Frack Away: Who Needs Nukes Anyway

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Natural gas triumphant

Over at The Daily Beast, Manhattan Institute analyst Robert Bryce makes a persuasive case that abundant supplies of cheap natural gas will outcompete nuclear power for many years to come:

This much-ballyhooed nuclear renaissance was little more than a mirage. Love fission or hate it, the rebirth of America's nuclear sector—with some 20 reactors reportedly planned for the next 15 to 20 years—was going nowhere fast. And this stillborn rebirth was readily apparent for months before the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami devastated northeastern Japan, damaging several of the country's reactors and giving the world its worst nuclear crisis since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. 

Needless to say, the news from Japan, especially for hard-core nuclear advocates like me, depresses on many levels, as it will clearly slow down popular demand and give fresh fodder to anti-nuclear environmental groups, most notably, the Sierra Club and Greenpeace.

But the forces that already undermined the revival of America's nuclear sector are largely economic, not political. The most formidable obstacle: the ongoing shale gas revolution. The ability of drillers to unlock vast quantities of natural gas has resulted in an avalanche of methane production and a resulting collapse in prices. Last year, U.S. gas production hit its highest level since 1973. And despite a very cold winter, natural-gas prices have generally stayed below $4 per thousand cubic feet, which is about half the level seen as recently as 2008.

However, Bryce is bullish on the prospects for nuclear power further along in this century, especially mentioning modular reactors and thorium reactors.

A while back, I looked at the prospects of modular reactors such as the Hyperion Power Module, Babcock & Wilcox' mPower reactor, and Terrapower's traveling wave reactor in my article, The New Nuclear Future, for Chief Executive Magazine.

With regard to thorium reactors, I noted yesterday:

Liquid fluoride thorium reactors (LFTR) have a lot to recommend them with regard to safety. Fueled by a molten mixture of thorium and uranium dissolved in fluoride salts of lithium and beryllium at atmospheric pressure, LFTRs cannot melt down (strictly speaking the fuel is already melted). 

Because LFTRs operate at atmospheric pressure, they are less likely than conventional pressurized reactors to spew radioactive elements if an accident occurs. In addition, an increase in operating temperature slows down the nuclear chain reaction, inherently stabilizing the reactor. And LFTRs are designed with a salt plug at the bottom that melts if reactor temperatures somehow do rise too high, draining reactor fluid into a containment vessel where it essentially freezes.

It is estimated that 83 percent of LFTR waste products are safe within 10 years, while the remainder needs to be stored for 300 years. Another advantage is that LFTRs can use plutonium and nuclear waste as fuel, transmuting them into much less radioactive and harmful elements, thus eliminating the need for waste storage lasting up to 10,000 years. No commercial thorium reactors currently exist, although China announced a project earlier this year that aims to develop such reactors.

Bottom line: cheap natural gas will likely outcompete all other energy sources for producing electricity for some time to come. One caveat: Natural gas will win unless governments somehow succeed in putting a sufficiently price on carbon dioxide emissions.

Whole Bryce article is well worth reading.

NEXT: Obama's Budget Director Explains Why You Shouldn't Trust the Social Security Trust Fund

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  1. Hey Hit & Run,
    My name is MNG, and I hate every single one of you. All of you are fat, retarded, no-lifes who deny global warming. You are everything bad in the world. Honestly, have any of you ever gotten any compliments? I mean, I guess it’s fun making fun of people because of your own insecurities, but you all take to a whole new level. This is even worse than jerking off to pictures on facebook.
    Don’t be a stranger. Just hit me with your best shot. I’m pretty much perfect. I was captain of the chess club, and starter on my Model UN team. What activities do you do, other than “jack off to Ayn Rand rape scenes”? I also get straight A’s, and have a banging hot life partner (She just hugged me; Shit was SO cash). You are all selfish Zionists who should just kill yourselves. Thanks for listening.

      1. I have the strangest feeling of d?j? vu.

    1. Hey, I thought this was supposed to be me!

      1. Go check outside to see if there are any black helicopters hovering around… Somebody’s trying to mess with out minds, Epi!

        1. All I see are the water planes over Lake Union. Oh my god! They’re after me!

    2. We love you MNG!!!

    3. I sure hope I’m next. Although, get some better material. It worked for Epi, but not for MNG. You didn’t even mention unions or his University of Phoenix Online PhD.

      1. You’re too complicated. Insulin and incest are too hard to put in a single paragraph blurb, let alone the coprophilia and the frequency with which you beat your wife.

        1. There’s a ton to work with. Science fiction geek, fat, amateur pornographer, failed writer, dead-end job, the milking of the STEVE SMITH meme, sudden bursts of anger, paranoia that every stupid post is by that fatass rather psycho, the fact that I’m damn near incapable of posting on-topic, the degenerates I hang out with… I’m a fucking gold mine!

