Putin sends a shiver through Europe


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fedlaw
January 2, 2006, 02:45 AM
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/01/02/wruss02.xml&sSheet=/portal/2006/01/02/ixportaltop.html


As LBJ so nicely put it: "When you have'em by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow."


Putin sends a shiver through Europe
By Adrian Blomfield in Moscow
(Filed: 02/01/2006)

Russia took Europe to the brink of a winter energy crisis yesterday when it carried out a Cold War-style threat and halted gas deliveries to Ukraine, the main conduit for exports to the West.

With a quarter of its gas supplied by Russia, Europe is facing serious disruption and price rises for as long as the dispute rumbles on.

Moscow turned off the tap at 10am after Ukraine refused to sign a new contract with the Russian state monopoly Gazprom quadrupling prices.

Critics of the Kremlin say the rise was punishment for the Orange Revolution in 2004 which brought in a westward-leaning government that promised to remove Ukraine from the Kremlin's sphere of influence.

The American State Department said that "such an abrupt stop creates insecurity in the energy sector in the region and raises serious questions about the use of energy to exert political pressure".

The European Union has called an emergency meeting of energy ministers on Wednesday.

Britain is less vulnerable than mainland Europe because it does not receive direct supplies from the former Soviet bloc.


But as other countries seek to shore up their reserves, less gas is likely to be pumped through the pipeline that links the Continent with Britain. That could mean higher prices and, if there is no quick resolution, possible breaks in supplies.

The European Commission says that most countries have between a week and two months' emergency reserves.

Ukraine has upset Moscow by pushing to join the EU and Nato. However, Russia insists that the price rise merely brings Ukraine in line with the price that most of Europe pays: about $240 per 1,000 cubic metres.

President Vladimir Putin adopted almost warlike terms when he spoke on television as the hours ticked by before the ultimatum expired.

"If no clear response [from Kiev] follows, we will conclude that our proposal has been rejected," he said.

If Ukraine's reserves run out, it could be tempted to siphon off gas intended for other countries. It claims the right to do so in lieu of transit fees.

The cut-off coincided with Russia assuming the rotating presidency of the G8 leading industrialised nations.

In Britain, millions of families started paying higher fuel prices yesterday.

Scottish and Southern Energy raised prices by 13.6 per cent, adding approximately Ģ50 to the average annual bill, while electricity charges will go up by 12 per cent, or about Ģ30 a year.

Npower puts its rises into effect today, adding 14.5 per cent for gas and 13.6 per cent for electricity.

Đ Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2006.

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LAK
January 2, 2006, 09:08 AM
Yes, but don't worry; our future planners in Washington told us the Cold War was over, and that we will never be engaged in a major war again. And of course Russia is in a pitiful state and can not be a military threat to anyone ;)

Next thing you know China will be dumping dollars like so much trash, while it continues eating up oil, steel and other resources, and building up it's already substantial military might.

But don't worry; China is no threat to us ;)
--------------------------------------------

http://ussliberty.org
http://ssunitedstates.org

whm1974
January 2, 2006, 11:36 AM
While Russia isn' the power it was during the Cold War I wouldn't count them out.

China is a much bigger threat. They have more then enough people to invade US or Europe and win.

-Bill

rick_reno
January 2, 2006, 11:39 AM
Yes, but don't worry; our future planners in Washington told us the Cold War was over, and that we will never be engaged in a major war again. And of course Russia is in a pitiful state and can not be a military threat to anyone ;)

Next thing you know China will be dumping dollars like so much trash, while it continues eating up oil, steel and other resources, and building up it's already substantial military might.

But don't worry; China is no threat to us ;)
--------------------------------------------

http://ussliberty.org
http://ssunitedstates.org

This is a contract dispute, they'll come around or Putin will send in the muscle.

bogie
January 2, 2006, 12:05 PM
Welcome to the concept of capitalism, my brothers! It looks like they're quick learners!

Phantom Warrior
January 2, 2006, 01:36 PM
China is a much bigger threat. They have more then enough people to invade US or Europe and win.


While I think China is an issue to be concerned about how exactly are they going to invade the continental US and win?

Satch
January 2, 2006, 01:41 PM
I hope this sends shivvers through our "learned people in the Senate", that we better start doing something fast and now about developing our many oil and other energy resorses,"Alaska, the Gulf,and yes,even off the west coast of **********",but then I did use the term "learned",. With the people we deal with in the world for our oil,etc., watching how this plays outI look for us to be in trouble :uhoh: before summer,anyone want to bet?

