May 12

The Future of Nuclear Generated Electricity

“A clean air solution is needed to mitigate the movement of carbon through electricity generation, as the current methods of generating electricity produce a significant amount of emissions, and this is expected to rise.”

PTW Nuclear Powerplant

Pottstown Limerick NPP/Used via Creative Commons License, Photo by: Mike Webkist

Electricity is important, it is the engine that drives everyday operations and technological advances. However, our society is growing at an unprecedented rate and our electricity demands continue to rise exponentially. We are projected to use 28 terawatts worldwide in 2110, compared to the 13 TW of electricity our society uses now (Lewis, 2005).

In addition, the current generation methods used for energy produces a substantial amount of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. The purpose of my research is to show that nuclear energy is a feasible method for mass production of energy in the future, as nuclear energy is a clean air generation method, it provides a substantial amount of energy, and it has the ability to utilize a closed fuel cycle enabling for a more efficient use of supplies. My research also explores the concerns that we need to address before large-scale deployment.

Since Nuclear energy is a clean air generation method, it does not release carbon dioxide emissions when in operation. A clean air solution is needed to mitigate the movement of carbon through electricity generation, as the current methods of generating electricity produce a significant amount of emissions, and this is expected to rise. Nuclear energy produces a substantial amount of energy for its footprint.

One of the largest hurdles to large-scale deployment of nuclear energy is the disposal of waste and the safety of transporting the waste. An alternate waste “reuse” method can be implemented to cut down on waste.

We cannot rely solely on nuclear power in the future, however, we will probably see more nuclear energy plants being built and more nuclear reactors deployed during the next 100 years. Though not the complete answer to solving our energy crisis, nuclear energy is a feasible method of planning for tomorrow’s energy requirements.

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May 03
PTW Nuclear Powerplant

Pottstown Limerick NPP/ Used via Creative Commons License, Photo by: Mike Webkist

“A clean air solution is needed to mitigate the movement of carbon through electricity generation, as the current methods of generating electricity produce a significant amount of emissions, and this is expected to rise.”

Electricity is important, as it is the engine that drives everyday operations and technological advances. However, our society is growing at an unprecedented rate and our electricity demands continue to rise faster than an increase. We are project to use 28 terawatts worldwide in 2110, compared to the 13 TW of electricity our society uses now.

In addition, the current generation methods used for energy produces a substantial amount of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. The purpose of this paper is to show that nuclear energy is a feasible method for mass production of energy in the future, as nuclear energy is clean air, it provides for a substantial amount of energy, and it has the ability to utilize a closed fuel cycle enabling for a more efficient use of supplies. This paper also explores the concerns to address before large-scale deployment including safety reputation of nuclear energy, operational costs, and waste mitigation.

While nuclear energy has a bad reputation from the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl incidents, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is committed to a safe future of nuclear energy generation as it can play a key role in tomorrow’s energy generation.

Since Nuclear energy is clean air, it does not release carbon dioxide emissions when in operation. A clean air solution is needed to mitigate the movement of carbon through electricity generation, as the current methods of generating electricity produce a significant amount of emissions, and this is expected to rise.

Nuclear energy produces a substantial amount of energy for its footprint. The findings presented in the paper compare a San Diego County nuclear power plant to a nearby wind farm, and the nuclear power plant produces more energy per acre.

One of the largest hurdles to large-scale deployment of nuclear energy is the disposal of waste and the safety of transporting the waste to the site. An alternate waste “reuse” method can be implemented to breed the used uranium into plutonium to cut down on waste.

We cannot rely solely on nuclear power in the future, however, we will probably see more nuclear energy plants being built and more nuclear reactors deployed during the next 100 years. Though not the complete answer to solving our energy crisis, nuclear energy is a feasible method of planning for tomorrow’s energy requirements.


