Thursday, August 21, 2008

Short & Long Term Solutions for Nuclear Waste

by Marcel F. Williams

A typical 1000 MWe nuclear power plant produces about 30 tonnes of highly radioactive spent fuel on an annual basis. However, a coal powered facility of equal capacity produces more than 400,000 tonnes of waste material (ash) annually that contains more than 100 times more radioactive waste (uranium, thorium, radon) than a nuclear power plant.

In fact, all of the spent fuel so far produced in the US could fit into a football field just 10 meters high. And if this fuel was reprocessed, then the volume could be reduced by at least a factor of ten. So you could easily store all nuclear waste material in fortified cask at just one nuclear facility.

Nuclear waste locations within the continental US

But Yucca Mountain is clearly not the long term solution for radioactive waste within the US.

My solution to this problem would be to:

1. To mandate that all radioactive waste material that exist within the geographic territory of a state be kept within that state at environmentally secured federal, state, or private facilities for up to 200 years.

2. I'd allow states that posses radioactive waste to petition the federal government to fund, construct, operate, and secure federal radioactive waste repositories within their states designed to securely house radioactive material for up to 200 years.

3. Alternatively, states could petition the federal government to build a-- nuclear energy park-- within their state to house and reprocess all of their nuclear waste for fuel which could then be utilized on site. A nuclear energy park would consist of 10 to 40 reactors and would be utilized to produce regional electric power, ammonia for agricultural fertilizer and hydrogen for the production of synthetic hydrocarbon fuels such as gasoline, diesel fuel, and aviation fuel through biomass or through the extraction of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Adding hydrogen to biomass increases the efficiency of synthetic fuel production by 3 to 5 times.

4. After 200 years, the waste would be removed from the state repositories or nuclear parks for final deposition. Final deposition could be extraterrestrial disposal using 23rd century space technology, or deep sea disposal, or disposal on a tiny island.

Of course, much of this radioactive material may be deemed too valuable to throw away a few centuries from now. Who knows, the humans and industries of the 23rd century might even pay big bucks for what 21st century humans use to call nuclear waste:-)

References and Links

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Energy Independence from the Petroleum Fuel Economy

by Marcel F. Williams

It is time for the US to begin the transition towards completely ending our dependence on the petroleum fuel economy. The use of petroleum not only contributes to global warming but off shore drilling also threatens our pristine coastlines. With more than 700 billion dollars of our national wealth going to foreign countries on an annual basis, our dependence on the petroleum economy also threatens the future prosperity our country.

Obama needs to address the petroleum crisis head on at the National Democratic Convention by advocating that the US rapidly begin the transition from a petroleum based carbon-dioxide polluting fuel economy towards a clean carbon-neutral synthetic fuel economy. And in order to do this, he needs to firmly state that this is going to require massive private and public investments not only in transportation fuel efficiency but also through carbon free and carbon neutral transportation fuel production through biomass, wind, solar, and nuclear energy.

While it may be politically correct within the Democratic Party to exclude any mention of nuclear energy as part of a comprehensive energy strategy, most Americans and especially political independents are looking to support the candidate with the most rational plan to achieve energy independence. And most independence believe that nuclear power should be part of that strategy.

Electricity from nuclear, wind, solar, and hydroelectric power could contribute up to a third of our total current transportation energy needs if all of our gasoline vehicles were plug-in-hybrids. The Department of Energy believes that biomass could supply up to 30% of our total transportation energy needs by 2030. However, if hydrogen produced through the electrolysis of water via nuclear, wind, solar, and hydroelectric power were added to the mix then all of our current and future carbon-neutral transportation fuel needs could be met.

And many have argued that liquid hydrogen could also completely replace jet fuel for future commercial air transportation as a superior non carbon dioxide polluting fuel.

So in less than 25 years, energy independence from the petroleum fuel companies and foreign oil can be achieved if we use Obama's 'all hands of deck' strategy. So we don't need to go down the road of drilling for more carbon-dioxide polluting off-shore oil as advocated by John McCain and the Republicans. But in order to achieve this goal, we have to invest in all non carbon dioxide polluting technologies-- including nuclear power. And Obama needs to clearly state this at the convention, IMO, if he's going to get the votes of a majority of independents in this country who are desperately looking for a rational solution to our transportation energy needs both now and in the future.