Marnoot
January 2, 2006, 02:02 PM
While I think China is an issue to be concerned about how exactly are they going to invade the continental US and win? +1. Their blue-water navy is a joke. Any attempts to transport troops to the US would end in lots of sunk Chinese troop transports not too far off mainland China.

agricola
January 2, 2006, 02:04 PM
Any chance to make the governments realise the massive dependence we have on fossil fuels and act accordingly to minimize it is welcome. If we weened ourselves off these things this dispute and a good many others would be happening and the Middle East would revert to the irrelevant backwater it was for the last five hundred years.

As has been noted, this is a contractual dispute where the Ukranians were getting very cheap gas in exchange for allowing the Russians to build a pipeline across Ukraine. They now want market value for that gas and the Ukrainians dont want to pay it, and the only lever the Ukranians have is that they can shut off the pipeline and cost the Russians the money they have been earning from the West. The Russians do have a point but, of course, both the EU and US are trying to pally up to Ukraine and so its the Big Bad Bear that gets all the blame, just as they did when Yushenko got "poisoned" and won the "Orange Revolution" as a result.

One would imagine that the pipeline dispute will be resolved once prices have gone up enough for the relevant people to make a lot of money as a result.

tulsamal
January 2, 2006, 02:06 PM
Assuming no major technology breakthroughs (like fusion) the only long term solution for the US is to get back into the atomic power business. The environmental people need to really think about how much less pollution we would have from atomic plants. It's hard for me to believe that we can't get together some teams of top engineers and find a safe way to build them. It isn't 1970 anymore and we aren't going to build one without a containment building or something! Just come up with a design that won't do a meltdown even if every drop of coolant is withdrawn. Let's send some engineers over to China to see how their new designs work.

And yes, you have to do fuel reprocessing as well. That reduces your nuclear waste problem a thousandfold.

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.09/china.html

While the West frets about how to keep its sushi cool, hot tubs warm, and Hummers humming without poisoning the planet, the cold-eyed bureaucrats running the People's Republic of China have launched a nuclear binge right out of That '70s Show. Late last year, China announced plans to build 30 new reactors - enough to generate twice the capacity of the gargantuan Three Gorges Dam - by 2020. And even that won't be enough. The Future of Nuclear Power, a 2003 study by a blue-ribbon commission headed by former CIA director John Deutch, concludes that by 2050 the PRC could require the equivalent of 200 full-scale nuke plants. A team of Chinese scientists advising the Beijing leadership puts the figure even higher: 300 gigawatts of nuclear output, not much less than the 350 gigawatts produced worldwide today.

To meet that growing demand, China's leaders are pursuing two strategies. They're turning to established nuke plant makers like AECL, Framatome, Mitsubishi, and Westinghouse, which supplied key technology for China's nine existing atomic power facilities. But they're also pursuing a second, more audacious course. Physicists and engineers at Beijing's Tsinghua University have made the first great leap forward in a quarter century, building a new nuclear power facility that promises to be a better way to harness the atom: a pebble-bed reactor. A reactor small enough to be assembled from mass-produced parts and cheap enough for customers without billion-dollar bank accounts. A reactor whose safety is a matter of physics, not operator skill or reinforced concrete. And, for a bona fide fairy-tale ending, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is labeled hydrogen.

A soft-spoken scientist named Qian Jihui has no doubt about what the smaller, safer, hydrogen-friendly design means for the future of nuclear power, in China and elsewhere. Qian is a former deputy director general with the International Atomic Energy Agency and an honorary president of the Nuclear Power Institute of China. He's a 67-year-old survivor of more than one revolution, which means he doesn't take the notion of upheaval lightly.

"Nobody in the mainstream likes novel ideas," Qian says. "But in the international nuclear community, a lot of people believe this is the future. Eventually, these new reactors will compete strategically, and in the end they will win. When that happens, it will leave traditional nuclear power in ruins."

tulsamal
January 2, 2006, 02:12 PM
From page 3 of the Wired article I linked to above:

In May, British eminence green James Lovelock, creator of the Gaia hypothesis that Earth is a single self-regulating organism, published an impassioned plea to phase out fossil fuels in London's The Independent. Nuclear power, he argued, is the last, best hope for averting climatic catastrophe:

"Opposition to nuclear energy is based on irrational fear fed by Hollywood-style fiction, the Green lobbies, and the media. … Even if they were right about its dangers - and they are not - its worldwide use as our main source of energy would pose an insignificant threat compared with the dangers of intolerable and lethal heat waves and sea levels rising to drown every coastal city of the world. We have no time to experiment with visionary energy sources; civilization is in imminent danger and has to use nuclear, the one safe, available energy source, now, or suffer the pain soon to be inflicted by our outraged planet."

