Toward a Sustainability Bioenergy Platform

The slides I presented on September 27th at the First Nations’ Futures Program at Stanford University are available for viewing for anyone interested:

Toward a Sustainability Bioenergy Platform

To summarize, the purpose of the First Nations’ Futures Program is “to establish a world class fellowship program focused on building First Nations’ capacity through developing values based leadership and more integrated solutions for managing First Nation’s assets / resources.” These are the leaders and future leaders of First Nations’ groups like the Māori of New Zealand, Native Hawaiians, and Native Americans. These are the people who are often tasked with managing group resources so they are still available for future generations. Thus, sustainable energy is high on their list of priorities.

My presentation starts with some of the traditional aspects we think of being related to sustainability, but then talks about a more systematic and objective method for measuring sustainability. I cover the fact that sustainable solutions are different in different locales. For example, Brazilian sugarcane ethanol has been deemed to be potentially sustainable by a Dutch group who attempted to measure sustainability based on six categories. But take that example and move it to a location that doesn’t receive ample rainfall, or a location in which the terrain is prone to erosion, and what was sustainable in one case is not sustainable in another. On the topic of sustainability, one size definitely does not fit all. I also contrast the U.S. to Brazil to show why the two are not at all comparable.

Finally, I spend three slides to present for the first time in public a tentative org chart for my new organization, our platform, and our strategy. The org chart has been sanitized to remove some company names from the boxes, as some deals are not ready to be publicized. As indicated previously, I sit in the “Merica” box, but spend most of my time working on the Global Conversions leg of the platform.

Next up is the Pacific Rim Summit in a week. I will be on a panel with Guy Cellier – the President and founder of Forest Solutions – and Professor Scott Turn from the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute at the University of Hawaii. The topic will be sustainable bioenergy.

49 thoughts on “Toward a Sustainability Bioenergy Platform”

  1. We have pushed so many of our Native-Americans into Semi-Arid areas that I would want to look at "Agave," I think.

    Of course, we have a reservation in Ms. that should be able to do something with the abundant Pine in the state.

  2. " These are the leaders and future leaders of First Nations' groups like the Māori of New Zealand, Native Hawaiians, and Native Americans. These are the people who are often tasked with managing group resources so they are still available for future generations. Thus, sustainable energy is high on their list of priorities."

    Having seen the American Indian in action in my home state of Oregon and historically – I think the above statement is rather incorrect – the stories of the natives husbanding nature are pure myth.

    Like Rufus points out, in every state there are natural plants that no doubt would be suitable to the climate and gasification.

  3. "Rebate income taxes to make it revenue neutral"

    Did you mean payroll taxes here? If you really meant income tax, are you talking about refundable tax credits, so the "working poor" who pay no income tax are compensated? Will the rates vary so that, for example, the elderly rural poor, who are dependent on gasoline to get to basic medical care, are compensated to a greater degree than richer urban people who have public transportation alternatives available to them? Any sort of hold-harmless tax adjustment is going to be seriously complicated.

  4. “the stories of the natives husbanding nature are pure myth.”

    I have the opportunity to listen to representative of PNW tribes on the issue of forest health. They speak of the land land the same way I think of my grandmother. Loving the earth does not not automatically provide the wisdom to protect it.

    The basic problem with working the confederated tribes in the PNW is that gaming will provide more jobs than biomass renewable energy.

  5. “Do you think nuclear power is sustainable?”

    No but is a pretty nifty way to supply the electricity for billions.

    The is one criterion that is missing from RR list. The equipment (aka, platform) has to be sustainable.

    Approaches need to be holistic. Municipal waste is not a sustainable either because it is based on non-sustainable lifestyles.

    Another criterion that is missing from RR list is better non sustainable methods.

    Perfect is the enemy of good.

  6. Do you think nuclear power is sustainable?

    This is what gets missed when I only post the slides. One of the things I discussed is things that are approximately sustainable, or that you can do as stopgap measures until something sustainable can be developed. IMO, nuclear is in the category. Personally, I consider nuclear an acceptable energy source. But nuclear is not my business, so it isn't something I spend a lot of time talking about.

    Besides, these groups aren't planning on building any nuclear plants.

    RR

  7. If you really meant income tax, are you talking about refundable tax credits, so the "working poor" who pay no income tax are compensated?