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Mar 08
  1. I.     Intro
    1. Electricity is everywhere in our modern world…
    2. Electricity vs Energy
      1. i.     What is Energy?
    3. Current Statistics
      1. i.     US = 3 TW/yr
      2. ii.     World = 13 TW/yr
        1. Nate Lewis Lecture
    4. Projected Statistics 2050
      1. i.     World = 28 TW/yr
    5. Current Electricity Generation
      1. i.     High CO2 Emissions
    6. Feasible Method for Future (thesis)
      1. i.     Introduce Nuclear
      2. ii.     A feasible method of generating enough electricity to meet future demands is to deploy more nuclear reactors worldwide, as they are clean air, they provide for a substantial amount of energy, and they use a closed fuel cycle enabling for a more efficient use of supplies. However, there are many concerns to fix before large scale deployment including safety, the operational cost, and waste mitigation.
  2. II.     Why Nuclear Has Negative Image
    1. Chernobyl and Three Mile Island Incidents
      1. i.     Radiation from Chernobyl
      2. ii.     Radiation felt all over Europe and North America
      3. iii.     TMI: Mechanical Failure vs. Chernobyl Operator Error + Mechanical Failure
    2. Lessons Learned
      1. i.     Fail safe mechanisms
      2. ii.     Accidents paved the way to safer future through new technological advances
      3. iii.     Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  3. III.     Nuclear = Clean Air
    1. No CO2 Emissions
    2. IPCC
      1. i.     Stance on global warming
      2. ii.     “Human Induced”
  4. IV.     Substantial amount of Energy produced
    1. SONGS Stats
      1. i.     2,254 MW of power at any given time
      2. ii.     2.75 million households energy demand
    2. Compared to Wind Energy (renewable)
      1. i.     Case Study: San Gorgonio Windfarm off Interstate 10
      2. ii.     Produces only 615 MW of power
    3. Compare the amount of facilities
  5. V.     Operation Cost
    1. High Cost of Operation vs. Low Cost of Uranium
    2. Capital Needed to Build Plant
      1. i.     Possible government subsidies?
      2. ii.     Incentives to Power Companies to utilize Nuclear
      3. iii.     Promise investors big ROI
    3. Comparison of cost of uranium to cost of other supplies
    4. Overall, the cost is offset in the long run
      1. i.     If not monetary than environmental
  6. VI.     Benefits of Closed Fuel Cycle
    1. Nuclear Fission taking place in just the reactor
    2. Uranium doesn’t leave reactor during process
    3. Three loops until discharge
      1. i.     The steam you see coming out of cooling towers has no radioactive materials in it.
    4. Waste is removed following NRC protocols
  7. VII.     Con: Storage of Waste
    1. One of the biggest issues we currently face prior to large scale nuclear deployment
      1. i.     Where do we store the waste?
    2. Yucca Mountain
      1. i.     Nuclear “landfill”
      2. ii.     Rural Nevada
    3. How do we transport the waste there?
      1. i.     What happens if there is an abnormality during the transportation of the waste?
    4. Possible Solutions?
      1. i.     Sequestering waste on site
      2. ii.     Is it possible?
  8. VIII.     Uranium vs. Other Stuff
    1. i.     “One low-cost pellet of uranium 235 — weighing a few ounces — produces the same amount of energy as 140 gallons of oil, 150 gallons of gasoline, 2,000 pounds of coal or 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas. “
    2. Non Renewable
      1. i.     Plentiful
      2. ii.     Breeding
        1. Forced decay from Uranium to Plutonium
  9. IX.     Conclusion
    1. We can’t rely completely on Nuclear Power to solve our future electricity demands
      1. i.     Nate Lewis’ “a plant every other day for 50 years” analogy
    2. Deploying many nuclear sites will still play a huge role in planning for tomorrow’s energy requirements.
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Feb 25

Clapp, Richard W. “Nuclear power and public health.” Environmental Health Perspectives 113.11 (2005): A720+. Environmental Studies and Policy Collection. Web. 25 Feb. 2010.

This peer reviewed article shows a spike in interest of installing new nuclear plants nationwide due to the benefits of uranium powered energy being clean air. One of the quotes from MIT on mitigating CO2 emissions in electricity sums up the need to deploy more nuclear reactors nationwide:

“…four options for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from electricity: increasing efficiency, expanding renewable energy sources, capturing carbon dioxide and sequestering the carbon, and increasing use of nuclear power.”

The article also states that there is a new type of reactor that is “inherently safe”, a pebble bed modular reactor in South Africa pending approval for construction permits at the time of publication.

Since this article was written after 9/11, there is concern about the security of deploying nuclear plants worldwide as they act as a potential target for terrorists.

The article also states that we have learned our lessons from Chernobyl and Three Mile Island disasters and that the exposure of radiation to workers of the nuclear plants are insufficient.

“Given the availability of alternative carbon-free and low-carbon options and the potential to develop more efficient renewable technologies, it seems evident that public health would be better served in the long term by these alternatives than by increasing the number of nuclear power plants in the United States and the rest of the world. “

MIT. The Future of Nuclear Energy. Rep. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2003. Print.

This is a very comprehensive “interdisciplinary study” conducted in 2003 at MIT. After reading the summary of the study. As stated in the previous source I researched, MIT stated about the feasibility of deploying nuclear power:

““…four options for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from electricity: increasing efficiency, expanding renewable energy sources, capturing carbon dioxide and sequestering the carbon, and increasing use of nuclear power.”

This statement alone captures the essence that nuclear power is indeed helpful to working with the energy crisis. MIT cites four problems that need to be investigated; cost, safety, proliferation, and waste must be taken into account for large scale nuclear energy deployment.