Coming to terms with nuclear energy is only a first step. To power a billion cars, there's no practical alternative to hydrogen. But it will take huge quantities of energy to extract hydrogen from water and hydrocarbons, and the best ways scientists have found to do that require high temperatures, up to 1,000 degrees Celsius. In other words, there's another way of looking at INET's high-temperature reactor and its potential offspring: They're hydrogen machines.

For exactly that reason, the DOE, along with similar agencies in Japan and Europe, is looking intently at high-temperature reactor designs. Tsinghua's researchers are in contact with the major players, but they're also starting their own project, focused on what many believe is the most promising means of generating hydrogen: thermochemical water splitting. Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories believe efficiency could top 60 percent - twice that of low-temperature methods. INET plans to begin researching hydrogen production by 2006.

In that way, China's nuclear renaissance could feed the hydrogen revolution, enabling the country to leapfrog the fossil-fueled West into a new age of clean energy. Why worry about foreign fuel supplies when you can have safe nukes rolling off your own assembly lines? Why invoke costly international antipollution protocols when you can have motor vehicles that spout only water vapor from their tail pipes? Why debate least-bad alternatives when you have the political and economic muscle to engineer the dream?

The scale is vast, but so are China's ambitions. Gentlemen, start your reactors.

JJpdxpinkpistols
January 2, 2006, 02:33 PM
Assuming no major technology breakthroughs (like fusion) the only long term solution for the US is to get back into the atomic power business. The environmental people need to really think about how much less pollution we would have from atomic plants.

As an "environmental" person, lemme agree...but read on:

It's hard for me to believe that we can't get together some teams of top engineers and find a safe way to build them.

The problem isn't that we *can't* build a safe nuclear power reactor. We *can*. Pebble bed reactors are very stable, and have an incredibly long lifespan. the problem stems from the lowest bidder system.

Group A undercuts Group B in its bid to build ball valves. The American way is to accept Group A's bid based upon the bottom line. France and Japan chose to evaluate on quality, longevity of the ball valve, and the track records in terms of reliability for parts built by Groups A and B.

Nuclear accidents are rare in those countries.

I am not suggesting we nationalize the systems, but in truth, that might not be the worst way to go. Can you guarantee to me that the Group A isn't out to *just* make a buck? If Enron had happened at a nuke plant, just how many safeguards would have been skimped on?

If we decide to forgo the least cost option on nuclear infrastructure, I think we could make a REALLY good case for using nuclear power.

Firehand
January 2, 2006, 04:51 PM
Ref China, the big threat isn't an invasion of the U.S., it's damage to the Pacific fleet and domination of the Pacific Rim countries.

They've been building their navy up for years, including buying subs from Russia; they're not nearly the joke they used to be.

jnojr
January 2, 2006, 05:30 PM
China isn't going to "invade" the US. I suppose it is possible that they might, at some point, "invade" Europe... but they'd have to go through Russia and Asia to do it.

But they don't need to. They're likely to win an economic war. Why go to the ruinous expense of fighting and beating someone militarily if you have an economic noose around their necks?

I will not be surprised to see China as "the" economic, if not overall, superpower during my lifetime.

atomchaser
January 2, 2006, 05:34 PM
Any nuclear technology the Chinese have they either bought or stole from the US or Europe. Pebble bed reactors have been around for more then 20 years. They were developed as part of the strategic defense initiative. The South Africans have commericalized it as well. Nuclear power electric generation couple with Hydrolysis of water to make hydrogen for vehicles is the way forward. As far as someones comment about low bid components in US reactors -- that was the 70's. If you look at the standards for US plants today they are extreme. The proof is in the reliability factors for US plants over the last 10 years. Plants now routinely go 18-24 months between refueling outages.




Assuming no major technology breakthroughs (like fusion) the only long term solution for the US is to get back into the atomic power business. The environmental people need to really think about how much less pollution we would have from atomic plants. It's hard for me to believe that we can't get together some teams of top engineers and find a safe way to build them. It isn't 1970 anymore and we aren't going to build one without a containment building or something! Just come up with a design that won't do a meltdown even if every drop of coolant is withdrawn. Let's send some engineers over to China to see how their new designs work.

And yes, you have to do fuel reprocessing as well. That reduces your nuclear waste problem a thousandfold.

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.09/china.html

MechAg94
January 2, 2006, 05:35 PM
If you think US companies are the only ones that succomb to budget pressures, you are sadly mistaken. I work for a company that run industrial plants. I am in the maintenance group. We make decisions all the time to get equipment that will work better and longer rather than just cheaper. It is almost always cheaper in the long run to build something better rather than cheaper. The key in my mind is to make sure the people operating and maintaining the plant have a serious part in the design and construction.