    Yes, what I have in mind would be similar to the EIC. The rest are details, and although it might get complex trying to make sure everyone who is overly dependent on gasoline doesn't suffer, the status quo in my mind is much worse. They are going to suffer anyway, and that money isn't going to stay in the U.S. economy. $4 gasoline can either benefit the Hugo Chavez's of the world, or it can be used to move the U.S. toward more sustainable living arrangements (while keeping that money in country).

    RR

  8. Having seen the American Indian in action in my home state of Oregon and historically – I think the above statement is rather incorrect – the stories of the natives husbanding nature are pure myth.

    No, that's not what I am referring to. Very specifically, the people I am addressing have large amounts of land under management. They are tasked with managing that land for future generations. As such, they are pretty interested in sustainable management of that land.

    RR

  9. The slides are a nice way of framing the picture, although I certainly think overlooked (as ever) are oil-bearing trees. We know palm oil competes right now, w/o government subsidies. The tree Pongamia Pinneta is promising as well.
    Brazil could plant square miles of oil palms, and some companies are exploring this. (I wonder if the ethanol crowd in Brazil is thwarting this).
    Yields from oil palms dwarf all other biofuel contenders, and there is no annual tilling of the soil etc. New hybrids are showing even higher yields, and Venter (of Exxon fame) brags about unveiling the gene sequence of oilo palms, meaning much higher yields are possible. The palm fronds can fire boilers, or be used in medium-density fiberboard production. You do need a tropical climate (Cuba has a great future with oil palms, if only, if only….)
    In North America, I still wonder if growing biomass, and firing steam turbines, and driving PHEVs isn't a better way to use "biofuels," and of course, nuking up is a excellent option as well.
    I wish the best of success to the biofuel crowd, but so far they have not shown an ability to deliver a commercial product in the northern climate. In tropical climes, some competitive biofuel production is possible, and maybe quite a bit if oil palms follow the pathway of corn, and yields are tripled over the next 40 years (corn yields have tripled since WWII).
    Oil palms are competitive now, imagine when yields are tripled. It is an interesting world ahead.

  10. PeteS-
    Hey, ignorance isn't so bad…it bring bliss at times, and if you can get some bliss in this world, go for it.

    Oil palms have seeds, also known as dates. You crush both the hard seed, and the pulpy outside flesh, for oil. The seeds are about one-third oil, in weight.

    Usually, palm oil is used for human consumption, but it quickly converts to biodiesel.

    The downsides are that oil palms can only be grown within 10 degrees latitude of the equator, and then only with copious water. There are all the usual shortcomings of farming–some palms are duds, and have to be ripped out, there are rodents who eat the dates, there is blight, and dry weather and on and on.

    Nevertheless, oil palm companies are doing very well, and improving yields. In you like the stock market, check out a Thai oil palm company named UVAN. If crude oil does become scarce, it will have a license to print money. If not, you will still get a nice dividend.

    Like all companies, there is no way to know if management is sincere, or looting the till. Caveat Emptor.

  11. Thanks Benny. Very informative. But I guess what I am really asking is how do they get those dates down off the trees? Do humans go up on ladders or is there some automated approach? I'm wondering how amenable to mega-automation it is.

    P.S. Thanks for the stock tip but I wouldn't touch a stock anywhere on the planet right now. I just bailed out of an emerging market fund which moved in exact lock step with the Dow Jones even though not a single constituent stock was American. I think the markets have nothing to do with "real" value right now and everything to do with sentiment (and are crocked for the foreseeable future).

  12. PeteS-

    The seeds are in large bunches, usually with just a few stems extending back into the trunk. It is not a difficult process to cut the few stems, and the bunches can fall down into a tarp etc. You don't have to pick the seeds one-by-one.
    The process of cutting down the seeds has not been mechanized anywhere to my knowledge, but then, given the ease with which they are collected, that is probably not the part that needs mechanization. Labor in the tropics tends to be cheap.
    The second stage—separating the seeds to get ready for crushing, and he crushing for oil, takes more time, and there are various degrees of mechanization depending on which company you look at.

    On investing in stocks: Remember, the time to invest is when everyone is scared (including yourself) and the time to sell is when everybody is gloating about their stock portfolios and singing praises about the future.

    But hey, I went short on oil north of $100 a barrel, and it went to $147. No way that price made sense. And who promised the market would make sense?

