This week the Seattle City Council unanimously approved a resolution opposing the use of nuclear energy and made it clear that they want to shut down the only operating nuclear power plant in the Pacific Northwest, knowing full well that the nuclear plant and nuclear energy, are part of President Obama’s Clean Energy Plan and are essential to reducing carbon emissions to acceptable levels by mid-century. But what else would you expect from a City Council that bars scientists from speaking at their public meetings?
Low price of gas, stagnant economy, are killing off US nukes. Two more nuclear plants in Illinois, run by Exelon, the nation’s largest nuclear utility, are slated for closure due to the combined effects of record low natural gas prices and a sputtering US economy.
The Precourt Energy Efficiency Center at Stanford University hosted the 2016 Silicon Valley Energy Summit yesterday. The headline attraction was an “Oxford-style” debate featuring two Nobel laureates–Steven Chu and Burton Richter–versus UC-Berkeley’s Dan Kammen and NRDC’s Ralph Cavanagh. The topic was promoted as Resolved: “The World Needs A Nuclear Renaissance.”
The debate was a good one. Rod highlights a few key statements and interactions.
There are many contributing factors to the economic stresses that are affecting all power generators that sell into the restructured markets dependent on next day auctions for electricity. Nuclear plants face additional issues like regulatory requirements ratcheting, availability of decommissioning funds, active opponents, unknown risk of future events and lack of a price on carbon.
Closing plants today seems to be a bet that gas prices will remain low, but closing the plants adds pressure on natural gas supplies that will push prices higher. All generators that are not closed should benefit from those higher prices.
Five organizations are participating in a pro-nuclear march in California, the March for Environmental Hope. Blog post contains information on the march, plus the hope that this march represents the beginning of a trend. (Many trends start in California.)
Startup company Tokamak Energy has published three papers showing size is not an important factor in fusion reactors and proving that a compact spherical tokamak reactor can produce high power. This turns the pursuit of fusion into a series of engineering challenges. The Tokamak Energy plan will overcome these challenges, such as the development of magnets made from high temperature superconductors, delivering a fusion power gain within five years, first electricity within ten years and a 100 MWe power plant within 15 years.
Six weeks after resuming firing, FF-1’s fusion yield reached 0.25 Joules on May 23, 2016 a nearly 50% increase over the highest-yield shot previously achieved with this device. This increase, confirmed by a second shot on May 24, provides the most concrete evidence yet that our continuing effort to reduce impurities in FF-1 increases fusion yield.
FF-1 resumed firing on April 11 after a bake-out that had removed the vast majority of the oxygen in the device’s vacuum chamber. Unfortunately, three unforeseen circumstances increased impurities far above their plans.
1. a leaky valve introduced about 100 mg of water vapor into the chamber right before the first shot, creating a thin layer of oxides.
2. some oxides may have been formed during the heating phase of the bake-out itself, due to a somewhat too rapid rise in temperature.
3. their initial effort at preionization by small pulses of current itself eroded tiny particles from the tungsten anode, allowing them to vaporize into the plasma.