Our construction group does the same decision making, they just don't always have the experience of long term maintenance. It is all in using the right design standards and identifying where your vulnerabilities are. It take time and effort to get that right.

whm1974
January 2, 2006, 05:40 PM
+1. Their blue-water navy is a joke. Any attempts to transport troops to the US would end in lots of sunk Chinese troop transports not too far off mainland China.

We do have some illegal Chinese imgrentes here. All they have to do is sneak enough solders here as illegals.

Come to think of Mexico could(or is) do the same thing.

-Bill

Medusa
January 2, 2006, 05:42 PM
Well, Russia is definite threat as we share the border and have had enough nags throughout centuries (a lot of them). Besides Russia has it's own issues with my country. You know, we have beaten the russians a lot of times and before WW2 we kicked their ass good (and invaded some of the soviet's land, which is now sadly back at them, along with a little piece of ours). That was a sad war, though, and cost dearly. And then with the collapse of soviet union we beat them again. Soviets wanted to send in tanks to keep things calm, but local soviet airforce commander (we had Tu-22M3-s with nuke cruise missiles (btw folks say that couple of those went left) and other strike aircraft) told the mother russia that if the soviet tanks are seen then he will launch every piece of equipment at them (we got the freedom by threatening the soviets and it worked). Russia tries every trick to get us back. This looks like a powerplay to put pressure on Europe to get upper hand in future negotiations.

TallPine
January 2, 2006, 05:55 PM
They have electricity in China ....?????? :p

:D

.41Dave
January 2, 2006, 09:21 PM
The problem with nuclear power is that everyone is now recognizing this at the same time. Nuclear reactors are powered only by uranium and there is only a finite amount of uranium available; to put it mildly at current production there is not going to be enough uranium to power all the new plants that are going to come online in the next few years. In fact we could hit a brick wall as early as 2007.

Russia understands this problem and has already cut back on the amount of Uranium it exports. Japan for their part has decided to stockpile up to five years worth of Uranium supplies and China's known uranium reserves stand at 77,000 tons. China has enough Uranium to power existing reactors for approximately 46 years however they are building so many new reactors that they will need substantially larger amount of uranium soon. It is interesting to note that they always seem to plan for the future and this can be seen by the amount of uranium they have put aside to power their current nuclear plants. If India, Russia and other nuclear nations decide to adapt the same strategy things could really get ugly as several dozen new plants are set to come online over the course of the next decade ;for all we know they might have already started to hoard supplies. What happens when every country in the world that has nuclear energy decides its time to hoard five years or more worth of uranium? In 2005 alone it is estimated that demand will outstrip supply by over 99 million pounds (the figures change from source to source, however the key thing to remember is that we are already experiencing a shortage without the additional 30-45 new plants that are set to be built all over the world in the next 10 years).



Shortages of uranium could get so bad that it could precipitate a war between rivalling nations and then prices could hit unheard of levels. We are entering a new paradigm and the only real solution to avoid unimaginable prices in uranium and possible wars is for someone to come up with a new clean and cheap energy source or for nations to spend billions of dollars in exploration and for the development of new mines. Even if they start today there is still going to be about a lag period of over two years; currently no nation has embarked on such a program yet.

tulsamal
January 2, 2006, 09:33 PM
Any nuclear technology the Chinese have they either bought or stole from the US or Europe. Pebble bed reactors have been around for more then 20 years. They were developed as part of the strategic defense initiative. The South Africans have commericalized it as well.

Read the Wired article I linked to. It gives the history. The Germans tried to make it work. The South Africans have been trying since 1993. The Chinese "just did it." They are trying to make them fairly small and modular. So they are going to have a basic design and then they can be assembled anywhere in the country where they need more electricity.

If you look at the standards for US plants today they are extreme. The proof is in the reliability factors for US plants over the last 10 years. Plants now routinely go 18-24 months between refueling outages.

But the article talks about that. The thesis is that the US went with the "submarine" model of atomic power. It requires MUCH higher levels of maintenance. If you make a mistake, bad things happen. Everything has to be triple redundant. The pebbles model lets you have a reactor that can just be allowed to "run itself out" in an emergency even if 100% of the coolent is released/leaks/whatever.

Which design of reactor would you want to have ten miles from your house?

Do NOT kid yourself about the Chinese. They are acting nationally with a long range vision that is the total opposite of the way the US government works. If you think they are some kind of backward country or something, you haven't seen what their major cities look like now. They look a lot more like Tokyo than anything else! Russia WISHES they were developing with the long term vision that China is displaying. They are taking all that foreign money they are bringing in and putting it into their infrastructure rather than just wasting it on luxuries. They ARE going to be a top three economic superpower and it isn't going to take long.

Gregg

Standing Wolf
January 2, 2006, 10:10 PM
Once again, the laws of supply and demand confound national "leaders" all over the world.