  13. Thanks Benny!

    "Oh. and some oil palms are being bred to short, meaning no ladders."

    "Shorting the market", so to speak?

    Sorry. Couldn't resist.

  14. Note to self: Go long on short palms, and short on long palms. Until everyone else is who did the same is gloating. Then go long on long palms and short on short ones. Have I got that right?

    😉

  15. RR wrote re nuclear: "… can do as stopgap measures until something sustainable can be developed. IMO, nuclear is in the category."

    Depends what the meaning of sustainable is, as Bill Clinton would likely say.

    After all, biofuels are not sustainable once the Sun burns out. Even though that is 5 billion years in the future, sustainable clearly does not mean perpetual.

    With known sources of uranium (including the vast resource in sea water that the Japanese have already shown is recoverable), plus thorium, plus reprocessing of fuel — nuclear fission on its own could give a larger entire global population a First World standard of living for somewhere betweeen 1,000 and 2,000 years. Plenty time to develop truly long solutions.

    Compared to a human life-time, nuclear is quite definitely sustainable — and for more generations than most of us can imagine. But, just like biofuels, it is not permanent.

  16. The downsides are that oil palms can only be grown within 10 degrees latitude of the equator, and then only with copious water.

    The other downside is that oil palm plantations aren't terribly good for the environment. Cutting down the rain forest and exposing what used to be the jungle floor to the air in order to plant oil palm releases large amounts of sequestered CO2 ~ CO2 that had been accumulating in the biomass of tens of thousands of years worth of dead leaves, dead branches, etc. that have formed into peat bogs, and would if left alone, eventually turn into coal.

    Converting rain forest to a monoculture crop of oil palm also wreaks havoc with biodiversity. That may or may not be bad depending on your perspective, but at the current rate Indonesia and Malaysia are converting rain forest to oil palm, 98% of their rain forest will be gone within 15 years.

    As Robert Heinlein famously said, "TANSTAAFL ("There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch"), .

  17. Free biomass ~ come and get it

    Spent five hours today raking the leaves that fell from my several oak and maple trees, and I now have about 2,000 lbs of prime biomass in the form of lignocellulose sitting in huge piles along the street in front of my house.

    I'm just waiting for some cellulosic ethanol company to send a truck over to pick it up. It's there, free for the taking. 😉

    My one ton of biomass is 1/1,000,000,000 of the amount needed to replace one-third of the oil we import annually.

    I wonder how many tons of leaves have fallen to the ground this month and last just in the United States, and why some cellulosic entrepreneur isn't taking advantage of that?

  18. Sounds like you need mulch blades on your mower Wendell. I take care of 45 yards and can't remember the last time I held a rake.

  19. I take care of 45 yards and can't remember the last time I held a rake.

    Maury,

    Where do you live? Had I mulched that, I'd have about an inch of mulched leaves sitting on top of my grass.

    I do mulch through the spring and summer, but when the massive leaf fall happens each autumn, I'd just end up with a lawn covered with a dense layer of mulched leaves.

    No, I'm waiting for some cellulosic ethanol pioneer to take advantage of the huge leaf fall in this part of the country (upper Midwest) each October and November.

  20. Wendall-
    There are downsides to palm plantations. However, there are square miles of degraded lands in the Amazon, and palm plantations do stabilize the soil, and provide steady income.
    Interestingly enough, some people believe the Amazon forest is not that "natural" anyway, and the aborigines had been ripping out "native" flora and planting fruit trees for thousands of years.
    I share concerns about vital habitat for wildlife. But compared to sugar, cattle, or soy, palm is not so bad.

  21. Two article URLs (below) tonight which caught my attention. The first one is about palm oil and shows a pic of oil seeds needing pressing. I don't support growing new plantations of oil crops nor do I believe there is reason to grow anything agri-based for biodegradable new fuel feedstocks as I've previously mentioned.

    And for those of you who support nukes, please share your opinions of radioactive waste still hot for 500,000 years in exchange for the flowing electrons used to cook your family's bacon and eggs for breakfast. Inhale one plutonium atom and you WILL get lung cancer. And the current buzz that nukes do not emit CO2 is such a crock.

    Sorry, simply my opinion.

    –Cliff

    http://planetark.org/wen/55300

    KUALA LUMPUR – Planned palm oil carbon emission targets will be delayed by at least a year as planters clash with NGOs on calculating the vegetable oil's environmental impact, officials said on Monday.

