Pragmatic 2A: The Battery Problem Follow-up 1

7 December, 2013

CURRENT

Follow up (Part A) to The Battery Problem where we explore proported fire risks associated with Wind Farms, Geothermal and Wave Power and whether Thorium is everything it’s cracked up to be.

Transcript available
This is pragmatic follow-up part A4 episode to the battery problem I'm down Alexander and Michael hostess John Geagea follow-up from episode to so follow-up we have regards different kinds of alternative energy I didn't talk about and I think it's fair, 1st to briefly touch on touching those so I'd like to start talking without some corrections actually on the nuclear power and our thorium is another one that I didn't discuss so just quickly on nuclei said originally that it that when he was winning for Saab when the new coefficient took place with uranium 235 to 38 would split and you would get cobalt is a byproduct that is incorrect sorry my mistake are in actually will split into a range of isotopes that gradually degrade and you'll end up with the most common ones you'll end up with will be strontium 90 and cesium 137 and the reason that an issue is because they are half lives of about 30 years and that sounds too bad however the reality is that that half life means that the way they measure radioactive decay is they say are if you have a massive 1 pound of of radioactive material are that half of it will have decayed in that in that period of time as all the statistics and theoretically never reach the bottom because we keep piling half of the heart of 1/2 you don't ever get a zero but it eventually eventually it fades down to a point where submitting solar radiation and is not a problem but that actual time have a lot of 30 years meant to still be dangerous for hundreds of years which obviously that's the problem with nuclear waste but rather interestingly the Yarm the issue is more so that when you have spent fuel rods that are essentially like they come out with a mixture of stuff and it's not you it's not hundred percent are broken down into strontium and cesium it actually has a hold met a summary of uranium still in the antacid plutonium because while happen is some NASA neutrons are pushed on the uranium 238 up to 239 cranks sodium and potassium has 1/2 life are considerably longer and to the tune in some isotopes the tune of about 6000 years half life and that's more the problem so the issue is that those spent fuel rods then require processing and processing cost money and takes time and of course that therefore puts the average price of the drizzly up because your DOS postprocessing in order to make it cleaner and safer and you still have some highly toxic waste so the next question was one of our thorium so thorium is one of those not lost much talked about once his underthings I/O uranium and I sort of thing so is it it's the big one they put in them the atomic bombs and all that but thorium is Ashley one atomic number down from uranium it's far more stable ad but it's still very dense and if it if it captures a slow-moving neutron it will become uranium 233 and the thing that your anti-33 is that it takes a lot of pushing for it to become plutonium so typically doesn't all happen is it will go through the fission process it will create strontium and cesium byproducts essentially and there will be practically no plutonium in the other thing about thorium it's great is that there is they estimate is about four times as much of it in the ass crust as there is uranium the funny thing was a funny sorry Bethany but you know the thing about it is that they still haven't found most of us like they calculate statistically should be there but reserves of thorium art as abundant as they believe that they should be so I'm not sure exactly how they come up with the day there should be four times as much is uranium are imagine not speculate I have made my suspicions but I don't know for sure so I won't speculate that the point is that it's not as abundant as people would like to think it is and you still got the same problem with the strontium and the cesium taking hundreds of years to degrade your point work safe sure it's not 6000+ years and then some with because of the plutonium in the habit you bottom line is that it's still very nasty so so for example the arm will say thorium is clean nuclear fission will know it isn't it just isn't so you still have that issue I ma apologise for interjecting silliness the cerulean of the shelf but at other energy from thorium duck arm as maybe the best graphic of a Racine arm that is a little baby playing with a bowling ball and next to it is as an oil tanker and the graphic that the taxed as a bowling ball thorium has the energy of an oil supertanker and it's just fantastic if you think it's just that my new dustup of ever arm I'm sticking with the waves and some Seo mavericks unhappy with the way it's got a calming influence ongoing aroma that BBB is with nuclear fuel that Mike Garon cost you just past the cubistic of thorium why not our thorium baby rows over the next race but anyhow look arm the there is a civil side note that of about thorium is that I came across an article when I was just brushing up on this and is that there is a claim that the thing was General Motors were gonna release a thorium fuelled car that would never need refuelling and selling like 80 years some, ridiculous thing like that anyway I had look into this and the claims of all been now pretty well debunked and archive I'm not surprised that talking about basically some kind of laser initiated or thorium-based laser that would drive a steam turbine that would drive the drive the vehicle and create the allergenicity drive vehicle and the whole thing just seemed so ridiculous and when I look through that the numbers they pulled apart it's just theirs and there is no is certainly not the technology we have at the moment that there is no easy solution and nuclear fission is nuclear fission no matter what you breaking into pieces it's going to be radioactive are byproducts some stage it's a question of how bad it is nuclear fusion this will be the better way