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Politics Technology

Peter Thiel: We Need a New Atomic Age 366

HughPickens.com writes: Peter Thiel writes in the NYT that what's especially strange about the failed push for renewables is that we already had a practical plan back in the 1960s to become fully carbon-free without any need of wind or solar: nuclear power. "But after years of cost overruns, technical challenges and the bizarre coincidence of an accident at Three Mile Island and the 1979 release of the Hollywood horror movie "The China Syndrome," about a hundred proposed reactors were canceled," says Thiel. "If we had kept building, our power grid could have been carbon-free years ago. Instead, we went in reverse."

According to Thiel, a new generation of American nuclear scientists has produced designs for better reactors. Crucially, these new designs may finally overcome the most fundamental obstacle to the success of nuclear power: high cost. Designs using molten salt, alternative fuels and small modular reactors have all attracted interest not just from academics but also from entrepreneurs and venture capitalists like me ready to put money behind nuclear power. However, none of these new designs can benefit the real world without a path to regulatory approval, and today's regulations are tailored for traditional reactors, making it almost impossible to commercialize new ones. "Both the right's fear of government and the left's fear of technology have jointly stunted our nuclear energy policy," concludes Thiel. "supporting nuclear power with more than words is the litmus test for seriousness about climate change. Like Nixon's going to China, this is something only Mr. Obama can do. If this president clears the path for a new atomic age, American scientists are ready to build it."
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Peter Thiel: We Need a New Atomic Age

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 28, 2015 @12:26PM (#51017567)

    [citation needed]

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This.

      This article is a biased, unsupported, garble..

      • by MrL0G1C ( 867445 ) on Sunday November 29, 2015 @08:59AM (#51021361) Journal

        Indeed, renewables hasn't failed what-so-ever, installations are growing exponentially whilst the costs of renewables are at the same time plummeting.

        Over 50% of new electrical power generation installations are now renewables, pretty fkking bizarre to call that a failure!!!.

        For example: Renewables = 84% of New Electricity Generation Capacity in 1st Quarter of 2015 [cleantechnica.com]

    • by duckintheface ( 710137 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @01:01PM (#51017747)

      Yes, this is the most important point that can be made about the article. It is based on a false premise: "what's especially strange about the failed push for renewables".

      Wind and solar are growing faster than ever, in the US, in China, in Europe and in the developing world. Nuclear is an over-centralized, expensive, and dangerous technology based on a limited fuel source. Renewables would be growing even faster if it were not actively opposed by the incumbent fossil fuel industry which puts up legal roadblocks and receives far more in government subsidies than renewables ever have.

      • by ka9dgx ( 72702 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @01:22PM (#51017871) Homepage Journal

        Uranium fueled reactors are the result of a premature optimization... they aren't reactive enough to work with oxides as fuel.. so you end up having to do all sorts of engineering to try to keep it from oxidizing, whilst only a small barrier away from water. It was never a good idea. The hydrogen bubble that almost made 3 mile island even worse is a result of this chemistry at work. Not only that, when Uranium splits, it only yields 90% of the energy immediately, the remaining 10% takes millions of years, which means a reactor producing 1GW of heat at load will still generate 100 Megawatts when you stop the chain reaction... and if you can't cool it, the thing will melt down.

        Thorium yields 99% of the energy immediately, which reduces the need for cooling after the fact by a factor of 10... plus in a Thorium reactor, the fuel is a liquid fluoride, which means you just have to divide the critical mass in the event of an emergency, and you're done with it. A few flat wide steel tanks encased in concrete would do the trick, even if dry.

        I'd happily live down the street from a Thorium reactor.

        • I'd happily live down the street from a Thorium reactor.

          I think that US companies should be clamoring to open the Chinese market for these things.

          imho, personally, the idea of China with nuclear reactors everywhere is a bit disconcerting, but they are the perfect target market

          They are the world's worst polluter and only getting worse...nuclear is the best option by far, but it's just not been marketed for their needs.

