India is reopening 100 coal mines to ensure that their electrification program stays on course in the face of new realities. International coal prices has more than doubled since the start of 2022, so coal mining is again profitable.
One would think that the world is trying to reduce the number of coal plants. Not so!
Australia has at least one ally in trying to save the world, the United states of America! California has already eliminated their coal plants, but they are also a great importer of electricity, much of it produced from coal. In the next ten year the U.S. utilities plan to shut down or change the fuel on over 200 coal fired plants, 48 in 2022 alone. Meanwhile , coal is getting scarce. There will be spot shortages this year.
There will be brownouts and rotating blackouts this summer, especially in California and the mid-west.
Natural Gas prices has more than doubled from around $3 per Mega BTU to over $8, while spot price in Europe is over $26 per MBTU. To quote Barack Obama: “Electricity prices will naturally skyrocket”. This means electricity prices have only begun their rise.
The National Electric grids are aging and under increasing stress. The Biden administration has one solution. Commandeering American industry to make more solar panels with components made nearly exclusively from China and lower the import tariffs on solar panel components. California is already producing too much solar power if the wind is also blowing, but not during times of greatest demand, leading to a desperate need for pumped storage or large, very expensive battery banks. California has already given its first warning: Don’t charge your electric vehicles now, or the whole grid will go down. See here.
Yet there is hope. We can switch our electric grid to nuclear energy, but not the dominant Uranium 235 nuclear plants that requires evacuation zones, lots of cooling water and a large regulatory overhead to ensure their safety. No, instead go back to the original source of nuclear power, before making nuclear bombs became the driving source of nuclear development. Thorium based nuclear power, especially the Liquid Fluoride molten salt Thorium Reactor (LFTR). It breeds more fuel than it uses by about 3%, and it generates 0.01% of the nuclear waste of a Uranium 235 plant. It is more efficient and inherently safe. My preference would be to make them in an assembly line and deliver them on standard trucks rather than build them on site. LFTR reactors does not need water for cooling. My preference would be a 100 MW reactor with the molten salt containing the fissile material separated from the cooling system, which could be either gas or molten lead. They could then be spread out over the country with no need for water, be placed near population centers since there is no need for evacuation zones. This would make it possible to have local grids, eliminating the need to expand the national grid.
And with an assembly line production the core units can be delivered in three standard size containers. The total cost including power generation and the permanent enclosure will be less than two dollars per watt, and fuel cost is essentially nil, since Thorium is already mined in excess quantities in rare earth mining.
I do want to save coal for important uses, such as making chemicals and fertilizer, and in the future to produce aviation fuel. By all means, switch to electric vehicles, but not until the electric grid is converted from Coal and Natural Gas to nuclear!
The distance of leg 5 is 10 miles of water and 60 miles of aqueduct. This leg has the freedom to pump water at 22,000 cfs or less, including stopping for up to 5 hrs/day to provide virtual peak hydro-power for the Texas grid.
The elevation at Brad reservoir is nominally 1260 feet. From 25 miles East of Breckenridge the aqueduct goes W to 19.5 miles ENE of Abilene, a distance of 60 miles . The dam yet to be built will top out at 1840 feet with maximum water level at 1830 feet. The total lift of the water in stage 3 is (1830 – 1260 + 60×2) feet = 690 ft. To lift 22,000 cubic feet per second 690 feet requires twelve 100 MW LFTR nuclear reactors The upper Baird reservoir will contain about 90,000 Acre-ft when full, about two days worth of storage. For 5 hours per day these twelve 100 MW reactors can provide 1.2 GW of peak power to the grid. There will be a lower dam to provide hydroelectric power storage of 4 GWh, or 800 MW for 5 hours. After each use the lower dam will be re-emptied by pumping back the water to the upper dam, using 4.75 GWh of power, hopefully using surplus wind or solar power.
What’s in it for Texas? Wind power is already 22% of the source for the Texas power grid, but Texas has up to now no pumped water storage, and until this is fixed coal and natural gas backup must be provided when the wind doesn’t blow. This leg will provide 4 GWh of peak power per day from the pumped water storage. In addition the 1.2 GW of Nuclear power can provide virtual hydro-power generation by not pumping water for up to 5 hours and thus provide 6 GWh of peak power daily. This will greatly help stabilize the Texas power grid, and facilitate the phasing out of coal power and help the transition to electric vehicles, which will add stress to the stability of the grid by their uneven recharging patterns.
