government of Ontario to properly market interruptible electricity. The easily accessible market is displacement of fossil fuels, especially fuel oil and propane in rural Ontario as well as natural gas in urban centers. Another potential major market is production of electrolytic hydrogen as a vehicle fuel.
BEHIND THE METER GENERATION:
Today's electricity rates are so skewed that major industries and some major building owners in Ontario are burning natural gas to generate their own electricity and heat (co-generation). The government calls it “energy savings” because it reduces the average electricity grid load. I call it ninsense because it involves unnecessary long term commitment to fossil fuel usage.
NEW ELECTRICITY RATE:
Fossil fuels cannot be economically displaced and nuclear power cannot be economically expanded until the electricity rates in Ontario are fixed. Fixing the rates requires an act of the legislature . In order to financially enable energy storage, which makes nuclear power economical, the retail electricity rate must be primarily peak demand based rather than energy based. Use of energy based electricity rates in a non-fossil electricity system causes extreme waste of both electricity system resources and fossil fuel.
A suitable retail electricity rate is: $70 / kW-month+ $0.02 / kWh.
An issue that is not adequately understood about reliable non-fossil electricity generation is that its cost is proportional to a customer's peak kW, not kWh. The present government concept of allocating the global adjustment in proportion to kWh consumed is fundamentally wrong. Until the government of Ontario moves the global adjustment allocation from kWh to kW there can be no significant reduction in use of fossil fuels in Ontario.
It is of paramount importance that the Ontario electricity rate structure be fixed so that customers are financially rewarded for installation and appropriate use of energy storage and load control equipment.
Demand based electricity rates are not a new concept. In the 1960s through to about 1981 Ontario Hydro, Toronto Hydro and East York Hydro provided demand based rates to major building owners and developers. Again in the early 1990s Toronto Hydro and Scarborough Hydro provided demand based rates to major building owners. I know about these rate matters because I was the engineer representing the building owners. Prior to the development of smart meters demand based rates were expensive to implement for small customers, but today demand based electricity rates could easily be provided to all customers using existing smart meters.
GOVERNMENTAL RESPONSE TO THE FOSSSIL FUEL LOBBY:
Why don't we have demand based electricity rates today? Dating back to the early 1970s the fossil fuel industry has exercised control over electricity generation in Ontario by influencing Ontario government policy. There are a litany of examples where government decisions have led to increased use of fossil fuels when there was plenty of zero marginal cost non-fossil electricity available.
The Pickering Nuclear Generating Station will close before any replacement can be built. At that time fossil fuel consumption in Ontario will surge further upwards. Wind and solar generation have demonstrated that they can only replace about one third of the Pickering capacity.
The other two thirds of Pickering capacity will have to be entirely replaced by natural gas generation running until such time as replacement nuclear reactors are built and commissioned.
I suggest to you that the the only rational explanation for the existing adverse electricity rates in Ontario is long term political influence by the fossil fuel industry. How else can anyone explain why for years surplus non-fossil electricity is been exported to the USA at $0.01 / kWhe while rural consumers in Ontario simultaneously pay $0.08 / kWht to $0.12 / kWht for heating oil and propane and as much as $0.27 / kWh for electricity?
I am doing my best to prevent thermal runaway occurring. However, I am in an environment where a federal Liberal government elected on a claimed climate change prevention platform has recently authorized tripling heavy oil exports via the Kinder Morgan pipeline as well as natural gas exports via a new LNG port and an Ontario provincial government that refuses to acknowledge that its policies in the electricity sector are the direct cause of major present and future fossil fuel consumption in Ontario. A wrong electricity rate structure is causing immense electricity and fossil fuel waste, poor load factor and high marginal electricity prices that are driving industry out of Ontario.
Politicians must face the reality that their actions have caused very serious problems for the people of Ontario and Canada.
One need look no further than:
a) The huge financial waste caused by a political choice of wind and solar generation over engineer recommended nuclear generation;
b) The non-sustainability of CANDU reactors;
c) The non-sustainability of the federal government prescribed nuclear waste disposal methodology;
d) The inappropriate application of high rise building metering,
e) Inappropriate Ontario electricity rates
f) Your own electricity bill
g) Your own tax bill.
h) The effective destruction of the power reactor development capability of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL) by the Harper government
to see that our governments are simply too incompetent and/ too fossil fuel oriented to appropriately manage energy matters.
