Monday, January 30, 2006

Go Nucular

Pursuant to a few of the comments left on the previous energy related post, I've come up with some numbers to support the idea of exactly how liberating "Going Nucular" in regards to US power generation can be. Total US Energy Consumption is currently rated at about 8 TWhrs (1 TW 1 terawatt = 1 trillion watts) per day, or about 3 PWhrs (1 PW = 1 petawatt = 1000 terawatts) per year. For reference, the US Office of Nuclear Energy has an in depth proposal for a new plant in Alabama that would generate 1.3 GWe - approximately one eighth of the base load.

Waste Heat
Heat is entropy, right? Only in a closed system. Just because one system can't use the heat, doesn't mean it can't be the energy supply for another. Look at BMW's new turbosteamer: It uses "waste heat" from the combustion system and emissions control system (muffler) to spin a turbine that can be geared to the driveshaft. Instead of just radiating that heat into the surrounding environment, they believe they can derive about 10-15% more fuel efficiency. As commenter whit noted, nuke plants generate waste heat that could be used to distill ethanol or render biodiesel.

So let's see: For $25 Billion ($2.5B per reactor * 10 reactors) over 8 years we could probably switch all US non-transportation power to nucular, have plenty of "cushion" in our electical generation capacity, and perhaps find ways of making the waste heat productive in the transportation's hoping that the Greens see the light.