    The measure was aimed at combating the negative image of palm oil output, which green groups say has been partly fueled by producers in Southeast Asia cutting down swathes of rainforests and draining carbon-rich peatlands.

    •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

    http://planetark.org/wen/55297

    NEW YORK – U.S. climate legislation would hike gasoline prices about 13 cents a gallon as oil companies push the price of carbon permits on to consumers, according to report by Point Carbon, an independent consulting company that tracks global carbon and energy markets.

    The analysts did not share the oil industry's view that a U.S. cap-and-trade system to curb greenhouse gas emissions would decimate demand for gasoline and force large numbers of refineries to shut down.

  22. I'm in the New Orleans area Wendell. The grass grows pretty much year round. As for the leaves,companies like LS9 will probably design yeast to ferment them. Who knows,maybe you can buy it off the shelf at Walmart some day. People can be ingenius when it's crunch time. The Nazi's had CTL during WWll. We had wooden tires.

  23. "And for those of you who support nukes"

    I'm with you Cliff. Nasty stuff. But,the option is always there if push comes to shove. Ditto for oil shale. As nasty as it is,you'll see massive retort operations if we don't come up with better alternatives.

  24. Radioactive waste can be dealt with by thoughtful intelligent people. It can be contained and stored safely. It can be reprocessed to make more fuel. We may decide we need to bury it in a mountain. If we do, I wouldn’t bury it too deep, future generations will be going back to retrieve it and they will wonder why we would call something so valuable a waste.

    If you are concerned about CO2, the CO2 footprint of a nuclear facility is very small compared to the energy produced. That is a simple fact.

    As for your concerns about plutonium, I will add it to my list of things not to do
    1. Don’t drink methanol, E85, gasoline, etc.
    2. Don’t inhale plutonium.
    3. Don’t inhale coal dust
    4. Don’t parachute into a wind turbine
    5. Don’t stare at the sun

  25. Dennis Moore – might add:

    1. Don't pee into the wind
    2. Don't piss off Mike Tyson
    3. Don't go to http://www.planetark.org for anything of any use

    If someone dislikes coal fired, oil or gas fired or nuclear power so much maybe they should find a cave.

    The anti nuclear scaremongers do a wonderful job of distributing 'stuff'!

  26. Cliff

    I understand your concerns about spent fuel but they are based on a lack of understand of physics and chemistry. Spent fuel is not hot 500,000 years. After 300 years spent fuel is about as radioactive as dirt.

    “Inhale one plutonium atom and you WILL get lung cancer.”

    Again this is not true. Plutonium is not very radioactive but since it is a heavy metal it is more of a toxic hazard. It is less toxic than nicotine which is routinely inhaled by children.

    Everybody on the planet that is about my age has inhaled plutonium because of above testing of nuclear weapons which is now banned. Relatively speaking, very few people die of lung cancer. Sorry to break your fear mongering myth. The only significant risk factors are lung cancer and getting old. Lung cancer under 60 in now smokers is very, very, rare.

    The primary risk factor to the public from fission is the fission product I-131. Fortunately, it is easy prevent releasing I-131(understand of physics and chemistry). It is a know significant risk factor for thyroid cancer. The treatment for thyroid cancer is higher doses of I-131. Thyroid cancer is rarely fatal.

    Man has been using radiation for more than 100 years. The discovery of X-rays was one of the fastest inventions to be widely adopted. Furthermore, radiation exposure is one of the most widely studied environmental hazards. It is also one of the easiest hazard to protect for. When was the last time that someone was harmed in the US by radiation? As a far as commercial nuclear power goes, no one (including workers) has ever been harmed in the US.

  27. Cliff:

    "I don't support growing new plantations of oil crops nor do I believe there is reason to grow anything agri-based for biodegradable new fuel feedstocks as I've previously mentioned."

    I think you previously mentioned that we can get "carbon building blocks" for fuel from sources like sewer sludge. What you seem to miss is that fuel is just a carrier of energy. If all we needed was carbon building blocks we would be using carbon from CO2 in the air, or from limestone rocks. If you want to see the difference between sewer sludge, palm dates, and petroleum, burn them in a calorimeter and measure the energy change. That's basic chemistry.