          A company could make trillions.

        • by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @02:44PM (#51018311) Homepage Journal

          I'd happily live down the street from a Thorium reactor.

          I second the motion.
          Speaking as someone who, back in the late 80's, out of my own fear due to ignorance and a lack of foresight, voted to shut down Rancho Seco, I've come full circle on the subject, and now feel that nuclear power is, for at least the time being, an excellent option to break us out of the use of fossil fuels, at least while other technologies are being (further) developed, and from what I've read on the subject, thorium reactors are a better, safer choice than uranium reactors, and more sustainable for the time being due to the relative abundance of thorium -- assuming we've learned from our mistakes and can design and operate such plants in an appropriately safe manner. Meanwhile I'll hold out hope that we manage to solve the puzzle of workable fusion reactor design, and the proliferation of technologies like photovoltaics can do nothing but good and I encourage their further development wholeheartedly. As a sidebar we need to persuade the electric power industry to stop whinging about rooftop solar and embrace it rather than treating it like it's The Enemy Trying To Destroy Them; just another case of an outdated business model that refuses to die, and profit standing in the way of much-needed progress, much like the way the auto industry treats upstart plug-in electric vehicle manufacturers like Tesla. Big Business can't be allowed to determine the course human progress is going to take, because on average they'll choose profit over what's good for people over the long run every single time (in my opinion).

        • by careysub ( 976506 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @02:48PM (#51018341)

          Uranium fueled reactors are the result of a premature optimization... they aren't reactive enough to work with oxides as fuel.. so you end up having to do all sorts of engineering to try to keep it from oxidizing, whilst only a small barrier away from water. It was never a good idea...

          Which is why every commercial power reactor on the planet uses uranium oxide fuel?

          You need to get the facts in your thorium-is-the-answer pitch straight. (I leave aside the matter of "What was the question?")

        • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @03:40PM (#51018639)

          Germany had a Thorium reactor in the 300MW range. They never managed to work out the kinks. Apparently this technology is extremely hard to get to work right.

          • by angel'o'sphere ( 80593 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @05:21PM (#51019107) Journal

            That was however a complete different beast than today is talked about.
            E.g. it used thorium/uranium filled graphite balls. The way that particular thing worked had many drawbacks, reprocessing e.g. was impossible, the outer layers of the graphite would start to "melt" and got slimy in a way that they stuck together and made control difficult (control rods could not move freely)

            In our days, if people talk about thorium they mean molten slat reactors ... which have different drawbacks.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          What you're talking about is not a "thorium reactor": the correct term is Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR), which is a type of Molten Salt Reactor (MSR).
          Sure, "LFTR" has "Thorium" in its name, but it's not because an LFTR can't work with Uranium; in fact, it's the exact opposite.

          Th-232 (the most common isotope of Thorium) is not a fissile material, as are U-235 or U-238; it has to be converted in Uranium-233 by means of a neutron absorption and some decay, and only then can be used as nuclear fuel.
          One

      • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @07:25PM (#51019637) Journal

        Nuclear is an over-centralized, expensive, and dangerous technology based on a limited fuel source.

        You want to call Nuclear over-centralized and expensive in the same breath you praise wind? Take a good look at the Pickens Plan [wikipedia.org]:

        "New transmission lines, worth $64 billion to $128 billion, would be needed to carry the power from the windmills to the cities. Pickens [...] said the government should begin building transmission lines for wind-generated power in the same way that President Eisenhower did by declaring an emergency to build the interstate highway system in the 1950s and 1960s."

  • by santax ( 1541065 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @12:28PM (#51017579)
    It's the waste! They store it underground and tell themselfes that those bunkers will survive at least 200.000 years, wich is utter, utter, utter bullshit. So first we need an actual workable sollution for the waste.
    • by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @12:30PM (#51017595)

      It's the restrictions.

      Breeder reactors could burn up all that waste.

