Here we review major renewable energy topics from 2010 and then turn towards analyzing energy issues for 2011 and beyond.
Achieving sustained nuclear fusion for power production is incredibly challenging. Scientists have been working on this problem for decades. This piece is an overview of the basic concepts and technologies needed for nuclear fusion power. One could also view this as a tutorial, or a crash-course, in fusion power.
The long term supply for nuclear fission fuels on the planet earth is estimated to last several thousand years at current consumption levels, assuming that we adopt reprocessing as well as develop and implement breeder reactors.
Nuclear power is a tiny fraction of our total radiation dose. Nuclear power is legally obligated to keep its radioactive emissions incredibly low. Even people who live close to nuclear power plants will receive from them only a fraction of the dose that they receive naturally from their environment. Human-made sources account for about 20% of the dose to humans, with nuclear power composing less than 1% of the total dose. Coal is responsible for a larger portion of radioactive dose than nuclear is. This is a point missed by most people involved in the world discussion about energy sources.
Arguments can certainly be made to support either side of this argument. This article gives examples of valid arguments on both sides of the issue. In general it is clear that understanding of nuclear energy fundamentals is a prerequisite for creating nuclear weapons. In this area however, the proverbial cat is out of the bag. Pandora’s box has been opened. The knowledge exists and is relatively widespread. The real question is what to choose to do with the knowledge that the world now has.
This piece refers to kilowatt-hours (kWh) and costs-per-kWh as well as cost per installed watt ($/kW). If you are new to these units, please consult our introduction to energy system terms. In this area of knowledge, we defer to our publicly-owned utility for the best possible answer. Sask Power’s analysis in 2009, submitted to the […]
Prior to reading this article, it is recommended that you read our basic definitions for discussing nuclear science. In this article we refer to ‘used nuclear fuel’ and to ‘nuclear waste’. For our current discussion these are both the same thing. To get a deeper understanding of nuclear power in general, see our general nuclear […]
While some variants of nuclear power plants are estimated to cost up to five times as much as competing technologies such as minimally-compliant coal power, these are extreme examples. Most populations will not allow minimally-compliant coal plants to be built because of their substantially dangerous pollution as well as radioactivity levels far above those of a nuclear power plant. Their radioactive and chemical emissions come in the form of massive fly ash ponds as well as airborne fly ash emissions.
Nuclear Power: Our First Major Project In October 2008, the Uranium Development Partnership committee was formed by the government of Saskatchewan. We noted that the mandate of the committee was to recommend the best ways for Saskatchewan to enjoy prosperity by developing nuclear industries. We also noted that the committee seemed to be filled primarily […]
A power utility has to have the capability of calling into service enough power to make up for the loss of its largest generator on short notice. For a nuclear generator, this would be between 300 and 2000 MW. In our home province of Saskatchewan, the largest single generator SaskPower has to keep backup capacity for currently is a 300MW coal unit. However, if the entire Boundary Dam facility went down, the Saskatchewan system could be missing as much as 813 MW of power.
If you think of renewable sources of energy you probably think of things like wind turbines, solar panels, biomass plants, and hydroelectric plants. However, these are just examples. What does it mean to be renewable?
Electrical power production using a nuclear power source is accomplished through the heat produced by bringing greater than a specific amount of radioactive material together. Water is heated to create steam, which in turn spins turbines to generate electricity. Greater quantities or concentrations of nuclear material produce more heat. The higher the temperature of the heat source, the more efficient the production of electricity from it becomes. If the core becomes too hot, it is possible for core material to melt. If the reactor core is kept relatively cool, the energy production is not thermodynamically or economically efficient. Combinations of different fuels, fuel cladding, and coolants have been tested to optimize reactor cores for efficient power production while remaining very safe. Many different combinations are in use today, each with it’s advantages and disadvantages.
The Uranium Development Partnership (UDP) is a ministerial advisory committee established in October 2008 for the purpose of analyzing the economic feasibility of all forms of uranium development in Saskatchewan. On Friday April 3rd, the final report was released to the public containing recommendations to the government of Saskatchewan.
The activity of a piece of radioactive material (called a ‘source’) is a measure of how many radioactive decays taking place per second. If you compare two uranium sources for instance, the one with the higher activity would be emitting more energy. There are three kinds of radioactive decays: alpha, beta and gamma.