    "And for those of you who support nukes, please share your opinions of radioactive waste still hot for 500,000 years in exchange for the flowing electrons used to cook your family's bacon and eggs for breakfast."

    I'm fine with that. The source of electrons which cooks my breakfast also powers hospitals, factories etc. etc. I'm quite interested in keeping them going.

    Inhale one plutonium atom and you WILL get lung cancer.

    I'd like to hear your reasoning behind this. Based on my layman's knowledge of cellular biology, I'd take some convincing that a random alpha particle or neutron is ever guaranteed to cause cancer. Wouldn't it at least need to collide with a chromosome?

    More to the point, the most common form of plutonium used for fission is PU-239 with a half-life of 24,110 years. Other isotopes vary from 7,000 years to 80.8 million years. So a single atom of plutonium inhaled at birth only has one chance in two hundred and fifty of even decaying in a human lifetime (and thus producing any radiation or radioactive daughter products), let alone causing lung cancer.

  28. Maury said,

    "We had wooden tires."

    ————————

    I'm wondering how they did it. ??

    I can remember my mother telling me they used to have "Coat Hanger Drives" during WWII to get steel for the war effort. Also gas rationing coupons, sugar coupons, etc.

    John

  29. Cliff wrote: "Inhale one plutonium atom and you WILL get lung cancer. And the current buzz that nukes do not emit CO2 is such a crock. Sorry, simply my opinion."

    Got to pile on here, Cliff. Your opinion is simply wrong. Please do some studying and correct your opinion.

    Most of the anti-nuke misinformation is put about by the usual Neo-Stalinist suspects who want to enslave you. That is why they tell you CO2 is bad, and CO2-free nuclear power is worse. They just want you poor & servile. Why are you falling for their self-serving shtick?

    Next time you take a flight (going to a global warming alarm session, of course), look out the window. Or take the lower-carbonj route, get on GoogleEarth and put yourself at 30,000 ft. The signs of human construction are quite modest, even flying over over-populated highly-polluting Europe. But the signs of agriculture are unmistakable.

    That's something to think about when you hear the usual suspects in the Political Class push bio-fuels.

  30. I say build nukes, big nukes, mini-nukes, nukes-a-rama.
    Secretary of Energy Chu, no dolt, says he likes nukes.
    A nuke-PHEV transportation system could bring higher living standards and cleaner air to the United States.
    Imagine c ciy where everyone drove PHEVs. The streets nearly quiet, and air smelling like plants, not exhaust.
    The only pollution is a few spent fuel rods? How is this a bad scenario?
    I love this scenario–one that includes hundreds of billions of extra dollars circulating through our economy every year, and no kow-towing to oil thug states.
    If this is doom, then bring on doom.

  31. Just to correct my dodgy off-the-cuff arithmetic:

    I reckoned a half life of 24,100 years divided by a human lifetime gave odds of approx. 1 in 250 of a decay of a plutonium atom.

    The odds are actually 1 – 1/(2^halflives) = 1 – 1/(2^(80/24,110)) = 0.002297306 … or 1 in 435.

    Even better news for Cliff!

  32. Thanks for the recount, Pete. Still, we all have to concur with Maury that grinding up plutonium on your kitchen table would be a Bad Idea — almost as much of a Bad Idea as drinking diesel.

    Of course, the total deaths throughout history from both those causes combined pale into insignificance beside the staggering number of deaths due to misuse of good old bio-fuel ethanol.

    I guess we all just have to be careful.

  33. The toxicity of plutonium has been greatly exaggerated by those with an agenda.

    Plutonium is toxic, but as a chemical it is no worse than many other elements and compounds such as arsenic, cyanide, gasoline, methanol, etc. NIOSH ~ Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards

    It would be foolish to start filing on a lump of Pu and breath in the dust, but I could easily hold a solid lump of Pu in my hand and suffer no ill effects. During the Manhattan Project, people at Los Alamos passed around pieces of Pu, held them in their hands, and kept small pieces on display in labs and on desks, and none died from it.

    The primary toxic effect of Pu is the radiation that small particles carry into the lungs when breathed in.

    Pu like uranium* is also pyrophoric, and ignites easily as does sodium, potassium, and phosphorous. Because the smoke is radioactive, you wouldn't want to breath in the smoke from a plutonium fire.
    ________________
    * One of the reasons depleted uranium (DU) is used in anti-tank rounds is not only is it very dense, it is also pyrophoric. Once it penetrates a tank's armor, it is usually also burning with lethal results on the tank's crew.