A New Papyrus Publication

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Its all about energy!

by Marcel F. Williams

Americans and especially independents are looking at the candidate with the best short term and long term solution to the emerging energy crisis. However, those of us who are also concerned about improving the environment and solving the problem of climate change, also want a solution that eventually eliminates all greenhouse gases put into the atmosphere. So Obama needs to address both-- as specifically as possible. And drilling for more oil off the coast-- is not the short term or the long term answer to this problem.

I believe that Obama needs to support the creation of a Federal Synfuel Corporation (FSC) for the production of carbon-neutral synthetic fuels. This corporation, IMO, should be partially funded by the annual sale of approximately five percent of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve which should provide billions of dollars annually. Since the money from the reserve would be used to produce clean domestic energy, we would not, in theory, be depleting the reserve but would be creating an clean fuel infrastructure that could make the US totally independent of foreign oil.

As I envision it, the FSC would provide county governments, states and municipalities matching funds for the construction of biowaste to fuel facilities for the production of gasoline, methanol, diesel fuel, and aviation fuel in exchange for ten percent of the revenue from the sale of these fuels. And this would provide even more revenue for the synfuel corporation to fund more facilities.

The FSC should also invest heavily in the emerging carbon dioxide from air extraction technologies that would allow us to use nuclear, solar, and wind energy to manufacture gasoline, methanol, diesel fuel, and aviation fuel through water electrolysis and and CO2 from air extraction. In this case, I believe that the FSC should set up their own facilities, purchasing off-peak electricity for the manufacture of synfuels. The revenue from the sale of these carbon-neutral fuels should be used to fund the construction of more facilities.

Finally, I believe that the FSC should start ordering its own nuclear, wind, and solar facilities for the production of synfuels. And, again, the revenues from the sale of carbon-neutral gasoline, diesel fuel, aviation fuel, and methanol could be used to fund other facilities until all of our transportation fuel needs completely replace petroleum in the US.

Once this occurs, then perhaps half of the annual revenues can be returned to the public in energy rebates (perhaps several thousand dollars a year for every American) while the other half could be used to construct more synfuel facilities for the export of clean carbon-neutral fuels to other countries which should gradually increase the amount of our annual energy rebates from the FSC.

A New Papyrus Publication

Friday, August 8, 2008

Gasoline from Nuclear and Renewable Energy

by Marcel F. Williams

With more than 700 billion dollars a year of our national wealth being exported to foreign nations in exchange for the importation of foreign oil, the US is gradually impoverishing itself while also continuing to put more greenhouse polluting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. While it is estimated that plug-in-hybrid vehicles and electric cars utilizing current off-peak electric power capacity could reduce US petroleum consumption by at least 35% without adding any new electric capacity to the national grid, this would still require Americans to consume at least 65% of their transportation energy needs through petroleum fuels. Of course, this does not take into account the substantial increases in demand for transportation fuel in the future, during the next few decades, due to increasing US population and economic growth.

Biofuels have long been argued as an alternative solution to the use of petroleum for transportation needs. While most of the US emphasis has been on the controversial production of ethanol, technologies that can covert biomass into gasoline, diesel fuel, methanol, and aviation fuel have existed for decades.

The US Department of Energy reported that up to 30% of our transportation fuel needs could be met through synthetically produced biofuels (gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel, methanol, and ethanol) by the year 2030. Agricultural lands including 87 million tons of animal manure could provide nearly 1 billion dry tons of sustainably collectable biomass while also continuing to meet food, feed and export demands. They also reported that forest lands could provide an additional 370 million dry tons of biomass annually. The report argues that an annual biomass supply of more than 1.3 billion dry tons could be accomplished with relatively modest changes in land use and agricultural and forestry practices.

This however does not include the 250 million tons of solid biowaste produce from the urban areas of the US which would could replace an additional 6% of our petroleum needs. So in total, 36% of our current petroleum needs could be met through biofuels which would amount to approximately half of our petroleum imports.

However, if the US demand for energy for transportation should increase by 50 to 100% over the next few decades then possibly only 18% of our petroleum needs could be met by biofuels in the future. But if electricity could still provide 30% of our transportation energy needs in 2030 via plug-in-hybrids and electric cars then 48% of our future transportation needs could be met by biomass. This would still leave the US dependent on petroleum for over 50% of its transportation needs.

