Friday, March 25, 2011

Better Place Fairy Tale Crumbles

In an earlier post I pointed out many of the shortcomings of the BP business plan Better Place Exposed .  Not surprisingly one of BP's largest early partners has just come to realize that the swap station concept makes no economic sense.
the battery swapping system couldn’t possibly make good business sense yet, adding “[B]ut at £1million ($1.6 million) a piece we’re not going to see widespread stations yet. That is, until we see more cars on the road.”
 Swapping Too Expensive
Of course by the time we see more cars on the road we'll already have many more charging stations available and improved battery technology will allow cars to go even further on a single charge.  Who would have guessed?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Future of Nuclear Power

A few days after my post on Thorium reactors the earthquake and tsunami disaster struck Japan, and then the ensuing nuclear problems.  It's worth noting that the meltdown and radiation concerns surrounding the boiling water reactors at Fukushima would not exist with LFTR's.  In the absence of power they shut down and passive cooling mechanisms keep things under control.  In the end a 40 year old nuclear design came through a category 9 earthquake and a 20+ foot tsunami with relatively little widespread effects, though it could have been much worse.  A modern LFTR would have done even better.  I'm not sure what the future of nuclear power will be after the Japan incident but I'm not sure we have any real option other than to pursue some sort of nuclear power.  More coal is certainly not viable, NG is a short term solution that still depends on fossil fuels, and without better storage I don't know if wind and solar can handle significant base load in the near future.  More generating capacity will have to be built to feed a growing population unless we are prepared to severely cut back our power usage.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Plugging In To Thorium

We need to take another look at nuclear power for our grid.  I'm not talking about the conventional nuclear plants that produce waste lasting thousands of years, I'm talking about another technology which has been around almost as long but never really utilized, Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors, or LFTRS.  LFTRS use Thorium, a waste material left over from mining operations that has to be disposed of.  Since it's a waste product with no other use it would be an understatement to say the fuel costs would be low.  We also have stockpiles of it buried in the desert in containers.  After it's used in a LFTR there is minimal radioactive waste remaining and what there is decays in 100 years or so compared to the waste from a conventional reactor which must be contained for thousands of years.  There are also some interesting and useful byproducts from these reactions, including medically useful isotopes and some rare earth metals, including neodymium.  LFTRS can use the Brayton cycle turbine system which is smaller and more efficient than conventional steam turbines.  Additionally LFTRS can't suffer from a China Syndrome meltdown scenario, they are self regulating.  Since they are inherently safer they don't need large containment vessels and can be built much smaller.
So if they are cheaper, smaller, safer, and leave less waste, why aren't we using them?  It's all about the bombs.  LFTRS don't produce good material for nuclear bombs.  Since we now have plenty of material for enough bombs to pretty much destroy the world it might be time to look at a safer, cheaper, more efficient technology to power our grid, and our EV's.
A very good video over view of LFTRS can be found here:

4 minute overview:
More in depth 25 minute overview:

Great source of info here: