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Nick, Nuclear power isn't all that popular in Japan right now. Besides, generating hydrogen from nuclear reactors is how the Fukushima plants blew up in the first place, so nuclear hydrogen is probably a non-starter for the forseable future.
Great, they'll waste more money on a technology that has a PHYSICS problem holding it back insteand of the engineering problems they'll try to iron out on this program.
You have to put in energy to get ammonia in the first place. And the hydrogen used to make ammonia comes from natural gas anyway. This is effectivelt just steam methane reformation with some extra steps added in. While ammonia is a better hydrogen carrier than actual pressurized hydrogen, the "well-to-tank" energy and financial costs of this approach will be even WORSE than pressurized hydrogen is today. Combusting ammonia seems interesting, but what are the air pollution hazards that result? I would assume you would see a lot more NOx and ozone precursors while all the other nasties that come off of fossil fuel combustion would not be present (like PM, unburned hydrocarbons, SOx, etc.) Are there any other air quality concerns we would have to worry about? Would we be jumping from the frying pan into the fire just like we did with ethanol? And if you can just burn natural das in an engine too, why go through all the expense to get ammonia when you can save all the trouble and just use natural gas directly? (just like with a hydrogen car that uses hydrogen made from natural gas...why go through all the expense and inefficiencies just to make a fuel that is way more expensive and way less practical than it's feedstock?)
They could get way more bang for their buck by improving the vehicle's aerodynamics instead of hitting their heads against the wall of diminishing returns as far as weight reduction. Are they at least modelling this vehicle over a hatchback architecture instead of a sedan? It's a little hard to tell from the figures in this article. And yeah, I know this research project only focuses on vehicle weight, but the real world is full of all that air you have to push through to get anywhere too.
HarveyD, We already are progressively to hybrid and electrified vehicles. The problem is that we aren't doing it fast enough. While you claim that we have 54+ years of oil reserves left, that number could be a little higher (not likely) or much lower (more likely given the incentives to overstate reserves since they act much like money in the bank that can be used to leverage other financial transactions.) And regardless of how much oil is still left in the ground, it's not like we'll approach 2068 and have a nice, gentle glide-path down to zero oil production. It takes decades to make the transition off fossil fuels and giving ourselves a false sense of security by thinking there are many decades of oil production left means that we will lock ourselves into ever more oil consumption as we ignore the problem. Meanwhile, the atmosphere gets loaded with more and more CO2 and we'll have to endure the economic shocks and human tragety associated with worsening climate change. At the same time, other countries will be increasing their oil consumption as well, tightening the supply and making oil prices much more volitale. As the price of oil inches higher, more and more money will flow into the pockets of despots in Russia, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria and other countries blessed with the "resource curse". I agree, using valuable land and water to grow biofuels that might not be all that effective at really solving our problems is a dead end. However, using oil at our current clip will not give us 54+ years of smooth sailing and dealing with the problems it causes will be so expensive, people will run the numbers and figure out it was probably a better idea for the government to just buy everybody an electric car and be done with this oil nonsense.
Crud, my last comment was in response to Engineer Poet, not ai vin.
Re ai vin, Look up the definition of "fetish". It is nowhere NEAR what you think it is. You quoted me saying, "...the NRC has made a habit of continually weakening the standards..." and then asked for a citation. Did you even read the article I posted earlier? Here is the link AGAIN just in case you missed it: There is nothing in that article about racking density and everything about leaking, corroded and dangerous plant components and the weakening standards the NRC keeps inventing in order to keep the nuclear industry from replacing them. "It's a slab of concrete. Such are over-engineered to a ridiculous degree, and the difference in the qualities between two versions of the same rebar standard is going to be minimal." Again, how do you know this is true? This is not trying to prove a negative. There are specific, quantifiable impacts to using different kinds of rebar. And again, even if we lucked out this time, this mistake shows that the contractor building the foundation does not have an adequate process in place to prevent unapproved parts from being incorporated into its work. "Hah! Friends of the Earth (started as an explicitly anti-nuclear spinoff of the Sierra Club) was bankrolled by Robert Anderson, former ARCO executive." LOL...somebody lays down $200k to start a group over 40 years ago and the nuclear fanboys are STILL complaining about it. This is still merely an ad hominem attack, implying guilt by association of just ONE group out of many, instead of actually making an effort to prove your point with facts. "That's why they are very lukewarm about advocating nuclear energy as the solution to GHG emissions." LOL...the utilities are the companies BUILDING these reactors, for Pete's sake! The only stronger supporters of nuclear energy are the fanboys it has on the Internet... "If wind had to pay for such extended approvals, not even a 10¢/kWh PTC would get a single farm built." Citation? (Pot, meet kettle...) "The expected number of radiation-related fatalities from the THREE meltdowns at Fukushima Dai'ichi is zero..." That may be the case, but you must realize that the Japanese people were EXTREMELY lucky on the days surrounding of the reactor explosions since the wind blew the vast majority of the radioactive debris out to sea. Had the wind been blowing towards Tokyo instead, I don't think Japan would have been able to recover from the astronomical financial damage and human suffering. We won't always be so lucky the next time a plant melts down.
EP, The connecttion between a FIT and cost recovery is that utility customers under both arrangements see a surcharge on their bill for a specific energy source. However, in cost recovery, if the nuclear reactors under construction at Vogtle are abandoned because their cost balloons them into oblivion, the billions of dollars that Georgia Power customers forked over to help pay for the reactors is gone for good. This is just another example of "Socializing the Losses" that the nuclear industry has conducted time and time again. Just ask the people in the Pacific Northwest paying for the nuclear flubs of WPPS or Canadians paying for the "stranded debt" of Ontario Hydro that was mostly accumulated through disasterously expensive nuclear plant builds. Again, at least in a FIT, you only pay for actual electricity that you get to use instead of promises to maybe send you some electricity who knows how many years into the future. And coal power does not get a feed-in-tariff, so your attempt to distract from the issue at hand by trying to pull on people's heartstrings is entirely invalid. "China's first-of-a-kind AP1000 is expected to go into service about 5.5 years from the start of construction." I'll believe it when I see it. And if you trust the safety and workmanship aspects of anything with the "Made in China" label, I've got some oceanfront property in Nebraska you might be interested in too... "Who's driving the demands, fronted by Barbara Boxer et al., for nuclear plants in shutdown be continued to have to plan for 30-mile evacuation zones?" This has no effect on plant CONSTRUCTION costs, so it is a total red herring. And the fact that you subscribe to the crazy conspiracy theory that anti-nuclear activists are on the payroll of the fossil fuel companies borders on the ridiculous. You do know that the large monopoly utilities operate nuclear AND coal / gas plants, right? Why in the world would they be shooting themselves in the foot? Please try to stay away from the tinfoil hat salesman who feeds you this garbage... "The concrete at Vogtle was just fine." No, you can't just switch out un-approved parts like this, especially in something as expensive and potentially dangerous as a nuclear reactor. Do you know for certain what each and every knock-on effect of the rebar change is? And let's just assume that you're right, that the newer spec of rebar poses no additional risk to the plant. Regardless, this mishap shows that the contractor does not have an adequate process in place to make sure the correct components get installed to the correct specifications. We were "lucky" this time, although Georgia ratepayers are probably going to eat most of the cost overrun given how cozy state regulators are with the companies invloved: Sure, nuclear plants take 42 months to get approved. However, they are also massive, risky and expensive undertakings. You have presented zero evidence that the length of this approval process is unwarranted. And no, Dr. James Hansen is a climate scientist, not an energy or utility sector expert, so his claims need to be taken with a grain of salt in this area. I am still waiting on the first piece of evidence showing that specific NRC regulations and procedures are unnecessary. "There are also factors such as EVERY STEP in the construction of many nuclear-rated parts required to be documented for the NRC, when there is no indication that this does anything except drive up costs and keep vendors from entering the market (which increases lead times). Such documentation is not required for key airframe components in airliners, where a failure would lead to the aircraft coming down with 100% fatalities." The big difference is that a nuclear meltdown could kill TEN TIMES as many people as a plane crash or more, plus cause hundreds of billions of dollars in damage (just like Japan is seeing at Fukushima). Oh, and since the government is on the hook for the vast majority of those damages (and thus the vast majority of the risk), it is only prudent that the utmost care is taken in fabricating nuclear reactor parts. Look, nuclear power failed in the 70's and 80's, taking billions in bad debt and taxpayer bailouts down with it. Why do you want to repeat the same mistake?
Re kalendjay, "In fact, containment dome hardening to prevent 911 like aerial strikes on nuclear plants is the kind of regulatory fetish..." Fetish is kind of a loaded word, isn't it? Containment hardening also prevents radioactivity release in the event of an earthquake, hydrogen explosions (like at Fukushima) and many other unforseen disasters. "Also, many regulations become obsolescent as physical depreciation levels off." Actually, older reactors become increasingly likely to experience failures as the article I linked to showed. And the NRC has made a habit of continually weakening the standards so these old plants can continue to operate. Again, if boogeyman regulations by the supposedly anti-nuke NRC were supposedly making nuclear power so expensive, why would the agency do the exact opposite and endanger us all just so nuke plants can make an extra buck? "At least we are at the point where the building and foundation can be reused even as the reactor and plumbing can be scrapped and replaced." No way. Not in a million years. Even the best-kept reactors experience Tritium and other radioactive leaks that seep into the foundation and soil on the reactor site. While it only presents a health hazard if you use this concrete to build your house or something, good luck trying to get anybody to be interested in owning a decommissioned nuclear plant in hopes of making use of this contaminated material. And in all, we have no idea what the decommissioning costs of each individual reactor may be given these leaks and each reactor's specific history. "At least point to me an example of a scorecard in which a plant has ever flunked and been closed down." Did you read the article I linked to? Agian, the NRC repeatedly weakens safety standards to PREVENT these plants from flunking. "On the other hand, substandard concrete, untrained construction crews (there was plenty of that on the Shoreham LILCO plant) etc. are clearly punished by the free market..." On the contrary, a lot of the cost overruns from the Vogtle plant have been passed along to Georgia Power customers with the willing obedience of the state utility regulator. And how is the electric power market anywhere CLOSE to free when you have a regulated monopoly utility allowed to FORCE its customers to pay for new nuclear plants for years before they even become operational? The customers don't even have a choice! Free market, my foot! "As for the feedbate analogy to cost recovery, you do not consider the very long payback schedule that such utility investments require." Only large, centralized plants like nukes need such a long payback time because their price tags are so astronomically high. Regardless, if other energy sources aren't allowed to do cost recovery, how is this fair? Aren't we distorting the free market in order to prop up one energy source over another?
EP, Cost recovery is just an opaque feed-in tariff. At least in Germany, utility customers get electricity out of the deal. In Georgia, all the utility customers get is financial risk. Since renewable energy facilities can be built in such a short time, financing costs aren't as important, but as long as the nuclear industry benefits from the stealth feed-in tariff of cost recovery, it is unfair that other energy sources, especially clean renewables, do not get this benefit. And don't even get me started on the market-distorting aspects of the Price Anderson Act! There is no evidence of anti-nuclear activists causing power plant build times to take so long. For example, anti-nuke activists aren't the ones that caused the contractor building the new units at Vogtle to pour substandard concrete, are they? And the NRC already streamlined their process to combine the build and operating permit for new nuclear reactors. If you can point to specific examples of unnecessary regulations holding up reactor construction, I'm all ears. However, you also need to realize that the opposite problem of the NRC being too cozy with industry and relaxing regulations / oversight is happening: "Federal regulators have been working closely with the nuclear power industry to keep the nation's aging reactors operating within safety standards by repeatedly weakening those standards, or simply failing to enforce them, an investigation by The Associated Press has found." This does not sound like an agency filled with anti-nuke activists.
@ Henrik, The EPA wrongly counts charging losses against plug-in vehicles in its range estimations. In addition, the LEAF's efficiency / range improvements for the 2014MY were nearly wiped out because Nissan also adopted an 80% max charge option to help extend battery life should LEAF owners prefer to use it. You must know that the EPA systematically gouges about 10% of the range and efficiency of plug-in vehicles for no good reason. So even if the LEAF is doing 85 miles with 24kWh right now, what makes you think you'll need 3x as much battery capacity in 30 years to only go about 2x the distance? Do you think there will be ZERO efficiency / performance improvements in vehicles and batteries over that time? This is quite a leap in logic. Plus, as Roger Pham touched on, the total cost of ownership of an EV is MUCH lower than a gas car. An EV does not need oil changes, fuel and air filter replacements, transmission flushes, exhaust maintenance, and smog testing just to name a few. Electric "fuel" is also costs a fraction of the price of petroleum fuels. Finally, an EV has a lot less moving parts and systems prone to wear and tear or failure like a gas car does, so huge random repair bills are a lot less likely with an EV. Finally, a battery pack's capacity is strongly influenced by the weakest cells in a pack. If you just pull out these weak cells and replace them, you can extend the useful live of an EV battery pack at a fraction of the cost of buying an entirely new pack. And even when the pack is no good for vehicle applications, power companies will be keen on buying them to supply grid storage / stabilization, helping the bottom lines of EV owners even more.