      • by pepty ( 1976012 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @12:40PM (#51017639)

        "Both the right's fear of government and the left's fear of technology have jointly stunted our nuclear energy policy,"

        If we ease the regulations for making new reactors, can we also lift the liability cap and force the owners to pool responsibility?

      • When the breeder reactor is finished breeding and finished burning the bread fuel ... what to do with the waste then? Or do you think you can store the remains just "somewhere" ?

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Problem is they don't work properly. They have all suffered from serious, expensive problems. That's why no-one will build commercial ones - far too financially risky, with too poor a return. Same reason we keep building new coal plants, they are cheap and a fairly safe investment (unless you are lucky enough to live somewhere like Germany where they are discouraged).

      • It's the restrictions.

        Breeder reactors could burn up all that waste.

        No they couldn't. This is an imaginary property of breeder reactors. They still produce fission products that must be stored for centuries.

      • by Maury Markowitz ( 452832 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @03:14PM (#51018513) Homepage

        > Breeder reactors could burn up all that waste.

        Breeder reactors could burn up *some* of that waste, which is, I'll admit, an advantage. However, in order to do so they need a core fueled by weapons grade material, and the economics are complete pants. The cost of the fuel for the core is higher than the value of the electricity, so the breeder operates at a loss. That's fine, depending on the value of the waste you transmute, but to date the people who have a say have said "no".

        Here's a paper on a related concept that covers the economic issues:

        http://www.ralphmoir.com/media/tenneyMerged.pdf

        It's mostly on the fission-fusion hybrid, but the equations work for any breeder design, including thorium.

        • Strictly speaking: breeder reactors don't burn any waste at all. They breed from non fissionable material like Uran or Thorium fissionable material (Plutonium in the first case and Uran in the second) and burn that further and hence produce fuel from stuff which is strictly speaking no fuel.
          Imagine you would breed all fuel up and fission it in the end: you had 100% waste in the reactor, of the worst kind even.
          Neither breeding nor reprocessing reduces waste, both lead to more waste.
          The problem is in the word

    • by PvtVoid ( 1252388 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @12:34PM (#51017609)

      Fast reactors [iaea.org].

    • by trout007 ( 975317 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @12:46PM (#51017683)

      The problem isn't the stuff that lasts 200,000 years. That is pretty low level. Its also not the highly radioactive stuff since it decays quickly. It's the stuff that lasts hundreds of years that is trouble. Luckily we are getting better at nuclear chemistry and our ability to separate the bad from the not bad, or even useful stuff is improving. If we hadn't had such a short sighted policy we would have moved even further.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by careysub ( 976506 )

        We already have a solution for nuclear waste - the one we are currently using by default. After a few years cooling in a pond simply keep the spent fuel rods in above-ground 10 ton concrete casks permanently. Currently the casks are kept on the reactor site, but it would be better to move them to a few remote central sites for long term monitoring (in the U.S. the Chiricahua Apache have suggested their reservation as such a storage site).

        The fuel rods are perfectly stable in the casks for thousands of years

    • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @01:08PM (#51017789)
      anymore. I'll leave the details to the rest of the commentators, but it's a problem long since solved. You'll get way worse waste from a coal factory, just as folks back east who've had Ash Slurry in their water.

      The trouble is long term safety. As plants age they need very, very expensive maintenance and then eventually need to be shut down and rebuilt. It happens in about 20-30 years. Whoever is running the plant at that time is going to want to bury this fact so they can keep bringing money in from the factory. We saw this in Fukushima, and we saw how little gov't oversight worked to prevent it. We also saw a complete lack of accountability for the disaster. Until we solve this problem nuclear is a nonstarter.
    • by Kohath ( 38547 )

      What are you afraid might happen 10000 years from now? Please be specific.

  • Make no mistake (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @12:28PM (#51017583)

    Nuclear energy's effective demise was not of its own making.

    Incessant Alamist and hyperbolic activism by extremeist turn public opinion, spurred frivolous lawsuits, and prompted overzealous regulations.