to go because nuclear fusion when you when you slamming together some tritium and some deuterium are hydrogen atoms and then you get healings byproduct are its yellow or you getting is in any stray alpha beta particles are gonna get absorbed by the lead shielding and so little be radioactive around the actual containment area unless it every knock you have any other issues and that is about as clean as it's gonna get but the problem with fusion of causes and working on for 50 years and I still don't have a commercially viable fusion reactor in the international Thermo thermonuclear experimental Reactor your cycle lighter are is under construction right now but they already are saying that even when it's finished it still won't it it is still the test bench for a full-scale arm commercially viable fusion plant so it even when it's finished it won't be able to produce massive amounts of electricity it will be able to some produce some electricity but it's a proof of concept and I think it's something like the third or third drawer for proof of concept design because fusion in a controlled fashion is very hard to achieve some getaway advocates up in the middle nowhere but in a when you down a planet it's your heck of a lot cooler and you it's a lot harder than Ray just just splitting an element half anyway anyway so that was the follow-up on the cliff nuclear rum fusion and thorium and so hopefully that that put bed not come about wind turbines just quickly which is there is is also a fear of wind turbines starting fires they could result in death in this two angles to this first angle is because it is very high in the air and they are often in remote stitch of remote locations with lots of forest around them obviously the immediate area risk is cleared although the pylons are so high they clear the top of the tree line irrespective they are lightning magnets for the want of a better way of putting a mountain on amazement in army so they will attract the lining because a large conductive object of God foundations go underground low resistance path to ground so buying obviously the sky happen and lightning strikes therefore are elevated temperatures near lightning strike you could actually trigger a bushfire forest fire depending upon what country you're in but whatever same sink ideal reported cases of that actually happening. Everything on the ground I couldn't find a single one but it's a sort of this that that there is a whole bunch of anti-windfarm activists are around the world that don't believe in these things and they're saying well you know the noise problem which we discussed last time to go over that again necessarily arm but the fire one is the other one that they really beat the drum about the other piece of it was that our fire caused by wind turbine because the wind turbines if there is a fire in the winter myself is physically very high above the ground how the firefighters put out a fire and go all it's about is big problem I guess I mean you are you gonna burn and sing out its gonna burn and run out of fuel to burn and then it's gonna die and ensuring was burning in there to soils of the oil that lubricates the and tools the Yarm ball generator inside as well the bearings is that the only and is not burn so once that's burned out that it and the story and is not a fall down a imagery fatigue Celeste never happened are they caught fire but never fall apart and the only person who's ever ever there was a recorded death and that was a maintenance engineer who was actually are closer turbine a time when there was a member mishap and it was not ruled as being our hour it was a it was a fault I believe it was not as and it was not an accident it was something that was that there was a direct cause for it and it was not due to faulty equipment it was just idea something went wrong and it was a long time ago so just just quickly want to put that want to bet as well so this is a lot of that sort of wind turbines are bad and honestly that the bottom line with wind turbines is that our wind wins and solar with hydro backup was what I said last episode is is is I think the best solution overall so okay next geothermal Campbell even mentioned are geothermal but there's a reason I didn't and the reason is because geothermal is extremely expensive to do so just real quick Geothermal is you basically drill a big hole in the ground and go down to where it's hot because obviously the world the other was sitting on molten rock you all that magma and stuff way why underground where sitting on the crust on the top and all these different plates are sort of grinding against each other and get earthquakes and yet volcanoes where this weeks for weak spots and all that pressure from from gravity pushes it up through the hole and get volcanic eruptions in order stuff okay just what is a high school geology right again's overall map playing field or we try to do is get down to an area where the magma is closer to the surface so there's a lot of heat generated by that there is a cause other situations we can get heat generated through different kinds of rocks ratifications are through other conditions but not one to go to find an upper left to say your put on the ground next thing you do is you pump the water through the ground and then out the other end so cool what goes in hot water comes out in the hot water is hopefully hot enough for you to drive our steam turbine to generate electricity however the problem is that there is only so much heat you can transfer to the water in any given location sofa geothermal you actually have to have a reasonable amount of space and it needs to be a pocket that is of a reasonable area for it to be viable so if you're in a part of the world where everything is all quite on the Western front as it were in that respect like for example on in Australia is where stuck run the middle of a communal plate so we don't have any volcanoes we very seldom get earthquakes we don't get earthquakes are we do get them but they caused by your minor fracturing on the actual within the actual plate itself not not caused by the actual aware one platers are