The first stage of the aqueduct was from the Mississippi river diversion to Lake Aquilla:
The elevation at this lake is 548 feet. From here the aqueduct goes NW to 25 miles East of Breckenridge. It crosses the Brazos river and then goes through the Squaw Creek reservoir. This reservoir is built to provide cooling water for a nuclear power plant. The aqueduct will provide extra water in case of extreme drought. The end of Stage 2 is a dam, located just south of the Brad Cemetery on U.S. route 180, 25 miles East of Breckenridge. The dam, yet to be built will top out at 1380 feet with maximum water level at 1370 feet. The total lift of the water in stage 2 is (1370 – 548 + 100×2.2) feet = 1062 ft. To lift 26,500 cubic feet per second 1062 feet requires twenty-three 100 MW LFTR nuclear reactors. Lake Brad will contain about 90,000 Acre-ft when full, about two day’s worth of storage. For 5 hours per day these 23 reactors can provide 2.3 GW of peak power to the grid. (The power can also be provided by wind power, during which time the LFTR’s can make hydrogen for extra peak power storage).
To begin cost estimates, the model used is the cost for the Arizona central project. The waterway was constructed 1974 to 1993 at a cost of 4.7 billion dollars. In 2021 dollars that would be about 12.8 billion. The cost for the canal would be about 12 billion and 800 million for the pumping stations. The average size of the aqueduct in its beginning is 80 feet across the top and 24 feet across the bottom and the water is 16.5 feet deep. The concrete is 3.5 inches thick and, in some areas, it is reinforced with steel rebars. It is 336 miles long from Lake Havasu City to Tucson with a total lift of over 2,900 feet. The capacity starts out at over 2.2 million acte-ft per year, diminishing as the drop-off point occurs, and the total pumping of 1.4 million acre feet of water is lifted by up to 2,900 feet by 14 pumping stations using 2,500 GWh of electricity each year. The pumping stations have a total pumping capacity of 240 MW.
The transcontinental aqueduct is much bigger: The The average size of the aqueduct in its beginning is 220 feet across the top and 65 feet across the bottom and the water is 44 feet deep. The concrete is 4.5 inches thick and, in some areas, it is reinforced with steel rebars. The concrete used is 16,500 cu yd per mile. It will cost about five times as much per mile as the ACP, so the total cost for the Transcontinental Aqueduct will be (12x 5 : 336 x 1505) = 268 billion dollars.
The cost of building the dams are estimated at $1 billion per dam. There are 15 dams, of which 11 must be built before aqueduct is operational at half capacity.
There is a total of 29.1 GW of pumped power and 3.8 GW of base power generated. To get the aqueduct operational at 7.5 MAF/year it requires 16.5 GW of energy. Pumping cost capital is about $ 1.30 per watt, so the minimum pumping capital cost is 21.5 Billion dollars. When the aqueduct is fully built up the capital cost for pumping includes 23.3 GW of peak power, raising the cost to $ 52 Billion’
The Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor chosen is a 100 MW unit. The reactor core assembly is small enough so it can be produced on an assembly line and delivered on truck. It can be built for $ 230 million. To complete the installation costs another # 30 million per unit. The aqueduct needs 146 for minimum flow, and another 145 when it is fully built out. The initial capital cost for grid access and minimum flow is $38 billion, double that when fully built out.
To sum it up,the capital cost for a flow of 7.5 MAF is (268 +21.5 + 38) = 327.5 billion dollars. At a flow of 15.5 MAF the cost is 387 billion. To add another 22.1 GW of 5 hour peak power per day add 5 billions for 4 dams and tunnels and 28 billion for pumps = 33 billion dollars
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5:45 (King James version)
The rain that on the righteous falls,
falls also falls also on that other fella.
But mostly on the just, because
the unjust stole the just’s umbrella. (Author unknown)
There is no bad weather, Only bad clothes. (Norwegian saying).
Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. (Common British lament).
