RE: Middle East oil supply

From: Dr. Blake Nelson (
Date: Thu May 23 2002 - 14:07:54 EDT

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    --- Shuan Rose <> wrote:
    > Have heard that short term, we can build more
    > fission plants.
    > People don't
    > like fission plants, but they probably dislike
    > brownouts and giving up their
    > SUVs even less, so I expect a big push for fission
    > power. I understand that
    > France and Japan already get more than half their
    > power from plain old
    > fission power.

    To be accurate France gets over 70% of their power
    from nuclear.

    Nuclear is also the interim solution to shifting to a
    hydrogen economy, if that is to occur. It is the only
    way to generate the hydrogen. Still not inexpensive.

    As far as I can tell, little progress in fusion power
    has been made. Among the problems is that the energy
    generated is currently still as difficult to harness
    as it ever has been. And unlike fission reactors,
    fusion reactors would have to change their reactor
    vessels frequently due to the fact that the reaction
    makes the surrounding vessel more brittle (and
    radioactive) over time due to the particles being
    kicked out. So far, it still seems as big of a
    technical mess as ever, even though understanding of
    the physics has progressed.

    Fission is the only current viable medium-term
    solution. The Europeans just came out with a study
    about the societal/environmental/economic costs of
    power generation. The upshot, as you might expect, is
    fossil generators don't cover nearly as much of the
    environmental and health effects of their generation
    process as the nuclear plants. Nuclear power with its
    closed fuel cycle and relatively minor environmental
    effects looked pretty good by comparison.

    Of course, in the US nuclear power plants aren't being
    built, inter alia, because they are so expensive to
    build. In the era of energy degregulation, a
    deregulated company has to put up the entire
    decommissioning trust fund for the nuclear power plant
    in advance of building it! Talk about some capital
    outlay, given that your run of the mill advanced
    boiling water reactor will run you around a billion
    (give --- definitely not take -- half a billion) to
    build. Which is why it is currently cost prohibitive
    to build just one and cost prohibitive to build more
    than one. A nice little Catch-22.

    The problem is everything people know about fission
    comes from the Simpsons, Chernobyl and Three Mile

    > Then there's the High Frontier guys. They say that
    > we can
    > build huge Solar
    > Power Satellites out in space, collect solar power,
    > and "beam" it back to
    > earth via microwave or laser beams.
    > Also, I have heard tell of geothermal power. Of
    > course, none of these things
    > runs a car. What about these alternatives?

    I think hydrogen separated through some other
    extraction process (fission powered, fossil powered)
    will be the likely future of personal transportation.

    I have no knowledge about what is going on with

    The thing that is ironic about solar power and wind
    power is they have really negative impacts on the
    environment, physically, when we have to cover acre
    upon acre upon acre of land to try to get sufficient
    power. So despite environmentalists touting these
    methods of generation, they are really harder on the
    environment than might appear at first glance.

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