The study states that nuclear plants can justify their challenges if they contribute significantly to reducing global warming.

The MIT study estimates that by 2050, 1500 more 1GW reactors will have signed on (we have 366 reactors world wide in service as of 2003)

Another critical thing to consider is the choice of fuel cycle, “what type of fuel is used, what types of reactors “burn” the fuel, and the method of disposal of the fuel”. This is evaluated in depth in the article.

“We believe that the world-wide supply of uranium ore is sufficient to fuel the deployment of 1,000 reactors over the next half century”. This is key as even though uranium is a nonrenewable source, we still have the resources to keep it feasible for the foreseeable future.

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Feb 22

After watching “Powering the Planet” by Nate Lewis, it has become apparent that we are facing an energy crisis. Worldwide, we are currently using 13 TW of energy a year, and that number is expected to reach 28 TW by 2050. The US alone uses 3 TW of energy a year! I didn’t believe the statistics at first, I thought the US used more than only 25% of the global annual energy.

One of the interesting facts Nate Lewis brings up is that if we were to compensate for the extra 10 TW solely on Nuclear Energy, we would need to build 10,000 more 1GW Nuclear Reactors by 2050, literally a nuclear reactor every other day for the next 50 years. This shows that we can not rely on nuclear power alone. Nate Lewis also goes into to showing the feasibility of deploying carbon less primary energy sources such as how a huge 250 square mile or so solar cell in the midwest could power the US continuously if we were able to find out a feasible way of storing the energy over night.

All in all, I found this lecture really interesting and will probably be modeling my senior project investment video on the techniques that Nate Lewis used such as using thought provoking statistics to get a point across.

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Feb 10

I have decided to broaden my topic choice for my senior project to incorporate multiple methods of energy generation for the future, not just nuclear energy. This is important as I found out during the critique last time that the storage of nuclear waste is one of the hurdles in deploying a large scale network of nuclear generating stations.

I want to work on the project with Jake Neighbors still as he seems to share a passion for energy generation in 2110 with me.

Visually speaking, I am planning to make it a clean, “happy” video of how we were able to “save” Earth by using clean energy. This will include shots that I take of the diverse energy generation stations all over Southern California.

I think Margaret will like it even though it is not a violent film (unlike some SciFi post apocalypse ideas I had.)

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Feb 10

After watching, An Inconvenient Truth, I have decided that I want to broaden my horizons to investigate the energy outlook in 2110 as a whole instead of just nuclear energy.

World Energy Crisis. Web. 09 Feb. 2010. <http://planetforlife.com/>.

This shows that oil, coal, and natural gas were supplying 85% of the world’s energy needs in 2008. So far, we have discovered enough oil to last us for another 42 years. Of course, as John said, this number has remained constant for a while, and is most likely due to the fact that we have only discovered what we truly need for the near future.

With regards to global warming, this site investigates several alternate energy sources to mitigate the release of carbon when burning fossil fuels to create energy. As evident in the wedge of mitigation (as I call it), we can save some CO2 emissions by switching to clean air energy. It is important that we cut down on our emissions as there is a positive correlation between CO2 in the atmosphere and the Average Temperature (as seen in An Inconvenient Truth)

“Clean-Air Benefits of Nuclear Energy.” Nuclear Energy Institute. Web. 11 Feb. 2010. <http://www.nei.org/keyissues/protectingtheenvironment/cleanair/>.

This resource from the NEI is helpful for my original topic of focusing on nuclear energy. It also shows that the generation of nuclear energy does not create any ozone harmful gases (such as Nitrogen Oxide) that protects the environment from being adversely affected by ozone depletion. This is mandated by the Clean Air Act of 1970.

Also, the site goes onto talk about how nuclear generation doesn’t produce CO2, the largest greenhouse gas that is contributing to climate change.

“Nuclear energy is the only large-scale, clean-air electricity source that can be expanded widely to produce large amounts of energy. Nuclear energy makes up more than 70 percent of all the nation’s clean-air electricity generation. U.S. nuclear power plants also prevented the emission of 1 million short tons of nitrogen oxides and 2.7 million short tons of sulfur dioxide—pollutants controlled under the Clean Air Act. The amount of nitrogen oxide emissions that nuclear plants prevent annually is the equivalent of taking more than 47 million passenger cars off the road.”

“Wind Energy in California.” California Energy Commission Home Page. Web. 11 Feb. 2010. <http://www.energy.ca.gov/wind/overview.html>.

Wind energy is being utilized in California and across the globe to attempt to cut down on CO2 emissions during energy generation. Wind energy is feasible in places where there is a high wind and a low risk of building towers (i.e. not by an airport).

In California, there is currently a federal tax credit (i.e. monetary incentive) for those who decide to utilize wind generation. It is also interesting to know that in California 4,000 jobs were created when the state decided to utilize wind energy.