Koobuh
January 2, 2006, 10:56 PM
[QUOTE=.41Dave]Shortages of uranium could get so bad that it could precipitate a war between rivalling nations and then prices could hit unheard of levels. QUOTE]
Sorry, that's not a funny joke. Try again. Not even considering this statement as an analogy for the mainstream impression of our oil supply issues, it's a weak statement.
Uranium is one of the more common rare earths, and easily accessible supplies are available throughout the world.
The current mines are not operating at full capacity, and only pulling out what is (relatively) easily processed.
The reserve mines are far, far more in number than the active mines, and more are being found all the time.
To put it bluntly, we won't have to worry about Uranium running out, ever. In fact I would put the 'Uranium is running out' concept right up there with that 'peak oil' bovine excrement.

Could you imagine the absolute chaos such an event would cause in the worlds armed forces? No more nuclear reactors for subs or carriers, no more fissile material for nuclear weapons, no more DU rounds... And yet, with this purported 'run out' scenario being projected for 2007, we're still using Uranium at a stately pace, with no alternatives in place for such a ridiculous contingency.

The Real Hawkeye
January 2, 2006, 11:21 PM
+1. Their blue-water navy is a joke. Any attempts to transport troops to the US would end in lots of sunk Chinese troop transports not too far off mainland China.To these, should they successfully land a force, would be opposed a militia amounting to near a hundred million American citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular Chinese troops. Those who are best acquainted with the last successful resistance of our country against the British arms, will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it. Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several despotic nations of Asia, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. And it is not certain, that with this aid alone they would not be able to shake off their yokes. But were the people to possess the additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves, who could collect the national will and direct the national force, and of officers appointed out of the militia, by these governments, and attached both to them and to the militia, it may be affirmed with the greatest assurance, that the throne of every tyranny in Asia would be speedily overturned in spite of the legions which surround it.

Burt Blade
January 2, 2006, 11:51 PM
Reactors only run on Uranium? Nonsense!

Plutonium works just fine for reactors. It is a normal byproduct of Uranium fueled reactors. You can make more Plutonium fuel from U238 (the non-fissile isotope of Uranium) or from Thorium. This is done in a specially-designed reactor called a breeder reactor. The surplus neutrons from the core are allowed to bombard U238 or Thorium added around the core. The neutron bombardment induces a nuclear transmutation of the target materials into one of the useful Plutonium isotopes. The new fuel is separated out through a simple electrochemical process. This is _vastly_ easier and cheaper than the isotope separation required to remove the non-fissile U238 from the fissile U235 isotope.

Plutonium is actually the fuel of choice in high power or small size applications. Once you make the initial investment in the first few Uranium reactors, you can switch to a Plutonium system and refuel via a couple of breeder piles. You then can use _all_ of the Uranium, not just the 1/2 of 1% that is U235, and plutonium becomes a consumable fuel, not a long term waste problem.

Through efficient reprocessing of spent fuel, you end up "burning off" the most hazardous long-term isotopes in the cores of your reactors, and make reprocessing simple and potentially an on-site task. Careful design puts the whole process in one industrial complex, eliminating the need to move hazardous or weapons-useful stuff around in trucks.

The system rewards efficiency. Every particle of Plutonium extracted from the waste end of the cycle is that much less fuel material one must purchase or make. Putting the phases of the cycle side-by-side drastically reduces the safety issues, by keeping all the hot stuff under a stable containment structure. There is a heck of an incentive to figure out how to use that neutron bombardment setup in the breeder core to zap the radwaste into more useful (fuel) or less hazardous (short half-life) isotopes.

We have had this capability for 60 years, but the Luddites and "Greens" want you shivering in the dark.

tube_ee
January 3, 2006, 12:24 AM
The problem with nuclear power isn't technology, it's people. The history of civilian nuke power in this country doesn't inspire confidence. Which shouldn't surprise anyone, given that the NRC board is dominated by utility executives.

When it comes to the operation of devices that can kill hundreds of thousands of people in an accident, "trust us" won't cut it. And the record in this country doesn't inspire much trust. These are the same people who, when presented with a relief valve that kept opening up, chose to wire it closed with bailing wire rather than replace it.

This is not an area where the market will provide the best outcome. Safety makes no money.

--Shannon

lbmii
January 3, 2006, 02:23 AM
Back to the original thread:

Russia is stirring things up. Our friends in Europe need to go it alone without our involvement this time.

billwiese
January 3, 2006, 06:21 PM
This was a simple contractual commercial dispute. Not really political.