While nuclear power is only indirectly related to transportation emissions, it will still not play a major part in fighting climate change in the 1st half of the 21st Century. We are finding out that the ghosts of nuclear power's past, namely huge cost and schedule overruns during plant construction, have not been exercised. Many reactors take 10 years or more to build and the longer they take, the higher the risk of ballooning costs becomes. The long lead times for nuclear plant construction also mean that the anticipated electricity demand the plant was intended to supply might have evaporated or migrated out of the plant's service area during the intervening years. All of these factors present a huge financial risk to utilities building these plants, and since their cozy relationship with state regulators has allowed them to offload this risk onto their ratepayers, the high financial risk inherent in nuclear plant construction hits a lot of us directly in the wallet. If you want specifics on just the latest pile of risk the nuclear industry has offloaded onto the average Joe Sixpack utility customer, look up the "Cost Recovery" charges that ratepayers are having to eat in Georgia to pay for nukes that aren't even finished yet. And if these plants become financially untenable and are abandoned before completion (like dozens of reactors were back in the 70's and 80's), they DO NOT get their money back! It's like the utility gets all the upside and its customers get most of the downside (like "heads, I win, tails, you lose..."). The long plant construction times and huge financial risks associated with nuclear power mean that CO2 reductions will happen much slower and be more expensive if we take the nuclear power route.
mahonj, Germany hasn't shut down all of their nukes yet. Germany's emissions are actually rising because their economy is growing and because they are tired of getting robbed by Putin to buy his Russian gas at highway robbery prices. Without all their renewable energy, their emissions would be much higher:
@ Henrik You said: "Expect 6% improvement every 5 years or so (a typical development cycle for a battery). And forget about disruptive battery technology. It happens so seldom that it is not worth pinning any hopes on." This flies in the face of battery development history. I guess if you isolate one performance criteria and focus on it for a cherry-picked length of time, yes, your statement might be correct. However, cost, energy denisty, power density, cycle life and a whole host of other parameters are constantly improving and taken together, your 1.2% annual improvement claim goes counter to everything the battery industry has accomplished in the past few decades. This is just like the EIA foolishly claiming that solar PV installations are going to magically stop for 20 years for no good reason. "Nor will there be any large price reductions for EVs or PHEVs. For the next 10 years at least BEVs and PHEVs will be limited to the upper middle class and the wealthy." Well, since you can get a LEAF in the low $20ks, I hardly call that an upper middle class price point. And this is AFTER a $5000 reduction in price that totally disproves your claim that the price cannot come down on these vehicles. You do understand that the more LEAFs Nissan makes, the lower their sunk cost will be per vehicle, right? (R&D, factory setup & tooling, etc.) If you think there is ZERO learning curve left for the industry to move down after selling electric vehicles for less than 4 years, you are woefully mistaken. And your claim that you need 72kWh to go 200 miles is also dubious. The Model S goes 244 miles with 60kWh and is a much larger, less aerodynamic vehicle than the LEAF: You'd only need about 50 kWh to have a 200 mile range in a Model S, so lower your inflated estimates by around 50%! But the LEAF, being a smaller car to begin with, might need a few less kWh in battery capacity anyway, and that's assuming that there are NO advances in battery technology by 2044, which is a very risky bet to make. Sorry, but your projections are extremely inaccurate.
Translation: "Please don't put any more fuel economy regulations on us! This study we funded says we're doing just peachy in the CO2 emissions department, but only if you assume a wildly optimistic share of biofuels coming into the market AND you don't count the pesky land use and other emissions associated with biofuel production. And while we assume total global emissions will be cut by 50% by 2050, no real reductions will happen until after 2020 anyway." I'd like to add that all these assumptions go out the window if the depletion profile for conventional oil production is steeper than we are planning for AND our unconventional plays pan out (Shale oil, Tar Sands, etc.). If we are forced to use Oil Shale, coal-to-liquids or any other climate nightmare to supply our liquid fuel habit, then all bets are off. And when you account for all the methane leaks from hydraulic fracturing drilling, then it looks like all bets are off right now. Hopefully, better transportation planning and increasing vehicle electrification will make this study's rosy predictions pan out. However, 450ppm STILL locks us into several feet of sea level rise eventually, dangerously acidic oceans and dangerous extremes in weather that will be highly disruptive to the geopolitics of the 21st Century and beyond. We need to find some way to suck carbon already emitted out of the atmosphere to come back down to the 350ppm that the latest climate science tells us is the actual danger limit. Reforestation and greening desert regions might help and are FAR preferrable to crazier geoengineering schemes.
Auto insurance companies will see increasing vehicle automation as a boon to their bottom line since they will be paying for a lot less damages as automation becomes more capable and more widespread. While they will be wary of complete automation so good that it makes their entire business model obsolete, expect them to champion level 3 as an industry standard while trying to stall level 4 development as much as possible. Also look for the requirement to carry auto insurance to remain on the books regardless of how good the technology becomes unless the public forcefully demands otherwise.
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May 12, 2014