    The irony is that Nuclear is the best hope to fight their new boogieman, Climate Change.

    Environmentalists are looking for a foot doctor to take care of the hole the shot into it.

    • Three Mile Island played its part, as Elmo as the fact that nuclear energy leaves since pretty nasty waste behind.

      • as Elmo as the fact that nuclear energy leaves since pretty nasty waste behind.

        Ahh... what?

      • No they do not, it's regulations against reprocessing that leave lots of high level waste around. The boogeyman is weapons grade plutonium that is a waste product.

        Look at modern designs like the EC6 it's variable fuel and is being used by the UK to dispose of it's plutonium stocks. It's refueling process is heavily automated and designed for inspections for perforations issues. When the US stopped needing lots of weapons grade plutonium we got this issue, it's not a design flaw rather a market that dried

      • Many of th environmentalists who initially spread the fear about nuclear waste decades ago are now coming out in support of nuclear, trying to undo their fud.

        They took two facts about two -different- things and implied they were both true of the -same- thing.

        Consider a candle, and some gun powder. The gun powder is dangerous precisely because it releases its energy quickly. The candle releases its energy slowly, meaning that it lasts a long time and is safe.

        Nuclear radiation is a lot like heat radiation-

    • by raftpeople ( 844215 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @12:44PM (#51017667)
      Those crazy alarmist's, I took a nature walk through Hanford just the other day and it was fine.
    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      Chernobyl and Three Mile Island were it's own making. The headache is how to take care of the problem when it goes sour and has contaminated an area for a long time.

      But it shouldn't stop us from developing the beast, it just tells us to be careful and not tease it. Going fusion powered would be nice.

    • Re:Make no mistake (Score:5, Insightful)

      by westlake ( 615356 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @03:19PM (#51018543)

      Nuclear energy's effective demise was not of its own making.

      When you look back at the nuclear plants which proved most costly and trouble prone and what you see are companies that were building beyond their financial resources and technical competence. Nuclear energy's demise was caused by a loss of confidence in the management of nuclear power --- and for that there is no easy technical fix.

  • Idiot (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo AT world3 DOT net> on Saturday November 28, 2015 @12:29PM (#51017585) Homepage

    This guy is an idiot. Renewables haven't failed, they are rapidly improving and winning against everything else on economic grounds. Nuclear isn't failing because of fear, it's because it isn't economically viable.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NotInHere ( 3654617 )

      Renewables have this large problem that they are subject to variation; they don't provide constant power, but they provide only power when the sun shines or the wind blows. Building an industry with unreliable power makes it much much harder, and requires changing the existent setup. And things like melting aluminium can't be made base on unreliabe power at all, I think.

      • That's why you make batteries and other forms.of storage technology.

        • I don't doubt that there will be a technical way to solve all these problems, whether with batteries, or with creating methane on periods with high energy, and burning it on periods with low energy, or with just simply.

          But there is one very high problem:

          Traditional energy resources will always be cheaper. Simple as that.

          Your fanciest battery technology won't make the actual price you pay for energy from renewable resources cheaper than the extraction costs for fossile energy sources. And if that isn't provi

      • At least in the US Western Interconnect, it's feasible to solve this problem. The West has diverse renewable sources -- hydro, wind, solar, even geothermal. The West has these over geographic diversity -- eg, the wind is unlikely to stop blowing in both the Columbia Gorge and Wyoming's South Pass at the same time. There is plenty of opportunity for pumped hydro storage. It's not inexpensive because you do have to overbuild capacity, but there are a lot of detailed studies that show it's feasible.

        The E
        • Yeah, I really think the US can make it. You have this (dimensionally) great country, you just put some hydro storage plants, and it is done. Other regions of the world which are more densely populated will have greater problems, but the US can actually do it. The only question is to get the actual political descision to do it. Right now the US energy politics looks like: "we want cheap oil, and if we don't get it, we invade (or start a revolution or whatever) a countrythat has oil and install a conformant

      • If you have a single wind mill on your property, that is ofc a problem.

