Want to Go 'Carbon-Free'? Go Nuclear

David Cavena18 Aug, 2022 5 Min Read
Time to put your money where your mouth is, Greenies.

Technological solutions to crises real and imagined have been invented and adopted since time immemorial. Technological solutions to the non-crisis of "Anthropogenic Climate Change" have been discussed for decades. The “crisis” as the Klimate Kult sees it is increasing quantities of greenhouse gasses (CO2, methane) heating the earth to unsustainable levels. It is this fantasy that is driving “Net-Zero” and “de-carbonization” schemes, which now include reducing the global food supply and giving us the opportunity to eat bugs.

If the problem is too much CO2, the solution is reducing it. Do we have technological solutions that can do this? Yes. Plankton consume carbon in massive quantities.

Plankton remove the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere during growth and transfer it to the deep ocean when their remains sink to the bottom. Iron fertilization has previously been suggested as a possible cause of the lower CO2 levels that occur during ice ages.

A tested technological solution would be to “fertilize” certain ocean areas with iron dust causing a plankton bloom and removing CO2 from the atmosphere. This was, in fact, proposed in 1988:

“Give me half a tanker of iron, and I’ll give you an ice age” may rank as the catchiest line ever uttered by a biogeochemist. The man responsible was the late John Martin, former director of the Moss Landing Marine Laboratory, who discovered that sprinkling iron dust in the right ocean waters could trigger plankton blooms the size of a small city. In turn, the billions of cells produced might absorb enough heat-trapping carbon dioxide to cool the Earth’s warming atmosphere.

Plankton is served!

But would it work?

The research confirms Martin’s hypothesis, said Daniel Sigman, Princeton’s Dusenbury Professor of Geological and Geophysical Sciences, and a co-leader of the study.

What does research show?

Ocean models as well as the strong correlation of the sediment core changes with the known changes in atmospheric CO2 suggest that this iron fertilization of Southern Ocean plankton can explain roughly half of the CO2 decline during peak ice ages.

Causing a plankton bloom anticipates additional positive effects:

[M]ore plankton might produce more of a chemical called dimethylsulfide, which can drift into the atmosphere and encourage cloud formation, thus cooling the atmosphere and helping to counteract greenhouse warming. And others argue that increased plankton supplies might enhance fish stocks.

Perhaps a “half a tanker of iron” and increased food supplies would be preferable to killing all the cows, plowing-under all the wheat and corn, reducing global energy consumption, and impoverishing the planet?

Doing what they do best.

The second technological solution is moving from fossil-fuel generation of electrical power to nuclear generation. After all, 41 percent of global CO2 emissions are from the generation of electricity, and our need for electricity isn’t diminishing any time soon.

At the current rate we're going, analysts and experts figure that 10% of the world's power bill will be spent on running computers.

The founder of Greenpeace, among millions of others, understands that only nuclear power can provide humanity the carbon-free, safe, base-load electricity we need for progress not only to continue, but not to reverse.

And new technologies are being invented to make nuclear safer and more widespread than in the recent past. U.S. regulators have certified the first new type of nuclear reactor in decades.

Small modular reactors have been promoted as avoiding many of the problems that have made large nuclear plants exceedingly expensive to build. They're small enough that they can be assembled on a factory floor and then shipped to the site where they will operate, eliminating many of the challenges of custom on-site construction. In addition, they're structured in a way to allow passive safety, where no operator actions are necessary to shut the reactor down if problems occur.

This newly-certified reactor design uses traditional fuel pellets to provide carbon-free, clean energy. Small Modular Reactors (SMR) using molten uranium salts such as thorium, rather than traditional fuel pellets, also are on the near-horizon. Far safer than Chernobyl or Fukushima-type reactors, Thorium Molten Salt Reactors (MSR)  cannot “melt down” for the simple reason that when their generation cycle begins to go “out of control,” an MSR heats up and shuts off. Because physics. No human involvement necessary. Walk away, turn off the controls, kill the power coming into the plant, drown the on-site emergency generator with sea water, and the nuclear reaction simply stops.

Add these benefits of a Thorium MSR to the mix:

  • The reactor burns over 99 percent of the fuel, not the three percent of uranium burned by Light Water Reactors (traditional reactors) leaving behind thousand-year waste we don’t know what to do with.
  • Thorium is thousands of times more available on earth than uranium.
  • Thorium waste products that do remain after generation are far safer and shorter-lived than uranium.
  • It is close to impossible to create weapons-grade fissile material from thorium, while doing so from uranium is only moderately difficult.

SMRs of either type, traditional or molten salt, can create all the safe, non-polluting, steady, clean, CO2-free electricity we could want for millennia without digging up millions of cubic meters of earth for rare earth elements needed by batteries only the wealthiest nations and people can afford.

If we extrapolate Minnesota’s numbers to the U.S. as a whole, a rough conclusion is that getting all of our electricity from wind, solar and batteries would consume around 70% of all of the copper currently mined in the world, 337% of global nickel production, 3,053% of the world’s total cobalt production, 355% of the U.S.’s iron output, and 284% of U.S. steel production. Along with unfathomable quantities of concrete–which, by the way, off-gases CO2.

If we want safe, steady electricity to power our homes, our cars, our manufacturing, and our computer farms, even our ships, nuclear is the only solution. If we want to provide the developing world the energy they need without going through the two-century carbon cycle we now are trying to exit, SMRs are the only solution. If we want to lower the fragility of our grid, SMRs are small and sited locally, reducing the need for grid interconnects and for the thousands of miles of high-tension power lines which, in California, anyway, cause far more wildfires than “global warming” ever has or can.

Given the panic over carbon and the technologies and methods we have to address it today, one must ask, “What’s the problem our elites are trying to solve?” Because it isn’t atmospheric carbon. At some point, the Western world is simply going to have to come to its senses. Like the Germans just did.

David Cavena is a native southern Californian exfiltrated to Arizona. An IT professional for 40 years, he has pushed cows in California, dudes and horses in Wyoming, and programmers in Los Angeles and Phoenix. An avid outdoorsman – skier, backpacker, water skier and scuba diver – David writes from Arizona.

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3 comments on “Want to Go 'Carbon-Free'? Go Nuclear”

  1. We don't see or hear anything more about Three Mile Island it don't sell fake News Stories like it once did

  2. What most people fail to consider is something called sunk costs. Maybe you can make wind and solar work, if you trash all the existing electrical infrastructure and rebuild the grid from the ground up. It's take around 60 years to do this and cost billions.

    OR

    You simply substitute one source of heat for another. like SMRs.

    There is a third type of SMR you failed to mention. HTGR - high temperature gas reactor. It uses helium for cooling. The graphite has large thermal inertia and the helium coolant is single phase, inert, and has no reactivity effects. The core is composed of graphite, has a high heat capacity and structural stability even at high temperatures. The fuel is coated uranium-oxycarbide which permits high burn-up (approaching 200 GWd/t) and retains fission products. The high average core-exit temperature of the VHTR (1,000 °C) permits emissions-free production of high grade process heat.

    Basically the core can't melt down - it can never get hot enough to do so. There is no water, so no possibility of leaks or a steam explosion.

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