Ukraine simply was paying way below-market rates for natural gas, a holdover from the old Soviet/COMECON days. Now that Russia is selling some resources in a global market, it wants to get a competetive price and not the lowball price Ukraine was paying (a rate apparently about 1/4 the price Russia could sell gas elsewhere).

romulus
January 3, 2006, 06:52 PM
Russia's been selling gas to the Ukraine and other countries within their sphere of influence at astounding discounts. Since the Ukraine has made clear it wants to join the EU and abandon the Russian sphere, Russia has decided to suspend the discounts and charge the Ukraine what it charges everyone else, i.e. market price. Where's the beef? Why the outrage?

Deadman
January 3, 2006, 06:54 PM
Well what a surprise, trusting a communist, in the end bit someone in the arse.

tulsamal
January 3, 2006, 07:04 PM
When it comes to the operation of devices that can kill hundreds of thousands of people in an accident, "trust us" won't cut it. And the record in this country doesn't inspire much trust. These are the same people who, when presented with a relief valve that kept opening up, chose to wire it closed with bailing wire rather than replace it.

I actually agree with you in general. But I DO believe that there are two things that can "fix" those problems.

1) Use a reactor design that is something like what Teller suggested. One that CAN'T go critical or meltdown. No matter what errors the operators make. That's what seems so good about what the Chinese are doing. Doesn't matter if the coolent leaks out. Doesn't matter if the operators react wrong or the gauges give the wrong feedback. The fuel just isn't concentrated enough to allow temperatures to get too high.

2) Pay attention to what the Chinese are doing. Make the plants fairly small and modular. Standardize the design at the national level. Don't allow utilities to "improve" on the design. Any suggestions go to make the "next generation" standard design; otherwise you just follow the design subject to inspections.

Nobody in the US or Western Europe has ever died from an atomic power accident. France has a heck of a lot of them. Are we saying that they are smarter than us? Better engineers or operators?

The bottom line is that I don't see an alternative. The 50's textbooks said we would be using fusion by now. I've looked here and there and under my bed but I don't see it happening. Finding ways to dig up more coal (and burning it) or finding more oil (and burning it) are stopgap solutions. We have to work in those areas (as well as becoming more efficient) but we need a national decision to start building atomic power plants and we need to start down that road soon. When you think about what could happen otherwise, it could be the most important thing the current US Government could decide to work on.

Gregg

.41Dave
January 3, 2006, 08:52 PM
[QUOTE=.41Dave]Shortages of uranium could get so bad that it could precipitate a war between rivalling nations and then prices could hit unheard of levels. QUOTE]
Sorry, that's not a funny joke. Try again. Not even considering this statement as an analogy for the mainstream impression of our oil supply issues, it's a weak statement.
Uranium is one of the more common rare earths, and easily accessible supplies are available throughout the world.
The current mines are not operating at full capacity, and only pulling out what is (relatively) easily processed.
The reserve mines are far, far more in number than the active mines, and more are being found all the time.
To put it bluntly, we won't have to worry about Uranium running out, ever. In fact I would put the 'Uranium is running out' concept right up there with that 'peak oil' bovine excrement.

Could you imagine the absolute chaos such an event would cause in the worlds armed forces? No more nuclear reactors for subs or carriers, no more fissile material for nuclear weapons, no more DU rounds... And yet, with this purported 'run out' scenario being projected for 2007, we're still using Uranium at a stately pace, with no alternatives in place for such a ridiculous contingency.


Consider the following facts

1) Over 50% of the world’s supply of Uranium is located in just 3 countries, Australia 30%, Canada 14% and Kazakhstan 17%. Even though Australia has the world’s largest reserves Canada produces the worlds most uranium accounting for 18% of total output.

2) Uranium prices have almost tripled since the start of 2004. If it were plentiful, the price would remain stable or fall, not triple in 2 years.

3) It is projected that world’s energy demand will increase by an additional 65% in approx 15 years. At this point in time the only solution that appears to have a chance of dealing with this increase is nuclear power plants; the only material able to power these plants is uranium.

4) One pound of Uranium produces roughly the same energy as 37 barrels of oil or 8.9 tons of coal; the choice is all but obvious.

Technically speaking there is more than enough uranium out there to power all the stations that are going to be built. The problem is that this uranium is in the ground and needs to be mined and at the moment there are not enough operating mines to produce all the uranium we need. Furthermore not enough money and resources are being dedicated to exploration and the opening up of new mines; another thing to remember is that it can take up to 2 years before a closed mine or a new mine becomes fully operational. Hence demand cannot be rapidly quenched even with the opening of 100’s of new mines. I agree with you that there is virtually an endless amount of uranium available in the Earths crust and in seawater; the main problem right now is the exorbitant cost factor in extracting it. One day it might be economical to obtain uranium from these sources but not right now.

