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Art Crino

Small modular reactors are designed to be factory-built then transported, as in this illustration. Supplied: NuScale

Renewable energy proponents boast of the reduction in costs for windmills, solar panels and storage batteries. However, for all three the 10-fold decrease in cost faces the “law of diminishing return,” where every incremental gain yields less progress than in the past.

A typical wind turbine requires 900 tons of steel, 2500 tons of concrete and 45 tons of non-recyclable plastic. Converting the iron ore into the 900 tons of steel requires about 170 tons of coking coal which is transported by fossil fuel. The turbine will never generate as much energy payback during its typical operating lifetime as was invested in building it.

That is where government subsidies enter the equation.

As more electricity is generated by wind and solar, the battery becomes more of a partner.

With batteries it roughly costs $200.00 to store the energy equivalent to one barrel of oil. Furthermore, $200,000 worth of Tesla batteries, which collectively weigh over 20,000 pounds, is needed to store the energy equivalent to one barrel of oil.

When the renewable energy industry experiences increased operating costs, maintenance and disposal of nonrenewable equipment, hopefully they will become aware of progress in the field of nuclear generation of electricity. As a given, the “carbon footprint” will not be an issue.

Currently, the United States’ 98 active nuclear reactors supply 19 percent of the nation’s total electrical energy. Fortunately, billions of dollars in private funding and converging technologies are poised to usher in a new era of safe, clean and abundant nuclear energy.

Conventional reactors use heat generation from the atomic chain reaction to turn water into steam. The nuclear industry seems largely going in the direction of heating mineral salts with thorium. Thorium is more abundant and far cheaper than uranium. Thorium heats molten salts to produce lava significantly safer than steam for power generation. And for those who are concerned with uranium as a weapon, thorium is not suitable for weaponry.

Companies like Bill Gates’ Terra Power stand at the cutting-edge of these technologies. Bill Gates is telling lawmakers he personally would invest $1 billion and raise $1 billion more in private capital to go along with federal funds for a pilot of his never-before used technology. Westinghouse and NuScale have both received $50 million in venture funding, and are using miniature versions of molten salt reactors.

Today there are about 450 nuclear reactors generating electricity around the world. And there are 140 nuclear powered ships that have accumulated 12,000 reactor years of “safe” marine operation. Worldwide there are more than 50 reactors currently under construction. China’s plan to add 150 new nuclear reactors and about 300 more are proposed.

Nuclear construction in the U.S. in nil. Primarily because of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Agency, the cost of building nuclear power plants in the U.S. has resulted in costs approaching 6 to 8-fold higher than equivalent plants in other countries. However, should the renewable energy industry direct its massive influence in favor of nuclear power, reality will follow.

Art Crino is a combat veteran of WWII, graduate of OSU in Electrical Engineering and his career was in engineering and factory management. Art may be contacted by e-mail at: crino9850@comcast.net.

Reprinted with permission from the Roseburg Beacon News. Vol.12 – Issue 33 August 14, 2019

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