  34. "I could easily hold a solid lump of Pu in my hand and suffer no ill effects."

    Indeed, at Los Alamos in August 1944 a chemist accidentally ate a sizable fraction of the world's then supply of plutonium! His breath became so radioactive he could send radiation monitors off the scale by blowing from six feet away. Since he was THE plutonium chemist at the time, he got the job of recovering the plutonium from his own pumped stomach contents! His urine contained detectable plutonium for years afterwards. Yet he suffered no apparent ill effects, lived a normal life, and although I don't know if he's still around he certainly was in 1995 over 50 years after the accident.

    "During the Manhattan Project, people at Los Alamos passed around pieces of Pu, held them in their hands, and kept small pieces on display in labs and on desks, and none died from it."

    True, but people DID die during so-called "criticality excursions" when too much plutonium was accidentally accumulated at the one spot. Separate accidents at Los Alamos in 1945, 1946 and 1958 eached caused a rather nasty death.

  35. And while we are on the subject of death — technically, loss of life expectancy, since 100% of us will die — let's not forget the Number 1 cause of loss of life expectancy. That would be poverty.

    How do we prevent poverty? By expending energy.

    That's why global scale use of nuclear fission would actually be a huge gain to the human race.

  36. The Los Alamos event was not a result of an accidental accumulation. Two halves of a critical mass were being tested by bringing them slowly together. Something slipped and the mass went critical. together. Fission releases large amount of energy suddenly while radioactive decay is a slow release of energy. Like falling off a roof compared to stepping off a roof. The human body does not do well adsorbing too much energy too fast.

    Pete S, falling off a roof and be a nasty death too. Is there any other kind of death?

    The last criticality accident was at fuel fabrication plant in Japan. Two died.

    Search WIKI for 'criticality accident'

  37. True, but people DID die during so-called "criticality excursions" when too much plutonium was accidentally accumulated at the one spot.

    Pete~

    But that wasn't a consequence of Pu's toxicity. That was because they got too much in one place and exceeded the critical mass. The same would happen with other fissionable materials such as: thorium 232, uranium 235, neptunium 237, and americium 241.

  38. Wendell Merc. – agreed.

    Kit P: "The Los Alamos event was not a result of an accidental accumulation. Two halves of a critical mass were being tested by bringing them slowly together. Something slipped and the mass went critical."

    Two of the three I mentioned were tests, as you say. The third was genuinely accidental — plutonium accumulated over a period of years in a machine designed for recovering it from waste.

    "Pete S, falling off a roof and be a nasty death too. Is there any other kind of death?"

    Well I don't know about you but I relish the thought of dying in my sleep at ninety a lot more than getting my face burned off in a nuclear accident.

  39. Well well… Corn ethanol bashers yet lotsa nuke enthusiasts, eh? Thank you for the education here but I still think I'll not handle any Plutonium. I did watch a miner eat yellowcake once on TV like it was no big deal!

    Glad to learn too that half-lives of spent nukes are so short, yet still a bit longer than it took to eat the breakfast heated with nuke-generated electricity.

    I guess I can retire now and not worry about spent waste still being stored for 65 years because NIMBY's everywhere don't care to have this stuff buried in their own home regions. Myself included…

    –Cliff

  40. Cliff

    The only way you could handle fissionable material if you worked in a regulated facility. Nice jobs if you can get them. You get to wear a white lab coat and work in a carefully controlled environment. I have done hazard analysis for such facilities. Fissionable material is very expensive. Even if there was no hazard associated with it, it would be carefully controlled for economic reasons.

    I do not know what you viewed on TV but miners are not around yellow cake. To get fissionable material to the point where it can produce energy in a critical reactor, requires a lot of processing.

    “buried in their own home regions”

    Cliff has lots of misconceptions. Nobody is proposing burying any high level waste anyplace. I did similar evaluation for the geological repository at Yucca Mountain (more like a ridge line) and have visited the site. Spent fuel is first stored deep pools of water. After the fission products have a undergone exponential decay, they not longer need 7 feet of water for shielding and cooling. Then the spent fuel rods can be stored in dry cask storage units before shipping to the geological repository. Looking at the computer models, it really does not matter how long they are stored above ground. It is safe to stand next to them.