The race to build new nuclear plants to supply developing nations future electric needs is about to create a very explosive situation. It’s no longer a matter of if but when this situation will go out of control; we do not have enough uranium above the ground to power current nuclear power plants. At present approx 50% of the demand is coming from reserve supplies (mostly the decommissioning of old nuclear war heads); imagine what will happen when all those new nuclear power plants come online. The tragedy here is that these plants can only operate on uranium and nothing else and so at some point in time these plants will have to do whatever it takes to get uranium or shut down. There is plenty of Uranium in the ground; the problem is that it takes time for these new mines to come online. It can take up to two years for these mines to be fully operational. So far no major effort has been mounted to address this issue and demand already exceeds supply and the supply situation keeps getting worse with the passage of each day.

A few experts in the field have written articles about new and existing technologies (both non military and military) out there that can extract additional energy from spent nuclear fuel rods (some experts suggest that only about 20-30% of the potential energy has been extracted from these spent nuclear rods.); the problem is always the same companies take forever to implement new technologies. As of now very few companies have decided to implement these technologies and another issue to consider is the cost factor. Even if cost were not issue there is still going to be a lag time between deciding to implement and implementing these new technologies. All one needs to do is look at the coal sector; cleaner coal burning technologies exist which make new coal plants nearly as clean burning as natural gas plants. However there has been no mad rush to build new coal plants even though the USA has extremely huge reserves. The thing to keep in mind is that most disasters are actually preventable but history has clearly indicated that man does not believe in prevention but only in responding after such an event has taken place.

One final note, DU rounds are made with DEPLETED uranium. DU is what is left after the fuel rods from a reactor are no longer useable as fuel. It is literally nuclear waste. So I'm not arguing for a shortage of DU.

atomchaser
January 3, 2006, 08:53 PM
I actually agree with you in general. But I DO believe that there are two things that can "fix" those problems.

1) Use a reactor design that is something like what Teller suggested. One that CAN'T go critical or meltdown. No matter what errors the operators make. That's what seems so good about what the Chinese are doing. Doesn't matter if the coolent leaks out. Doesn't matter if the operators react wrong or the gauges give the wrong feedback. The fuel just isn't concentrated enough to allow temperatures to get too high.

2) Pay attention to what the Chinese are doing. Make the plants fairly small and modular. Standardize the design at the national level. Don't allow utilities to "improve" on the design. Any suggestions go to make the "next generation" standard design; otherwise you just follow the design subject to inspections.

Nobody in the US or Western Europe has ever died from an atomic power accident. France has a heck of a lot of them. Are we saying that they are smarter than us? Better engineers or operators?

The bottom line is that I don't see an alternative. The 50's textbooks said we would be using fusion by now. I've looked here and there and under my bed but I don't see it happening. Finding ways to dig up more coal (and burning it) or finding more oil (and burning it) are stopgap solutions. We have to work in those areas (as well as becoming more efficient) but we need a national decision to start building atomic power plants and we need to start down that road soon. When you think about what could happen otherwise, it could be the most important thing the current US Government could decide to work on.

Gregg

I think you meant to say "supercritical" if the reactor doesn't go critical it's just a cold pile of metal. Modern western reactors are not vulnerable to going supercritcal because of the design (negative coeff of reactivity). The RBMK Soviet reactors (like Chernobyl) have a positive coeff of reactivity so they can go supercritical and blow them self apart because they generate a lot of heat very quickly and flash the cooling water to steam.

CAnnoneer
January 3, 2006, 10:39 PM
We have had this capability for 60 years, but the Luddites and "Greens" want you shivering in the dark.

+1

They fear that which they do not understand.

Also, it is pretty silly IMO to say that nobody can be trusted with safety issues because of the bottom line. Chemical plants throughout the country produce thousands of compounds that can kill thousands in the area if released in the water or in the air. Somehow, people trust the chemical industry but not nuclear energy. Same goes for food processing, medical care, transportation, etc.

The reasonable approach is to do a cost-benefit analysis, do due dilligence in both design and execution, and keep one's cool in an emergency. Btw, Chernobyl happened because of a conjunction of several negative factors, such as bad design, personal failures, bad policy, and irresponsible experimentation.

AFA the original thread, +1 Romulus.