During the 1950s and 1960s major energy and industrial projects in Canada such as hydroelectric dams and pulp and paper mills were successfully built by ethical private engineering firms.
I am proud that my father was a leader in one of those firms.
In this presentation I have referred to Fast Neutron Reactor (FNR) technology.
In 1965 Canada was a world leader in nuclear technology. Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) had parallel programs for development of CANDU reactors for immediate application and in fast neutron physics for future fast neutron reactors.
In 1966 the federal government terminated the AECL fast neutron physics program and the employment of over 50 of AECL's most experienced engineers. In the immediately subsequent years the Canadian public suffered hundreds of millions of dollars in financial loses in the nuclear sector entirely due to technical misdirection by incompetent politicians.
However, some of those terminated Canadian engineers found employment in Idaho, USA where they developed a highly successful liquid sodium cooled fast neutron reactor known as the EBR-2, which today is the design basis for future fast neutron power reactors (FNRs).
In early 1969 a senior executive of AECL, in an attempt to salvage something from the AECL investment in fast neutron physics, sent me a compendium of designs and experimental results.
When politicians arbitrarily fire senior engineers the remaining junior engineers, in fear of also being terminated, generally lack the moral fortitude to tell the politicians that their decisions are fundamentally wrong. The heavy water plant in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia was a $125 million write off in 1967 dollars due to ignorance of basic chemistry. Another nuclear facility in Quebec was a comparable write-off. This should be a lesson to all politicians that there are no cost savings in terminating the most experienced engineers. This governmental stupidity was comparable to the stupidity of John Diefentbaker in termination of the Avro Arrow supersonic fighter program just before the war in Vietnam.
About 2004 the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) identified a potential safety problem common to many power reactors. Instead of honoring the work of the CNSC our prime minister Mr. Harper ridiculed that work and fired the CNSC head Linda Keene. That firing led directly to the problems at Fukushima Daiichi.
ROLE OF THIS AUDIENCE:
The governments of Ontario and Canada have been heavily influenced by fossil fuel interests since the 1960s. In terms of preventing thermal runaway the governmental issues are much more difficult than the technical issues.
I hope that my presentation today will encourage others to become active in the fight against climate change. Unless everyone does all necessary to promptly fix the governmental agenda the laws of physics indicate that mankind is doomed.
However, on the bright side, if the governmental problems can be promptly resolved then there will be major opportunity relating to production and application of fast neutron reactors and related technology both in Canada and around the world.
ASTROPHYSICAL ANALYSIS OF CLIMATE CHANGE:
In my youth I considered becoming a radio astronomer. In 2004 I set out to understand global warming related phenomena from the perspective of an observer in a space craft.
STEADY STATE ENERGY BALANCE EQUATION:
It is easily shown that Earth's steady state radiative energy balance equation is:
I (1 – Fr) Pi R^2 = 4 Pi R^2 Ft Cb T^4
I (1 – Fr) = 4 Ft Cb T^4
Pi = 3.1415928
R = radius of Earth
I = solar irradiance
Fr = planetary Bond albedo (solar reflectivity)
Ft = Earth's emissivity
Cb = Stefan-Boltzmann constant
T = absolute temperature
At first glance dealing with this equation app-ears simple. Today we have methods of separately measuring I, Fr, Ft and T.
The issue is projecting into the future because:
Fr has a step discontinuity at T = 273.15 K
Ft has a discontinuity at the liquid-vapor transition point of water, which is both temperature and pressure dependent.
If T is increased by 3 degrees from its 1996 value of 270 degrees K then T undergoes a step increase of 17.5 degtrees.
Earth's steady state radiative energy balance equation has two real stable solutions for T which are separated by about 20 degrees C.
1972 Apollo 17 photo
Ocean: Fr = 0.035,
Tropical Latitudes: Fr = 0.10,
Polar Latitudes: Fr = 0.50
Planetary Bond albedo Fr = 0.30
A change in Earth's planetary Bond albedo (solar reflectivity) due to melting of ice from the year 2000 value of Fr = 0.30 to a future Fr = 0.10 causes to a 17.5 degree C steady state temperature increase without considering other temperature increasing factors such as the lower emissivity of water vapor and increased atmospheric water vapor concentration.
The “planetary emission temperature” T of Earth is the temperature measured using a thermal infrared spectrometer mounted in a spacecraft that is far from Earth.