        If you have a whole country to produce power by wind, or a state in the states (ha ha what a pun!), then there is no problem at all.

        Actually a no brainer.

        • Weather is something far larger scale, it affects whole countries. And there is also seasonal change which always affects one hemisphere, so you needed to brige the double of the distance to the equator here, to equalize with an energy grid.

      • Re:Idiot (Score:5, Informative)

        by dak664 ( 1992350 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @01:38PM (#51017965) Journal

        Melting aluminium is an *ideal* use for unreliable power: the primary cells can run at variable rates or even in reverse to stabilize the grid, or some of the molten product can be staged for running optimized Al air batteries. Germany is already doing this,
        http://www.bloomberg.com/news/... [bloomberg.com]

        From that link, other energy-intensive processes may be suitable, "including those used to manufacture cement, paper, and chemicals. Making chlorine, used to produce paper, plastic, fabric, paint, drugs, and antiseptics, also requires electrolysis."

        • Most of those processes can't just start and stop on demand, unless they are grossly inefficient, have no pollution control measures, and/or are grossly oversized. It all comes down to where you take your inefficiencies.

          • Precisely. If you want to run at 100% all the time, you will need reliable power. Otherwise you have to build oversized capacities. It is possible to build plants that tolerate varying energy input, but it comes at a cost. It is cheaper to build up overcapacities and use the energy when its available cheaply, than to only use energy when it is available and otherwise stop production, but it is even cheaper to just use traditional energy sources. So the fact that this company has adapted to the changed situa

      • Nuclear and coal have this large problem that they are unable to adapt to demand variation. Instead they just waste the overproduced energy as heat.

           

    • by mlts ( 1038732 )

      I would probably go with a different term of succeeding and failing.

      Until we get battery technology that can store in the range of energy per cubic unit as gasoline or diesel, or we have some way of pulling CO2 out of the air and turning that into a stored fuel (propane, or ethanol), renewables will hit a wall, and can't do much for base energy usage.

      However, peak energy, on the other hand... is a completely different story. Renewables have helped a lot in this department.

      The payoff with renewables is the

  • Peter's got the money to pull an Uber on the energy industry: break the law with a new business model, show that people like it and it benefits society, hire lobbyists to change the laws, profit!

    Seriously, isn't this what the Uber experiment is all about? It's the VC experiment to show that if you have enough money, you can ignore laws that the rest of us have to follow to build new business models.

    Peter's one of the few people out there with enough money to pull this off. Be bold, Peter! Make a lasting le

    • by pepty ( 1976012 )

      Peter's got the money to pull an Uber on the energy industry

      Nuclear power plants and electrical distribution are slightly more expensive than writing an app. "breaking the law" to set up your own nuclear power generation and distribution network would also be less than successful, especially when, unlike roads that Uber depends on, your competition owns the grid.

      But OK, I'll bite: Buy an oil drilling rig and tow it to international waters near a city that controls its own grid. Build a nuclear power plant on the rig, run cables to connect the city's grid.

      Then wha

      • Someone will cut the cable.
        Anotherone will invade your rig.

        Or do you think I will allow some random idiot to connect a power plant to my grid?

        • by pepty ( 1976012 )
          Pretty much.

          Round Two: Tow the rig to international waters near the bay area. Run cables to barges hosting data centers and immigrant IT labor working without visas?

  • He is probably right that atomic energy is the way to go. However, security and protection should be top priority there. And this should not be ensured on a national level, but you'd need an international institution, as otherwise the energy producers just go there where its cheapest (=least secure). We also need to internalize the cost of an atomic incident somehow, and let the energy company pay the bill, not the taxpayer. Only under these conditions is atomic energy the way to go. But I highly doubt anyo

    • We also need to internalize the cost of an atomic incident somehow, and let the energy company pay the bill, not the taxpayer.