in I there is either a subduction zone or the other one sorry that you are not a subduction a video is a you demonstrate your animal photos caused by more by plate buckling within the plate so you have any of that all the volcanoes we have here of all been long extinct so in Australia geothermal I think represents for something like one or 2 MW is the largest ones nowadays it's it's a joke it's I did a trial plant however somewhere that a little bit more interesting art like let's say the United States where of course you've got all that activity and around are the Rocky Mount Yellowstone and you've got a few other areas there is a poor are a plant they're called Dar the guises and that's actually a 750 MW plant which is the largest single geothermal plan the world interesting thing is that Iceland has a lot of volcanoes and it has it holds that I believe it's the record in the world for having the most proportion of its electricity generated from geothermal but even that does not have the largest plant in the world but then again I don't have to produce much authority as the United States and is big so the total summation of all the geothermal Al Jazeera creating the world sum total as of the think about six months ago was 3.3 GW which say is a lot more than I thought it would be but you compare that to all the others and now it's insignificant but it's not enormous so geothermal is certainly something you can't put your backyard arm I mean last by the guess you could but no amount made seriously know you could offer than your backyard I can't imagine any council giving you the right to dig down to 200 300 I surely know how deep someone will have to be would vary depending on the location one that is a lot in the underground in those areas has to be pretty arm fracture rate they discarded his restaurant up anyways or there are methods that they use for extracting coal seam gas that are can get pretty nasty where they inject a bunch of different chemicals in the ground and database offer an explosion under the ground and that causes what I call last fracking which is a accommodation the words fracture and cracking and dumb yes so that's that's your rate on the Isle of Wight on the edge of the art by the Marseille that the big are the big shell discovery arm price goes across Pennsylvania home and down and out leisure and and you that the amount of of smaller earthquakes that have started on your interfering and you know that's right I meant that we were actually going through the same thing here I generally want into this this December so perhaps also this for a future episode but in in my area DR the area were out to the west and north of Brisbane are in self-study screens as a heading out to Western Queensland and Central Queensland the whole area has got high concentrations of cool coal seam gas the whole areas as you listen with coal black coal mostly so in other words the good stuff but unfortunately in the past was considered a liability now is considered to be an asset because now you can go and drill down our 20 3040 bores in an area known Frank the heck out of the ground sounds funny but anyway and is are you pump the water down there and then you start getting the return out new recycling gas with it you separate the gas you compress it pure fights and often sell it for a relic would not look for natural gas in your more energy right and it's it is cleaner than burning coal but the downside is of course as you said like they are noticing that all this fracturing of the the ground underneath is essentially creating new fault lines new new air out parts of it is, like it's making the S crust a bit more malleable and able to to crack and fracturing that creates more small earthquakes whether or not it would they ever add up to something big like what happened I off the coast of Japan no not that long ago you or Chile for example not that long ago I don't know but it's it's a disturbing trend that's for sure but anyway and thus not to mention the other issues with Brian and and disposal of the water and everything okay and so yes not a big fan geothermal I think that it's one of those niche ones that is you just knock I ever really go anywhere okay so the last one that I had a request talk about was wave and/or tidal power and I know that this was it because it's a variation on a theme write it so that the wave power as a variation on wind and the title is trying to use are the moon's gravitational pull for pulling all the water around as the earth spinning and the problem with those is that with title is that it's is very intermittent and the other issue a course with both of them easier and extremely highly corrosive environment so you have to have a massive amount of cathodic protection to stop it from rusting and soft bits they become very expensive to maintain and the funny thing is a really do generate a hell of a lot so I see dug into this I was quite surprised that there are actually army see this hardly any commercial wave plants in the world is at and the title planted around the world produce practically nothing is, like it was a proof of concept was an experiment that never really went anywhere so the biggest one I believe was 2.4 MW and is that shutdown be it only ran as a proof of concept for a few years so there's a few links in the show notes anyway feel free to check out if you want to but are wave and tidal power year shrug no it's just you far better off if you try to harness the power of the wind you far better off putting up a bunch of pylons with the with a fan blade on Gazelle Lithgow better conversion efficiency and there is less that is directly exposed to such corrosive environment in the ocean´┐Ż
Duration 20 minutes and 24 seconds Direct Download

People

Ben Alexander

Ben Alexander

Ben created and runs Constellation.fm and Fiat Lux

John Chidgey

John Chidgey

John is an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineer, programmer, podcaster and runs TechDistortion and the Engineered Network. John has produced and appeared on many podcasts as well as Pragmatic.

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