Tyndmyr wrote:Let us take nuclear waste. Where did we get the fissile material from? The ground, generally. What, exactly is wrong with it going back there? Nothing, so long as you spread it out adequately. Frankly, it'll be safer than it was originally, since some of the fissile material is gone. Keep the short half-life and mixed stuff in storage for a bit before you do this, so it decays enough that this is practical, and it's no big thing. This is, of course, after you've taken any useful products out for reprocessing and medical use(already a thing), since why waste that resource? The problem is not a tech one at all, but that nobody wants to deal with long term disposition of nuclear waste near them, regardless of the science of it.
Interesting approach! Let me see if I understand you -- people are upset that radioactive waste might get spread around where it can hurt people and there's basicly no escape from it for the next million years or so. (Like, plutonium is pretty bad and its longest halflife is around 80 million years though the most common isotope is around 24 thousand years. Sure, we'd like to collect the 24000 year stuff and use it again, but that's only economic up to a point. So your solution is to spread the stuff out evenly in the ground, put it everywhere, so it's diluted enough it's harmless. Interesting idea.
Oil spills? Hell, the big problem is plugging the leak. We know how to do that, even if it's occasionally problematic.
When an oil tanker spills a lot of oil the problem is usually not plugging the leak.
Bacteria that eats oil totally exists, and when this happens, it suddenly has a field day. All the deep horizon oil isn't still there(well, some of it is)...bacteria has been working on that stuff pretty hardcore. Can we make technological advances? Sure. Can we fix the trouble we have now? Absolutely.
Well.... Bacteria can certainly reduce some fractions of the oil. The immediate problem in the ocean of them doing that is they tend to suck away all the oxygen leaving none for ocean things that need it. And when the oxygen is gone they stop eating it until they can get more oxygen. We could maybe help things out by supplying them with oxygen but that's expensive.
The more complex molecules in the oil are the hardest to break down, and so the bacteria tend to go after those last. Those polycyclic things, kind of like miniature graphenes, some of them pretty carcinogenic. The oil-eating bacteria tend to use up the oxygen eating the stuff that gets the biggest kick first, and it saves those for later.
In the long run things recover. Forest fires, cyanide spills, nuclear war, something always survives and spreads into the places that things were killed. So I guess we could say that all these problems are basicly solved though there's room for technological advances.
J Thomas wrote:But failing that, our only hope of getting enough energy is nuclear fission. Fusion won't be ready in time. Green energy is a fantasy put out by sandal-wearing hippies, we can never get enough energy that way at any reasonable price, and if we could there wouldn't be any profits in it, it would be decentralized things that would be hard to find bottlenecks to get money from.
While your overall point of "build nuke plants" is sound, and yes, many green energy products have been little more than hippie fantasies...not all of them are. Consider hydro. Pretty green by most standards, and it works damned well(pun intended) if you're in the right place.[/quote]
Sure, but most of the hydroelectric plants we can afford to build are already built. Not the Grand Canyon, though. Somehow we've never gotten around to damming that.
Likewise, solar works decently if you're, say, living in the arizona desert. Most of them are only suitable to certain areas...but if you're in an area where it's doable inexpensively, embrace it.
Sure, it's fine. But the economic model fails. You have to buy your solar stuff first, and then it pays off over years. If the price of energy goes down, you're stuck with your losing investment. It has to get pretty cheap before it can compete with a model where you build a cheap power plant and then you pay for your fuel as fast as you sell the power. It does keep getting cheaper though. No telling where the limit will be.
Decentralization is not entirely a downside, either. Lack of bottlenecks is actually a good thing. We want a nice, resilient energy supply. If it makes some random dude a lot of money is mostly irrelevant from my perspective, but I figure people will likely figure out how to get rich off any system that gets used in some way.
If people who are already rich can't make a lot of money by investing in it, then it has to get done with minimal capital. It will be competing against whatever they do invest in, and they will lobby for subsidies for their stuff and punitive taxes on yours. Decentralized energy mostly won't happen. I consider not happening a great big downside.
Problem with massive nuke construction is...not only is nuclear plant construction slow, it's fairly inflexible. There's not a lot of places on earth where reactor vessels are made, for instance.
Now you are not thinking expansively. Once we decide to go ahead, we can build one full-scale plant in 3 years. Using what we learn from that, we can build four full-scale plants in 2 years. The people who trained on the first plant can run the others. We can build 16 plants in another 2 years, 64 plants in 2 years more, etc. Nuclear power plant construction is slow and inflexible because that's all we've wanted before. Once we decide to mass-produce them, we'll do it fast.
Given the importance of safety(something we've generally done well on with nukes), you really don't want to throw caution to the wind here, but it'll take decades to seriously ramp up production to build thousands of fission plants.
Yes. If we wind up making just twice as many each cycle, and if Murphy's law brings the cycle time down to 4 years instead of 2, then it's 20 years to reach 63 plants and 40 years to reach 2047 of them. We'd need to go a bit faster than that.
We'll probably need to do that AND pursue green energy AND keep harvesting at least sizable amounts of fossil fuels for quite some time.
Well, you notice that oil prices swing up and down, and each time they swing down investors cancel various energy projects that look expensive. If we try everything, then each time one of the gets a breakthrough it slows down the others. I don't think we're organized enough to do it that way. That approach is wasteful and slow for us. Each kind of energy that looks promising for awhile but later gets canceled, not only uses resources we could have put into something else, but also slows down all the others. Until one of them gets so much of a lead that the others all shut down.
The power sector is huge. There isn't really a magic button that solves this issue, because the scale is so damned big. Even if you found a green energy source that was just as efficient as fossil fuels, and worked in all the same ways with no additional downsides(unlikely at best), merely deploying it would take quite a long time. Still, we need to do something. We're gonna keep burning more and more energy, and even fairly hard-boiled climate skeptics would, I hope, accept that at some very large carbon emission level, we're going to start seeing undesirable side effects. How much bad effects at what level? Meh. Somewhat debatable, and there's no point getting bogged down in that. Right now, we still want to effectively say yes to all the energy generation sources we can.
Energy conservation would be a good thing, we just don't like it. We could scale back our commercial aircraft by 99% or so. We mostly can't afford it anyway.
The Law of Fives is true. I see it everywhere I look for it.