      You obviously don't understand how things work. Businesses don't pay for anything. All costs are passed along to the customer (ie, you). If you tell them that they have to pay $X Billion because of an accident, and they can't pass the cost on to their customers, they'll just go bankrupt and you'll get stuck with the cost of cleaning up the mess.

      • Just require that every atomic plant owner makes an insurance, for which you require that they have proper securities. This then levels the cost for an incident over the whole nuclear industry. The insurance company will then take care of the security of the plant, because it will be inside their economic interest to avoid nuclear incidents. Right now its in the economic interest of the energy industry to spare on security, so that they have less costs. Munich re can cope with tens of billions of dollars, w

        • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

          by fnj ( 64210 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @03:32PM (#51018591)

          Just require that every atomic plant owner makes an insurance, for which you require that they have proper securities.

          Fine; you've loaded the cost onto the ratepayers, which is just about everyone, so that's not unreasonable, but you have also made some low-life parasitic scum in an insurance company rich as lords, which there is no need or excuse to do.

          Let the society as a whole "insure" the plant owners against catastrophes, as they largely do now. Then it's still the same "everyone" paying the cost, but you've eliminated the parasites.

          But I would complete the rationalization. I would make society as a whole the builders and operators of the plants. Then you've eliminated more parasites, and profit motives would never intrude into the operation and create lackadaisical, corner-cutting practices.

          Tell me this hasn't worked wonders for France.

          • Re:Yes (Score:4, Insightful)

            by NotInHere ( 3654617 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @11:17PM (#51020275)

            Fine; you've loaded the cost onto the ratepayers, which is just about everyone

            No, if the nuclear plant owners insure their plants, only they have to pay the rates. This makes the cost for nuclear power more expensive, and if its still competitive, nuclear plants will be built, if its not, none will be built. This way the market determines which technology is really the cheapest.

            you have also made some low-life parasitic scum in an insurance company rich as lords, which there is no need or excuse to do.

            Their job is to collect investors to get securities, and to assess risk in order to determine a price. There is a free market for their service, and if you want to get rich yourself, feel free to do it, or, as insured, chose a cheaper competition. They aren't more parasitic than investors. They make money with your work. This is what an economy is about: let specialists do the job, don't do it yourself.

            Let the society as a whole "insure" the plant owners against catastrophes, as they largely do now. Then it's still the same "everyone" paying the cost, but you've eliminated the parasites.

            If the government does the job of controlling the plants great, its all good. But still the costs need to be internalized somehow, otherwise this is subsidies for nuclear plants. So a good way would be over a tax for nuclear plants. Will the government really use the income from that tax to save for an incident? Or will it use it to pay for something the politicians promised to their voters? And when the incident happens, will the government take loans? Even after the paris attacks, which is a fairly small incident economy wise compared to a nuclear catastrophy, the french government announced they will take more loans now.
            And I think the analysts working for an insurer are much better than the government people, after all, their paycheck is much larger, so the best of the best won't go the government career way. So one can chose between the good people or the bad people doing the job.

            I would make society as a whole the builders and operators of the plants.

            This could work, yes, but many people don't like the socialist approach. I can live with it if things are properly run, but don't get your country into an international trade deal, as often one of the clauses is access to your market for foreign companies. So you would have to create and maintain a state monopoly, quite a task.

    • let the energy company pay the bill, not the taxpayer
      What is the difference between a taxpayer and a customer?
      If all energy is produced by a single form of production, there is no difference between a customer or a taxpayer.

      And we should also invest more into fusion technology research.
      Then make proposals what should be researched.

      The only serious project beyond some vaporware startups is ITER, and one project is far too few.
      It is enough to keep the current breed of scientists busy the next 30 years.

      • What is the difference between a taxpayer and a customer?

        If the company has to pay the bill, they will probably chose another technology if the risk is too high for them to lose their capital due to an atomic incident. From the regulatory side one only has to ensure the company can actually pay the bill, either through their own capital, or through an insurance.

