RE: The Party's Over

From: Al Koop <koopa@gvsu.edu>
Date: Tue Apr 13 2004 - 15:10:31 EDT

Glenn Morton wrote
;
One could build 4800 1000 Megawatt nuclear reactors to replace oil. But
the questions there concern the cost, which is approximately the gross
national product of the US-- a sum spent on WWII over a 4 year period.
We might be able to do it, bu t I don't know if there is enough uranium
out there to feed all those expensive monsters. Not to mention the
problems of radioactive waste everywhere.

At the 1996 consumption rate, we have a 200 year supply of coal. But if
you use it at the rate we need to to replace oil, it becomes around a 40
year supply. We will probably fend off the worst of the disasters until
the end of this century. That is good for me and my children, but the
end of my grandchildren's life may be problematic. (My first gr andchild
is on the way). It gives us 100 years to solve the fusion problem.
That is really the only long term hope.

AK: Just to give you the pessimistic view on alternative energy that I
read daily on a web site.

First coal is like oil, we may have a great supply, but companies mine
the easy stuff first and the coal that we will mine later will cost us
more to get and will take longer to extract. Today's cost of coal
mining is also based on using equipment manufactured with cheap oil and
the energy used to run much of that equipment is derived from cheap oil
as well. The railroads that transport the coal were built using cheap
oil and the fuel to run the coal trains is using cheap oil. What will
the cost be when we have to pay for higher energy costs even for sources
like coal? This seems to be quite a difficult calculation to arrive at
a number that anybody can agree on.

The cost of nuclear power is also not easy to determine for similar
reasons. How much of the cost of uranium mining and processing is
dependent on cheap oil? What about the cost of the nuclear plant
itself? What will nuclear plants cost if we do not have cheap oil? I
just happened to hear on the radio this morning that Cheney is in China
trying to sell them our nuclear plants. (Interesting since we have not
built one in a long time.) I think the report said that China had nine
facilities now and were planning to quadruple that as soon as possible.
They only wanted the US nukes (or someone else's) until they could get
their own program going however. The cost reported on the radio was 1.5
billion per plant but it did not say what size that was.

Anyhow, the pessimists believe that the high price of oil will take
everything else down with it, and we will be a permanent downward spiral
not too long after the decline starts--maybe within 15 years. Quite a
spread among the optimists and pessimists.

This does not even consider what coal might do to air quality and the
greenhouse effect, and what nuclear will do with regard to the public
emotional state, possible contamination from accidents, and where the
waste will be stored.

Al Koop
Received on Tue Apr 13 15:11:20 2004

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