The last comment is not always true. There once was a lake in Central Asia, the fourth largest lake in the world. It provided a sensitive, but functioning Eco-system for a large portion of South East Soviet Union and western Afghanistan. Then the central planners wanted to improve the productivity of the area through central planning on improving land management. In the 1960s and 1970s the Soviets started using the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya rivers to irrigate extensive cotton fields in the Central Asian plain. The results can be seen in these 6 Satellite photos
Disaster is a mild word. The lake was the source of the rains that fell up-stream. With the lake gone, the rivers dried up completely, and the whole upland became desert-like. There has been efforts to restore the upper part of the lake with a dam, but that will do nothing to stop the desertification. My suggestion to solve this is to divert the spring floods from the headwaters of the river Ob and tributaries. There is a gap in the mountains less than 600 feet above sea level, so it is very doable.
A much bigger challenge is facing the south western United States. Lake Mead is at its lowest point since it was first filled, and Lake Powell is faring even worse, with no spring flood adding to the water storage. lake Mead is at less than 40% of full pool
and Lake Powell is at less than 35% of full pool. If nothing is done both lakes will be emptied in less than 20 years, and that is counting on a stable climate. Beside the end of lawns, golf courses, swimming pools and even agricultural irrigation, the dams will no longer provide hydro-electrical storage for peak power, something that is of utmost importance when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, which actually happens from time to time. Renewable energy, wind and solar requires a large reserve of stored energy to use as peak power. How much stored energy do we have. This chart is scary:
The lithium batteries we have all over, powering cellphones PCs an all kinds of electric equipment would be able to power the U.s power grid for three hundredths of a second. Large scale electro-chemical storage used by power stations, hospitals and other facilities that need uninterrupted services, also lithium-ion based, can power up the net for almost 23 seconds. And all pumped hydro-electric storage can power the grid for nearly five minutes. This means that nearly all extra peak power up to now has to be provided by Coal and natural gas electric power, since Uranium based nuclear power works as a base load.
There must be a better way to produce electricity. My suggestion will go a long way to provide more water to the Colorado river basin and reduce dependence on fossil fuel.
The Moffat water tunnel takes water from the Colorado river basin, diverts it under the Continental divide and provides some of the water for Denver and Colorado Springs and assorted communities. The yearly water drained from the Colorado river basin is about 74,000 Acre Foot, or about 0.5% of the total rainfall in the Colorado river basin, not much, but every little drop helps. This needs to be stopped. There is one problem, though: The greater Denver- Colorado Springs metropolitan area desperately need more water too, and the Ogalla aquifer is endangered already, so we must do something drastic. The answer is to pump water up-stream South Platte River, all the way from Omaha, Nebraska, lying east of the Ogalla aquifer. To do so we have to pump water 1,300 meter higher, and that requires energy, about 4,500 kWh per acre foot. At a price of 4 cents per kWh that would be about $190 per Acre foot. For an urban dweller or a rancher without water rights it is a bargain, but for a farmer, his water cost would be $250 to $400 per acre, so say the farmer grows corn, this would add $2.60 dollars per bushel in a year without rain at the right time. Any rain during thr growing season would reduce that amount.
The project is very doable and will even allow for increased irrigation, and the draw down of the Ogallala aquifer can stop. We need to pump about 300,000 acre foot per year, requiring 1,35 TWh/year, or about 150 MW of power. But the power stations are only to pump when the electricity demand is low, so it is best to provide 500MW of nuclear power, eliminating maybe 3 TWh/year of coal powered power, reducing CO2 emissions by 3 million metric tons per year. Every little bit helps.
Here is myproposal. Take a maximum of 2000 acre feet of water per day from the Missouri river just south of Omaha, Nebraska, about 3% of the average flow in the river, and pump it up to Colorado Springs, with major tap off stations in Denver and Greely and maybe many other stations. The power will be provided by Liquid Flouoride Nuclear Reactors, maybe five 100 MW reactors. When this project is finished the Moffat tunnel can be shut off, stopping the stealing of water from the Colorado river basin.
Why LFTR? Here is 30 reasons, and the list keeps growing
We have immense environmental problems. CO2 is not one of them. There is a great need for a green new deal, but that involves cleaning up the earth, not destroying it even further. Cleaning up the earth requires a lot of electric energy. There is only one solution to this dilemma, renewables alone will not even begin to solve it, only Liquid Fluoride Thorium nuclear reactors, and in the future fusion power will have a chance to carry us through the next ice age, which will come when we have used up all available fossil fuels. We must save the bulk of it for our great grand-kids.
