RE: Middle East oil supply

From: Dr. Blake Nelson (
Date: Fri May 24 2002 - 10:57:53 EDT

  • Next message: Sondra Brasile: "RE: Middle East oil supply; alternatives"

    Hi Glenn,

    Thanks for the interesting numbers.

    --- Glenn Morton <> wrote:
    > Hi Blake,
    > >-----Original Message-----
    > >From: Dr. Blake Nelson
    > []
    > >Sent: Thursday, May 23, 2002 10:08 AM
    > Canada uses the CANDU technology. I once did an
    > economic model trying to
    > calculate whether or not nuclear could replace oil.
    > I will lay out some math so that if I am making an
    > error, someone can
    > correct me.
    > 6.29 bbl = 10.9 megawatt-hour
    > 1 bbl = 1.73 megawatt-hour
    > 700megawatt = 404.6242775 bbl/hour
    > There are 8760 hours per year so a 700 megawatt
    > plant produces:
    > 6,132,000 megawatt-hour = 3,544,508 bbl/yr
    > We produce around 30 billion barrels of oil per
    > year. So for the world to
    > replace this we need:
    > 8463.796477 700 MW plants
    > $1,250,000,000 per plant
    > $10.5 trillion investment

    I think that price is high for a 700 MW plant. Close
    to the same price can build you 1500 MW plants if
    built in bulk. The 700 MW CANDU, like the 600 MW
    Westinghouse design misses the market.

    The other option, of course, are the new generation of
    smaller, modular reactors, which are not as capital

    Ultimately, if someone can promise to build these
    things for $1000 per installed kilowatt, they would be
    economical given today's oil prices.

    > The US GDP is about $10 trillion. This represents
    > about 1/3 of the global
    > domestic product! Consider "Healthcare is the
    > world╠s largest industry with
    > global revenues of $ 2.8 trillion or close to 9
    > percent of global domestic
    > product (GDP). "
    > Given that they take about 4 years to build The
    > investment would mean a 10%
    > tax on everyone and every corporation--and that
    > would mean that the people
    > would pay far more than 10% of their personal
    > income. Corporations don't pay
    > taxes, they pass them on to consumers.

    This assumes you try to build them all at once and you
    don't make any cost savings. Any transition will need
    to be gradual.

    In the US, these things are a bear to build, but the
    Japanese have techniques to build the big 1500 MW
    reactors on an 18-22 month schedule. Especially if
    they are building several in a row.

    > And these costs don't include the cost of getting
    > rid of the nuclear waste.
    > This is only for building the things. I don't think
    > you will be able to
    > replace oil with nuclear.

    Companies already pay the cost to build a repository.
    DOE in the US is sitting on lots of utility money.
    The practice would be no different if we had more
    power plants, which would offer the power at the same
    cost that operating plants do now.

    The only problem with disposal is that it is a
    political football. Yucca is an exercise in how to
    spend lots of money to accomplish nothing.

    > I don't see that it is viable for replacing oil.

    It is not a wholesale replacement. If there is a move
    to a hydrogen economy, fission is the only viable way
    of moving that direction.

    In addition, and you would know more than I about
    this, but light sweet crude is in ever shorter supply.
      The heavier crude has to be mixed with hydrogen to
    lighten it, correct?

    The current hydrogen extraction method most often used
    is essentially steam treating natural gas to get it,
    which results in some nasty pollution.

    Using nukes to get this hydrogen from water would be
    clean and help the oil industry in lightening the
    crude without doing as much environmental damage. As
    emission taxes get foisted eventually on refining,
    using nukes as an adjunct to refining will be more and
    more cost necessary, don't you think?

    > As George pointed out, getting hydrogen merely means
    > using energy to create
    > the hydrogen. And due to the second law of
    > thermodynamics you get back less
    > energy in the form of hydrogen than you put into the
    > system.

    Absolutely, but the question is whether it is clean to
    extract the hydrogen or whether we use more pollutants
    to get it. Nuclear energy is the only clean way to
    generate hydrogen for cars. Moreover, moving to
    hydrogen is also the only way to get less embroiled in
    nasty Middle East politics.

    > If we don't have fossil fuels, we won't use it for
    > hydrogen generation.

    Sure, but nuclear energy can be used for hydrogen
    generation for transportation use, assuming a move to
    a hydrogen economy. Nuclear use to do this gets us
    out of greenhouse gas problems for what may become the
    hydrogen sector of the economy and transportation.

    Nothing can replace fossil fuels immediately. Nuclear
    energy can extend the life expectancy of our current
    fossil fuel supplies and provide a green method of
    shifting over to a hydrogen economy should that become
    politically and economically (rather than technically)

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