    At the geological repository, the dry cask storage units will be placed in dry man made tunnels. According to computer modes, the dry cask storage units will start to leak in 30,000 to 40,000 years and after a couple of age ages have passed may show up in very low levels of well water.

    I just can not get too excited about what conservative computer modes show hundred of thousands of years from now.

  41. Corn ethanol bashers yet lotsa nuke enthusiasts, eh? I guess I can retire now and not worry about spent waste still being stored for 65 years because NIMBY's everywhere don't care to have this stuff buried in their own home regions.

    Cliff,

    I'd rather have a nuclear generating plant near my home than a commercial ethanol still.

    And the ag chemical runoff from industrial corn farming, what over production and all those chemicals are doing to the land, and the drawdown of the Ogallala Aquifer is much worse on the environment than nuclear power generation, or storing the spent nuclear fuel.

  42. Well folks, there you have it: nuclear is super safe (nuclear waste apparently takes care of its self), super sustainable (yes, fissionable material is so easy to get out of seawater!), and super cheap (they cost practiacly nothing)! The only problem is those darn Neo-Stalinists in the Political Class who for some strange Neo-Stalinist reasons hate nuclear! Darn them! I'm going to punch the next Political Class Neo-Stalinist I see right in the kisser. Pow!

  43. RR: This has been interesting to see so many pro-nuke promoters within the ranks of corn ethanol bashers. The dichotomy herein simply floors me.

    Nukes in backyards are OK for some rather trusting folks I guess?

    My own memory kicks back into Three Mile Island then the Chernobyl meltdown that poisoned so many people, farmland and animals. Everbody living on this planet got some of those rads. It just depended upon how close we were to Chernobyl – yet this radioactive cloud circled the entire planet.

    About five years ago I was dealing with a now deceased Gazprom Russian man living in Kiev, not too far away from Chernobyl. He was entrusted with finding a way to monetize stranded carbon coal and natural gas still locked up in this same region. They were loaded with underground fossils but the surface area was still too hot with friendly radiation.

    I remember downloading all kinds of maps and images from this area around Kiev and let me tell you, I was shocked at how widespread this contamination was and still will be for just how many years I don't even know.

    I don't see nukes as a safe alternative to anything. We are all welcome to our own opinions and/or even reading a news release published on Planet Ark.

    –Cliff

  44. My own memory kicks back into Three Mile Island then the Chernobyl meltdown that poisoned so many people, farmland and animals.

    Cliff,

    That's the problem, the institutional memory everyone has of TMI and the movie, "The China Syndrome."

    The truth is that far more people have died in the coal industry — both mining it, and from the pollution burning coal has caused over the ages. (In the Great London Fog Catastrophe of 1952, perhaps as many as 12,000 people died when an inversion layer trapped the exhaust of coal-burning power plants in southern England.)

    We all remember TMI, but why has everyone forgotten the GLFC of '52?

  45. We all remember TMI, but why has everyone forgotten the GLFC of '52?

    Wendell:
    There have been and will be other major and catastrophic accidents. We should not be comparing the death tolls from nuclear meltdown incidents to suffocations from Coal exhausts or even comparing Union Carbide's gassing of thousands or the next or last oil spill here. There are hazards and trade-offs to everything concerning available energy sources to food sources and we all breathe the same air.

    Nukes however are another story in my opinion. This form of centralized electrical generation is in a class all by itself concerning the very dangerous waste products of fission. Whether spent fuel rods still glow with killer radioactive strength for 5,000 years or for 500,000 years isn't worth debating. This nuke waste maybe looked back on as the turning point for both civilization and animals well within our own remaining lifetimes.

    It was in 1981 when I first viewed a replacement/retrofit to nuclear fission which would still continue generating steam-electric from the back of the electric plant while retiring the fissionable nuke angle all together as a source of controlled heat to simply boil water into steam.

    Such technology which I and others have viewed isn't discussed here, it is not widely recognized, nor will it be until a utility decides to implement it. Then I'd expect global copycats to rush forward in a big hurry as I expect this replacement technology would work very well and be decidedly more profitable than building, operating or decommissioning a nuke plant.

    Perhaps soon something new in this vein will pop into public view and at that time I'll point it out and specifically reference it to you and to others. Until then, live long and prosper as ole' Spock would say…

    –Cliff

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