My suggestions for the green new deal are quite different from what is commonly proposed. Here are some suggestions:
Do harden the electric grid so it can sustain an electro-magnetic-pulse, either from a nuclear EMP-bomb or from a solar storm like the Carrington event of 1859. Make the grid safe from malicious hacking.
Do not build more wind-turbines except in areas where there are no raptors. The allowable kill of bald eagles per year is 4200, and if we build many more we risk to eliminate the bald and golden eagles as well as other rare birds. More here.
Do fill up fully the strategic petroleum reserve, taking advantage of the low, below cost crude oil prices due to lack of demand. This will be important and avoid price spikes and shortages should the strait of Hormuz be cut off. By eliminating that threat it will ensure that it will not be cut off. Peace is the final goal. (Note: This is already happening, at $10 a barrel)
Make all dams producing profitable hydroelectric power fully equipped to pump up water from a pool downstream to refill the dam during low power demand and provide extra power during peak demand. This is important, since that peak demand otherwise would be satisfied by burning coal and natural gas, and even using diesel-powered generators.
Do plant trees where-ever practical, especially in urban environments. They help immensely to alleviate the urban heat island effect, and are good for mental health, and provide habitat for birds and squirrels. They have to live too. In rural areas abandoned farms, like in upstate New York should be planted with managed forests.
Encourage protection and reforesting of the tropical rain forests. Plant a few billion trees worldwide. The Arbor Day Foundation operates worldwide and is reasonably efficient.
Do serious research on how to clean waste water including removing antibiotics and hormones such as birth control medicine. This is necessary in arid areas, water must be reused since the aquifers are already exhausted in much of the arid west. It will require a lot of energy to implement and run water recycling plants, but it is necessary to secure clean water, not only for ourselves, but also for aquatic life downstream.
Do not build any more large solar power installations until our dependence on Chinese rare earth metals is eliminated.
Do eliminate the regulation that Thorium is a source material and subject to nuclear regulations for mining. With this regulation eliminated we can again be independent from China on rare earth metals mining and refining.
Do not build any more Uranium based nuclear power stations. Even before we sold 20% of our uranium mines to Russia we were the world’s biggest importer of Uranium, and vulnerable to supply disruptions.
LFTR can produce electricity at about 4c/kWh, a very competitive cost.
And lastly, it can, in a slightly different configuration be used to eliminate spent nuclear fuels and nuclear bombs. They will have to be placed away from urban areas, not because of safety, but because nobody want to transport spent nuclear fuel or nuclear bombs through city streets.
This is a tall order, but it can eliminate all fossil fuel used to produce electricity.
About four years before all fossil fuel is eliminated as electricity producer, then and first then is the time to move over to electric cars and trucks. Before then, you are really using fossil fuel anyway, putting additional pressure on the national power grid with all its inefficiencies.
This is but a short list of the opportunities for a real green new deal, but these are the most important parts.
Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors will lessen the need for an expanded national grid. The National Electric grid is at the breaking point. It needs to be expanded, but neighborhood resistance is building in many areas where they need an expanded grid the most. The grid is also sensitive to terrorism activities.
As we can see the national grid is extensive. It is also under severe strain at peak demand. Wind power will only increase the strain since most wind power is generated where few people live and work. A way to lessen the dependency on the national grid is to sprinkle it with many small to medium sized Thorium Nuclear Power generators. They can be placed on barges in rivers and along the coast where the need is greatest, giving the grid maximum flexibility to respond in case of an emergency. (To be fair, the Texas grid is separately controlled from the rest of the grid.
Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors will work both as Base Load and Load Following power plants. LFTR’s operate at a much higher temperature than conventional power plants and operate at about 45% electricity conversion efficiency, as opposed to 38% or lower for steam generators. In addition, because of the higher operating temperature it is ideal for hydrogen generation. The reactor would use the electricity generation to satisfy the current demand and produce hydrogen during times of low demand. This hydrogen would be temporarily stored and used for electricity production at peak demand. And hydrogen power produces only water when burned, no CO2 or polluting fumes are generated.
Radioactive waste from an LFTR (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor) decays down to background radiation in 300 years instead of a million years for U-235 based reactors. Initially LFTRs produce as much radioactivity as an U-235 based nuclear reactor, since fission converts mass to heat, but the decay products have a much shorter half-life. See the figure below.