This site is helpful as it gives a glimpse of a clean air, alternative energy generation method that can help with reducing CO2 emissions.

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Jan 21

Proposal

I would like to do my senior project on the global energy crisis but focus on nuclear energy generation. I want to investigate both the pros and the cons citing Three Mile Island and bringing it home to the controversy at San Onofre. A cool video idea to satisfy Margaret’s requirement is to do a 2110 post apocalypse movie that shows what happened when only two people survived a major radiation leak at SONGS. This will be cool to film because SONGS is locally based and the point will hit home to show people what could happen if something goes wrong.

I like the source straight from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission because they are acknowledging the problems that have occurred but don’t doubt the pros of nuclear power generation. Because of this, I can incorporate nuclear energy as a feasible option for power generation over the next 100 years.

Also, it would be interesting to evaluate nuclear powered aircraft and vehicles as a feasible option for fueling propulsionafter we deplete our fossil fuels that we have stored.

Whatever I do, I want to collaborate with Jake Neighbors as he is doing his senior project on energy as well. The collaboration would work well as we both have our own essential questions but they can be merged into one final deliverable at senior exhibition.

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Jan 21

Nuclear Energy

“Nuclear Energy.” Oracle ThinkQuest Library. Web. 20 Jan. 2010. <http://library.thinkquest.org/3471/nuclear_energy.html>.

Can occur naturally and artificially. The energy produced by the sun is a nuclear reaction and is thus nuclear energy. Artificially, humans create nuclear power in reactors.

There are two main types of nuclear energy generation, Nuclear Fission and Nuclear Fusion.

Fission involves splitting the atoms and fusion involves joining atoms, both create substantial nuclear power.

The atomic bomb is an example of nuclear fission while the hydrogen bomb is an example of fusion.

Nuclear Energy has many advantages, including pollution mitigation (nuclear energy is clean air). One of the main concerns however is the storage of nuclear waste.

This article also shows examples of negative effects of nuclear energy citing the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island incidents of radiation leaks.

Burge, Michael. “Problems at nuclear plant concern regulators.” San Diego Union-Tribune. SignOnSanDiego.com. 21 Jan. 2010. Web. 21 Jan. 2010. <http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/jan/21/problems-nuclear-plant-concern-regulators/>.

This article, published in our local newspaper today is regarding the  San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). On January 13, 2010 engineers found cracks in the reactor’s cooling system and caused them to go into situation mode. Due to a miscommunication, they shut down the wrong cooling system in an attempt to mitigate the problem.

This situation could have been bad had the emergency been severe, and officials with the Nuclear Regulatory Committee (NRC) are upset.

“In March 2009, the NRC gave the plant poor marks for a loose connection on a backup battery that’s used to start a backup diesel generator. And in 2008, it disciplined the plant after a contract fire inspector was found to have falsified reports for five years.

In November 2009, two plant employees filed a whistle-blower complaint against the plant, saying that managers retaliated against them after they reported a safety violation. San Onofre officials deny the accusation and say they are improving the safety culture at the plant.” –via SignOnSanDiego.com

The two reactors of the plant generate 2,200 megawatts of electricity.

This is an interesting source as it is of local interest and affects San Diego County.

“Background on the Three Mile Island Accident.” Nuclear Regulatory Committee. 11 Aug. 2009. Web. 22 Jan. 2010. <http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/3mile-isle.html>.

“The accident at the Three Mile Island Unit 2 (TMI‑2) nuclear power plant near Middletown, Pa., on March 28, 1979, was the most serious in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant operating history, even though it led to no deaths or injuries to plant workers or members of the nearby community. But it brought about sweeping changes involving emergency response planning, reactor operator training, human factors engineering, radiation protection, and many other areas of nuclear power plant operations. It also caused the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to tighten and heighten its regulatory oversight. Resultant changes in the nuclear power industry and at the NRC had the effect of enhancing safety. “

The accident happened when cooling pumps failed spontaneously, allowing heat to build up in the steam generators. The reactor automatically shut down, as it was programmed to do so.

Pressure began to build up and the operators opened a relief valve, which did not shut off automatically and drained coolant. Since the coolant drained, the nuclear fuel overheated and the majority of the reactor core melted. This is one of the most dangerous kind of nuclear power accident, as only 1 millirem of radiation was present per 2 million people in surrounding communities (compared to 6 millirem of radiation people are exposed to during a chest x-ray), thus health affects from the accident were not a huge concern.

The main concern was how the operators and personnel at the plant dealt with the accident. The NRC changed many policies in wake of the accident, including minimum requirements for the reliability of automatic shutdown of individual plant components (such as the valves and circuit breakers)

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