In November 1996 the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft measured Earth's planetary emission temperature as 270 degrees K. The corresponding average grade level temperature was about 288 degrees K.
Note the frequency bands of reduced emission due to CO2 and H2O in the upper atmosphere.
Analysis of this data shows that doubling the atmospheric CO2 concentration causes a ~ 3 degree C emission temperature rise over dry land and causes net thermal energy absorption by the oceans.
The advantage of expressing climate matters in terms of planetary emission temperature is that this methodology allows direct use of available astrophysical data without making any assumptions other than the law of conservation of energy.
The 270 degrees K is actually an average of a range of latitude dependent emission temperatures
Ceres satellite data:
The reduced emission over the poles is due to low temperature. The reduced emission over the equator is due to the lower emissivity of water vapor than liquid water. As the width of this equatorial band expands the rate of net heat absorption by the oceans increases.
Infrared Data gathered by the Ceres satellites shows that in 2001 Earth was already close to thermal runaway at the equator. The problem is marching towards the poles as indicated by recent large temperature increases in circumpolar communities.
The steady state radiant energy balance equation for Earth is non-linear and has two stable real solutions, a “cool” state in which we live now and a “warm” state that prevails when there is no polar ice.
In the “cool” state the planetary emission temperature is below 273.15 degrees K, the freezing point of water, and the planetary Bond albedo Fr is moderate (Fr ~ 0.30). In the “warm” state the planetary emission temperature is above 273.15 degrees K and the planetary Bond albedo Fr is relatively low (Fr ~ 0.10).
In the “cool” state a sustained above equilibrium atmospheric CO2 concentration raises the emission temperature over dry land and causes net heat absorption by the oceans. The absorbed heat circulates and melts Arctic ice which decreases the planetary Bond albedo (solar reflectivity). The decrease in Bond albedo causes yet more net solar energy absorption which further raises the emission temperature. For T > 273 K this process, known as thermal runaway, will run spontaneously until all the ice melts causing a ~ 20 degree C increase in planetary emission temperature.
Both decreases in planetary Bond albedo and decreases in emissivity due to increased Green House Gas concentrations increase the planetary emission temperature T. A 2 to 3 degree C increase in emission temperature T will cause thermal runaway to run out of control. Considering the large scope of work necessary to displace fossil fuels we are precariously close to a spontaneous transition from the “cool” state to the “warm” state.
Based on the recent rate of polar ice melting the time to onset of thermal runaway is at most a few decades.
The change from a “cool” state to a “warm” state is analogous to an electronic flip-flop which has two stable states.
When Earth is in its “cool” state the CO2 level can modestly oscillate up and down for millions of years during which time there are oscillating temperatures accompanying ice ages but there is no change in state. However, a sustained high atmospheric CO2 concentration while the ice cover is low will cause Earth to flip from its “cool” state to its “warm” state. Similarly a sustained low atmospheric CO2 concentration while the ice cover is high will cause Earth to flop from its “warm” state back to its “cool” state. The natural processes involved in formation of limestone and fossil fuels to enable a change from a high atmospheric CO2 concentration to a low atmospheric CO2 concentration take hundreds of thousands of years.
The geologic isotope and fossil records show that 56 million years ago, during a period known as the PETM, Earth switched from its 'cool” state to its “warm” state. Earth remained in its “warm” state for about 200,000 years during which time large land animals ceased to exist. Due to the high ambient temperatures only small land animals could survive because their surface area to volume ratio was sufficient to allow heat dissipation.
The melting of polar ice is driven by excess atmospheric CO2 driven net thermal absorption by the oceans. The phase change of clouds from ice to water over dry land is driven by the increased temperature due to the excess atmospheric CO2 concentration.
These two processes in combination will make the planetary Bond albedo rapidly decrease, leading to a rapid planetary emission temperature rise of about 20 degrees C. Taking into consideration the CO2 16 year residence time in the atmosphere halting this thermal runaway process requires an immediate 90% reduction in world CO2 emissions. Such a reduction is not presently on the government agenda, even though we are precariously close to triggering a spontaneous transition from the “cool” state to the “warm” state.
An issue that I am promoting is honesty. Physicists who understand thermal radiation matters must be forthright to their students about the consequences of allowing continuing oxidation of fossil carbon.
This web page last updated March 10, 2017
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