However, a 2007 study published through the National Academy of Sciences showed that, even without plug-in-hybrids and electric vehicles, all of our current transportation fuel needs could be met through biofuels if hydrogen from nuclear, wind, and solar were added to the mix. This would more than triple the amount of synthetic gasoline, diesel fuel, methanol, and aviation fuel produced in the US. We might, therefore, be able to provide more than 80% of our transportation fuel needs in a ground transportation system dominated by plug-in-hybrids and electric vehicles. This, however, would require a substantial increase in our nuclear and wind capacity in order to produce the hydrogen component for enhanced biofuel production.

There are new emerging technologies, however, that are capable of extracting carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere. Such technologies would allow the US to produce gasoline, diesel fuel, aviation fuel and methanol through nuclear, wind, solar, and hydroelectric power without the need for any biomass component. Scientist at the Los Alamos labs have recently proposed a concept for using nuclear power or wind power plants to produce gasoline and other transportation fuels. In order for these technologies to completely replace petroleum, it would require increasing nuclear power by about ten times current capacity or increasing wind power by more than 200 times current capacity. But if transportation fuel needs doubled within the next few decades then nuclear power plants would have to be increased at least 20 times while wind power would have to be increased 400 times current capacity. However, increasing our nuclear and wind capacity even further might allow the US not only to become totally independent of petroleum but might also enable the US to be a major exporter of clean carbon-neutral fuels which could help lower greenhouse gases around the world.

So it is clear that the US will have to dramatically increase its nuclear, wind, and biomass capacity in order to become truly energy independent from foreign fuels. Such carbon-neutral synthetic fuels would finally end greenhouse gas pollution from our nation's transportation system. And a synthetic fuel economy would also finally end this country's dependence on foreign oil and the petroleum fuel economy! It would also mean that the 700 billion dollars that was once annually leaving America's shores would now be flowing right back into the US economy as a-- titanic-- annual stimulus.

It will be a tall order over the next few decades to move this nation from a petroleum fuel economy to a nuclear and renewable synthetic fuel economy. But it is most certainly doable for the most advanced industrial nation on Earth especially one that can so easily throw away hundreds of billions of dollars annually on an unnecessary war in Iraq.


1. G. Olah, A. Goeppert, and G. Prakash, (2006) Beyond Oil and Gas: The Methanol Economy, Wiley-VCH Verlang, Weinheim, Germany

2. F.J. Martin and WL Kubic, Green (2007) Freedom: A concept for producing carbon-neutral synthetic fuels and chemicals, Los Alamos Labs, November

3. Michael Kintner-Meyer, Kevin Schneider, Robert Pratt, (2007) IMPACTS ASSESSMENT OF PLUG-IN HYBRID VEHICLES ON ELECTRIC UTILITIES AND REGIONAL U.S. POWER GRIDS PART 1: TECHNICAL ANALYSIS Pacific Northwest National Laboratory November,

4. Agrawal, R, Singh, N R, Ribeiro, F H , Delgass, W N , (Mar 2007) Sustainable fuel for the transportation sector. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 104 (12), p.4828-4833,

5. Robert D. Perlack, Lynn L. Wright, Anthony F. Turhollow, Bryce J. Stokes,Donald C. Erbach, Robin L. Graham, (2005)BIOMASS AS FEEDSTOCK FOR A BIOENERGY AND BIOPRODUCTS INDUSTRY: THE TECHNICAL FEASIBILITY OF A BILLION-TON ANNUAL SUPPLY Oak Ridge National Laboratory A Joint Study Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture

6. K. Schultz, L. Bogart, G. Besenbruch, L. Brown, R. Buckingham, M. Campbell, B. Russ, and B. Wong HYDROGEN AND SYNTHETIC HYDROCARBON FUELS – A NATURAL SYNERGY General Atomics Poster

7. Robert E Uhrig, (2007) Replacing Transportation Fuels with Nuclear Energy NUCLEAR ENERGY REVIEW

8. Klaus S. Lackner, Patrick Grimes, Hans-J. Ziock, Capturing Carbon Dioxide From Air

9. First Successful Demonstration of Carbon Dioxide Air Capture Technology Achieved by Columbia University Scientist and Private Company, (2007) Earth Institute News Archive, 04/24/07

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