        It is enough to keep the current breed of scientists busy the next 30 years.

        I'm not sure how science funding works, but I guess you would get far more scientists work on the problems if you invested more money into the field. I know, it would probably lead to the "every medicine r

        • Yeah, americans always think it is the money.

          In fusion we have fundamental problems. They can not be solved with "more research" (aka more money), only with the "right research".

          What the "right research" is, we only know partly ... so we invest into that and a bit into "broadening our horizon".

          More money might broaden the horizon more, but has bottom line no real effect when we will have a working fusion reactor.

          Unless someone is willing to pay Uber-Trillions for space travel fusion reactors, this world wil

          • Note: I am no american. I am EU citizen.

            Oh ... you did not know that fusion reactors produce nuclear waste, too?

            Their waste is much less problematic than the waste for nuclear power.

    • How do you internalize the cost of a rare catastrophe (which would probably bankrupt any insurance company)?
      Why don't we start by internalizing the external costs of fossil fuels? That will drive us to alternatives REALLY quick.

      • How do you internalize the cost of a rare catastrophe (which would probably bankrupt any insurance company)?

        There is a report by russia today [rt.com] that fukushima has cost $105 bn. Greenpeace (which hates nuclear power) claims a damage of $205 bn [greenpeace.org]. So, the range of nuclear meltdown damages is in the range of hundreds of billions of dollars. Now, the insurance company munich re reports [munichre.com] that they had to pay $31bn in 2014. I really think that it is doable to scale their business. So basically, there is one nuclear incident every 20 years world-wide. Lets be generous and say it costs around $400 bn. Now, the nuclear industr

  • This thought struck my mind. Carbon has an atomic number of 6, and Oxygen has an atomic number of 8. Wouldn't bombarding carbon with Alpha particles result in transmuting the carbon into oxygen? Why would that not happen, or what would have to be the controlling environment to ensure that it does? What would an allotrope of Carbon need to be? Coal, graphene, diamond, graphite, what?

    If the above is possible, it would be a perfectly clean form of energy, since oxygen would be the resultant product. On

    • Google "curve of binding energy", and you will become enlightened.

    • Ofc "the above" is possible

      But why would one do that? Do you have an idea how insane amounts of "alpha particles" you would need to get a CO2 out of the atmosphere by this?

    • Details matter. You are looking to build a fusion reactor, and this reaction is far more difficult than the DT reaction that the fusion community is focusing on.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @12:59PM (#51017741)

    And who should pay for its safe depositing.

    Nuclear energy is cheap and clean. As long as those reactors are running. I just doubt that the companies that reap the fruits of cheap energy are also willing to deal with the costly time after when there is zero revenue and horrible costs. I.e. what is now being brushed off to the government.

    It's the usual "privatize revenue, socialize cost" spiel. Sorry, but no game. Here's the offer: You have to show that you know where to put the waste and you have to lock down enough money to take care of it for at least a century, then you can build that reactor.

    Deal?

    • It's the usual "privatize revenue, socialize cost" spiel. Sorry, but no game. Here's the offer: You have to show that you know where to put the waste and you have to lock down enough money to take care of it for at least a century, then you can build that reactor.Deal?

      And *THAT* is the real reason why no new reactors have been built for 35 years.

    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      A more prominent danger is the risk of terrorists invading a nuclear plant and force it to blow up Chernobyl Style - quite a dirty bomb.

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @01:04PM (#51017757)
    in the face of falling profits. The trouble with nuclear is that sooner or later somebody is going to start cutting corners on safety to maximize profit. Look at Fukushima. Completely avoidable, everybody knew about it, still a disaster. And the CEOs responsible have so far got off scott free (can't spill the blood of kings, ya know). Yeah, I know there are more oil & coal deaths per watt, but the damage from nukes lingers in a way that oil/coal doesn't.