What is scary is not what Russia did, but what they could do as demonstrated by the events. What they did is simple capitalism, so euro-whiners should get over it. Since when are they entitled to cheap Russian gas? The scary part is that if Russia did actually want to apply political pressure, they clearly could, and a lot of it.

fluffygrrl
January 3, 2006, 11:07 PM
one important point is that the reactor that canīt go critical and canīt melt down, regardless what happens is just wishfull thinking. that object can not exist. the same process that allows you to heat water allows it to melt down. you canīt have warm blooded creatures that donīt need to eat, and you cant have nuclear reactors that canīt melt down.

the only problem with the nuclear reactor blueprints we have so far is that they are marginally efficient, economically. if the price of fossil fuels increases somewhat, they will be that much more comparatively efficient. that might help offset the huge costs of research in the minds of the people who decide the budget, and we will have better designs.

on the russia/ukraine issue, as someone said, the russians were giving huge discounts to countries that were friendly, much like israel gets pretty huge discounts for all sorts of weaponry from the us. when the respective sattelites decided to not be friendly anymore... well... you canīt divorce and keep the house, at least not in world politics.

LAK
January 4, 2006, 10:17 AM
Regarding China, and Russia, a a military threat it should be kept in mind that were they to combine they would swamp the whole of NATO in a conventional war.
This is a contract dispute, they'll come around or Putin will send in the muscle.
Perhaps alittle deeper than contractual. I think there are clear indications that there was outside influence in the recent Ukraine "election" - and Russia's action here might be a reaction to some financial or other action of the new Ukraine government.
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benEzra
January 4, 2006, 11:28 AM
one important point is that the reactor that canīt go critical and canīt melt down, regardless what happens is just wishfull thinking. that object can not exist. the same process that allows you to heat water allows it to melt down. you canīt have warm blooded creatures that donīt need to eat, and you cant have nuclear reactors that canīt melt down.
Incorrect. It takes a LOT higher temperature to melt a uranium-zirconium alloy than to boil water. It is possible (even easy) to design a reactor that produces enough steady-state heat to drive a turbine, but cannot under any circumstances get hot enough to melt the fuel. That's not a difficult problem.

Still, water-moderated PWR's (and BWR's) as we use here in the States, and Canada's heavy-water/natural uranium designs, have an excellent safety record, much better than any other power industry I can think of, even including natural gas, solar, and wind (people fall off roofs installing solar collectors, you know).

Chernobyl was such a bad design because the Soviets wanted a power reactor that they could extract lightly irradiated fuel from on a regular basis, while the reactor was running, in order to extract weapons-grade plutonium to make bombs. That's why it was so big and didn't have crap for a containment vessel.

the only problem with the nuclear reactor blueprints we have so far is that they are marginally efficient, economically. if the price of fossil fuels increases somewhat, they will be that much more comparatively efficient. that might help offset the huge costs of research in the minds of the people who decide the budget, and we will have better designs.
Once the reactor is running, the cost per kilowatt is way better than other alternatives. The expense with reactors is financing the capital cost; fuel cost is minuscule compared to that.

USSR
January 4, 2006, 11:48 AM
What is scary is not what Russia did, but what they could do as demonstrated by the events. What they did is simple capitalism, so euro-whiners should get over it.

Umm, sorry, but definately not capitalism. First, the company selling the gas is state owned, not a private company. Second, the Russian government is using this state owned company to extend political favors or provide political punishment to countries according to how they kowtow to Moscow. For example: Belarus, the last communist dictatorship in Europe pays $47 per unit of gas, while the Baltic states pay $110 per unit of Russian gas. Have been to Russia several times, and have spent the past 4 years visiting Ukraine. Forget about Western style capitalism over there. These guys talk the talk, but the game they play is definately hardball.

Don

Art Eatman
January 4, 2006, 01:31 PM
Three Mile Island showed that with three egregious human errors and some 22 minor mistakes, the net result was a loss of money.

We've had thirty years to improve controls. Thirty years ago there was no Internet. There were no reliable computers in cars. IOW, technology ain't a striaght-line, horizontal "curve". I have a certain amount of difficulty in believing we'd be less safe in the future with nuke power than in the past...

Art

Mr. James
January 4, 2006, 02:49 PM
It took 38 posts for someone to get to the heart of this. This isn't capitalism, folks, it is political hardball, and they are playing with a ball called "human misery."

And for those who say "eh, contract dispute," the Ukrainians would counter that yes, they have a contract, at the old subsidized price. Ukraine also said it is willing to accept the price increases, but asked Russia to phase them in over several years, rather than slamming them all at once at peak demand time.

dustind
January 4, 2006, 09:47 PM
Three Mile Island was an example of everything that could go wrong, going wrong. The problem is the public precieves nuclear power plants as something that will go off like an atom bomb the first time someone makes the tiniest mistake or attack.

rwc
January 5, 2006, 03:30 AM
Putin is pulling the only lever he has, energy supply. He doesn't have the GDP, tax collecting ability or the popular support to field a large, effective military. He does have a substantial % of the world's fossil fuels. It's no coincidence that he has steadily re-nationalized the oil and gas industries and throw in jail anyone who opposed him.

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