Plenty of clean base electrical power can be had…

A pair of MIT trained nuclear scientists founded Transatomic Power.  They have developed a molten salt reactor that uses the nuclear waste produced by fresh water reactors for fuel.

Instead of wasting all that potential energy, we could being using to power these inherently safer reactors that don’t produce weapons grade nuclear material as a by product.

As Dr. Pournelle said, “…with what we spent in Iraq we could build nuclear power plants and space solar power satellites and tell the Arabs to drink their oil.”

The plants developed by Transatomic Power could deliver a steady supply of carbon free electricity that could power our industrial base, expanded use of electric cars, and provide light and heat to millions of Americans cheaply, reliably, and safely.

 

Small Nuclear Reactors

The DoE is pushing for funding small modular nuclear reactors (SMR).

These SMRs are designed to be pre-assembled in a factory and shipped to location.  They would range in size from 50 MW units to 300 MW units.

These plants could come on line relatively quickly, providing a “carbon free” source of cheap, domestic electrical power that would benefit American homeowners, business owners and provide a competitive edge to US manufacturers.

First new Nuclear Reactor in the US in 10 years is on track.

The Tennessee Valley Authority is bringing a new Nuclear Reactor on line, on schedule and on budget, in order to provide clean, “carbon free”, electricity in useful quanties, to their customers.

Clean and safe nuclear power is supported as the “green option” by serious leaders of the environmental movement, including Gaia theorist James Lovelock, Greenpeace cofounder Patrick Moore, and Britain’s Bishop Hugh Montefiore, a longtime board member of Friends of the Earth.

Of course, there are uneducated watermelon groups opposing this step toward clean, American engergy indepence, including the obviously confused “Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.”

PG&E to get electricity from space!

Pacific Gas & Electric is seeking approval from state regulators for an agreement to purchase power over a 15-year period from Solaren Corp., an 8-year-old company based in Manhattan Beach, CA. Their goal is start beaming down power in 2016.

Solaren Corp. wants to build big solar panels in orbit and then beam the energy down to the surface.  This isn’t new technology. The concept is decades old.  Science Fiction author Larry Niven mentioned it in his 1990 short story, The Return of William Proximire

One of the common objections against this clear source of electrical energy has been from environmental groups who claim the area the energy is received (typically in the microwave frequency range) would not be optimal for animal life.

A Nuclear Power comeback

Some good news from USA Today, utilities are starting the process to build twentysix new Nuclear Power plants here in the United States.

A recent Gallup Poll shows a record 59% of Americans favor nuclear energy.

Dr. Pournelle nailed the truth of Nuclear Engergy:

I have to say it again: cheap energy will cause a boom. The only cheap energy I know of is nuclear. Three Hundred Billion bucks in nuclear power will do wonders for the economy. We build 100 1000 MegaWatt nuclear power plants — they will cost no more than 2 billion each and my guess is that the average cost will be closer to 1 billion each (that is the first one costs about 20 billion and the 100th costs about 800 million). The rest of the money goes to prizes and X projects to convert electricity into mobility.

Expanded Nuclear Power is the only practical way to supply the level of electrical power needed to support wide spread use of electric and plug in hybrid electric cars.

Also posted at the Urbin Report.

Solar electric power has officially “arrived.”

Electical solar power at the individual homeowner level is no longer the exclusive realm of the uber-ecowarrior or the Heinlein inspired individualist determined to live “off the grid.”

It’s mainstream now.  The concrete proof of this has arrived.  Solar Power Panel Rustlers!

Police departments in California — the biggest market for solar power, with more than 33,000 installations — are seeing a rash of such burglaries, though nobody compiles overall statistics.

Investigators do not believe the thieves are acting out of concern for their carbon footprints.

Even more American electric cars in the pipeline

Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge are working to get electic cars to market.  It looks like Chevy is going to beat to the market with the Volt though.

These new entries are still “Concept Cars,” so I’m taking their “late 2010” release date with a chunk of salt.

Keep in mind that introducing a lot of plug in hybrids or pure electric cars into the market is either going to require new sources of power (home based cheap solar and industrial scale Nuclear for example) or some serious inovations in electrical grid management.

Cheaper solar cells

The MIT Tech Review has a story about an Atlanta, GA based start up named Suniva.

What makes Sunvia’s product interesting is that they have made the manufacturing process cheaper.  They are squeezing a little more efficiency out of their cells (20%, which is up from the industry standard of 17%), but the cost reduction is the big story.

With Sunvia’s process, electricity from solar power can be produced for 8 to 10 cents per kilowatt-hour.  That is a competative rate in the United States.   Lower costs will result in more solar power being used to generate electricity.   More use of solar power on a small scale will also help on a larger utility scale.

Cheaper electric solar panels will result in more individual homes adopting them.  The more homes that can power their A/C system from solar during the summer, the less demand there will be on the utility grid during peak hours.    Solar panels could be used to charge a set of batteries during the day that would then charge a plug in hybrid car during the night.

Google’s Navy

Via slashdot comes this story about Google’s just-published application for a patent on the Water-Based Data Center.  The story says that water based data centers can use wave based energy and use the water for cooling.

Interesting and certainly will play well in many circles. There are also a couple of other interesting data points about the proposal.  One, having your data centers off shore, espcially if Internet commerce is involved, provides a possible tax haven.

There is also the issue of avoiding having governments demand access to your data by having it in International waters.  That is until a couple of warships show up and demand access in the interest of “national security.”

Update: The Times Online caught up with this story finally.  They provide some more detail, including that Google is looking at barges, not ships, to be anchored about 7 miles (11 Km) offshore.  The Times is also quick to pick up on the same tax angle as I did.  Being offshore means no property taxes. 

Mini-Reactors in the works.

Good news for those concerned with American Energy independence!

Plans for smaller nuclear reactors, which can be US built, have been submitted to the NRC for approval.

These small plants, which produce no greenhouse gases, are designed to produce 45-megawatts of power with a very small footprint. The unit is less than 70 feet long and the containment vessel is only 14 feet in diameter.

These can be easily placed in remote areas that currently use diesel generators and would be useful in more urban areas, such as California and the Northeast, to reduce dependence on plants that burn coal, oil and natural gas.