    Until it's cheaper to run the plants safely than not, and I mean cheaper in the short run not just the long run, I won't trust nuclear. Until then we're one MBA away from 100 years of elevated cancer risk.
  • Fukushima is an outrageous mess. Years on, it is still spewing radioactive matter into the environment. The human costs are catastrophic, and continue to be catastrophic.

    The nuclear apologists attempt to excuse Fukushima away, but they can't. Give me a break. Where the is Diablo Canyon located?

    Only a private power company is going to do nuclear in the US, given the Republican Party's hatred of public power. And the Republican Party HATES regulation. Even the numbest-nutted Ayn Rand ideologue can see wh

    • by Boronx ( 228853 )

      Remember when the dickless EPA fucktard shutdown the Ghostbuster's containment and literally unleased hell? REGULATION IS THE PROBLEM!!!111!! NOT THE SOLUTION!!!1!!1!1!!!

  • In the western US, the anti-nuclear sentiment has more to do with historically bad experiences with non-commercial activities. Open-air nuclear tests. A few years ago the DOE declared the Rocky Flats site in Colorado to be clean; there's a growing body of evidence that they did the job on the cheap and the remaining plutonium will get loose. Last year the WIPP in New Mexico had a leak, and DOE agreed to pay a $74M fine. This month, DOE asked the court for a further 17 year delay to 2039 to finish the vitr
  • Fallout 4: It's a cookbook!

  • I agree in general (Score:5, Insightful)

    by globaljustin ( 574257 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @01:57PM (#51018071) Journal

    I don't usually flatly agree w/ something Thiel says (he never has grown out of his Ayn Rand phase), but this time I do.

    Wind, solar, all the others...they are awesome and let's keep dumping cash into R&D for those...all of it.

    But also do nuclear.

    We have a long, long way to go before we can power our cities with renewables 100%. Nuclear has been retarded by 4 decades of fear-mongering...nuclear is safe when done correctly. The 3 Mile Island disaster killed no one and displaced only a small ammount of people...it wasn't anything like Chyrnoble.

    It's 40 years later and we can make reactors that are safer by orders of magnitude than the 100s we've been using for decades that have been working perfectly.

  • by Maury Markowitz ( 452832 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @03:08PM (#51018465) Homepage

    "But after years of cost overruns"

    Stop there. This is the #1 reason for the failure of nuclear. The *average* cost overrun was over 2x. Once you factored that in, the cost benefits promised simply disappeared.

    When this happened with the first generation reactors, they said those designs sucked, we know how to fix them, and that will be generation 2. When the exact same thing happened with with the gen 2 reactors, they said those designs sucked, and designed generation 3 reactors. And then we started to build those designs...

    "According to Thiel, a new generation of American nuclear scientists has produced designs for better reactors. Crucially, these new designs may finally overcome the most fundamental obstacle to the success of nuclear power: high cost."

    Yeah, except we're building a couple of these, and they immediately went over budget and continue to do so:

    http://www.utilitydive.com/news/nuclear-industry-darkened-by-delays-cost-overruns-at-vogtle-summer-facil/404418/
    http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/09/03/edf-nuclear-flamanville-idUKL5N1182LY20150903
    http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/nn-olkiluoto-3-start-up-pushed-back-to-2018-0109147.html

    When faced with problems like these, the "new generation" said those designs sucked, we know how to fix them, and that will be "new nuclear". And those designs exist only on paper, and offer no reasonable explanation while they will break the 50 year cycle of suck.

    The basic problem isn't nuclear, it's big. Big projects go over just as often as little projects, but when they do the magnitude is larger and people notice. A million $1000 cost overruns isn't news, but one $1 billion overrun is, as the articles above note. And, sadly, nuclear needs to be big. Don't believe the hype from the small modular people, the concept is inherently flawed and thats why all the big companies dumped their design efforts and the only people still supporting them are two people and a dog shops.

Never let someone who says it cannot be done interrupt the person who is doing it.

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