          1. All true, but if anyone is going to spoof you, it should be me. Or maybe Warty.

            1. it should be me. Or maybe Warty.

              “Anything done out of love is beyond good or evil.”

          2. I’m a fucking gold mine!

            I’m surprised you left your defective pancreas off of that list, pincushion. Ha!

      2. You can get a PhD from Thunderbird? No kidding?

        1. I once asked him if his PhD came with rows of candy dots all over it. He never answered.

          1. I got my JD from The Teaching Company.

            1. Do you have to write a dissertation for a JD?

              1. No. We just pay a lot of money, then go to a ceremony where we kill a fatted calf and ritually steal money from the poor.

              2. If that was a serious question, it’s pretty much all one exam per class (essays), with maybe a few classes with a paper in the later elective classes. Not counting classes like trial advocacy, where it’s all acting and motions.

                1. I didn’t think so, but I wasn’t sure.

                  Considering I could go get a “free” PhD, I’ve been thinking about it. The dissertation doesn’t bother me, but the notion of once again sitting in a classroom listening to a professor drone makes me physically ill.

                  1. That’s why the real future of education is virtual education.

    4. Shouldn’t you be busy selling crappy clothes in a crappy store?

      I’m still waiting for the STEVE SMITH Collection to come out at Nordstrom’s.

    5. “This is even worse than jerking off to pictures on facebook.”

      But enough about me.

  2. One caveat: Natural gas will win unless governments somehow succeed in putting a sufficiently [high] price on carbon dioxide emissions.

    Meaning: Governments do what they normally do, fuck us over.

  3. Why all the hate on fracking? The vast majority of the water used can be easily treated and used for irrigation purposes. The resulting sludge can be used as backfill for the displaced gas and/or oil.

    I work with quite a few oilmen and the fracking equipment they use has a very long lifespan. The technology has been the same for generations and is efficient, otherwise it would not be used to push Kern oil (which is not great stuff) out of the ground. Infrastructure is already in place as well.

    Are the goalpost-movers that the enviros use fueled by solar, wind or unicorn-farts? Just curious.

    1. sloopyinca: FYI, my take on fracking.

      1. My opening sentence was poorly worded, as are many of my posts.

        I was talking about the overall hate on fracking, not your opinion on it. Sorry if I came across that way.

    2. Don’t some people think it causes earthquakes?

  4. thorium reactors

    I love thorium reactors. They’re so cuddly.

  5. You mean fracking is a real word?

    1. It has the same root etymology as smurfing.

    2. I wouldn’t have known either, but some overzealous lefties in Pgh have been going around putting “FRACKING” stickers on all the stop signs.

    3. hydraulic fracturing = fracing

      1. Too much science fiction in my life, it’s clear.

  6. Wow, I think you might just be onto something there.

    anon-tools.es.tc

    1. SPAM AND MUSHROOM CASSEROLE

      Read more about it at http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,198,143163-226203,00.html

      1 can spam,
      1 10-3/4 oz. can mushroom soup
      4 oz. cream cheese
      1 1/4 c. water
      1 1/4 c. milk
      1/4 c. minced onion
      1 7 oz. can mushrooms
      1/2 lb spaghetti
      1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
      1/4 c. mozzarella cheese
      1/2 c. bread crumbs

      Combine soup, cream cheese, minced onion, water, and milk in a saucepan and simmer until creamy; set aside. Boil broken spaghetti for 7 minutes and drain.
      Dice spam and place in 9×13-inch baking dish or cake pan. Cover with spaghetti and mushroom soup mixture, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, add mushrooms, bread crumbs and top with mozzarella cheese.

      Bake uncovered at 400?F for 20-30 minutes.

      1. This sounds really gross, dude. It’s like hamburger helper with spam.

        1. That’s brilliant. I mean, like Luthor brilliant. To combine SPAM and Hamburger Helper in that way.

          Is it possible that Velveeta could be included? For that would be the pinnacle of synthetic food.

          1. I ate a lot of Spam as a kid. I think that’s what’s wrong with me.

            1. But not delivered in this manner, I daresay.

              1. Sweet fuck, no. Straight out of the can, or pan-fried.

            2. I ate Vienna Sausages, which, apparently, are neither.

              1. I’ve eaten pickled bologna.

                1. What of Potted Meat Product?

                  1. Yes. And deviled ham in a can. I had a very white trash upbringing, although I think my dad did it mostly to be funny.

                    I have never eaten canned brains, or fresh ones for that matter.

                    Braaaaaaaains… in a can.

                    1. I went through a phase where I loved Underwood Deviled Ham. Which, of course, has a symbol of ultimate evil on the outside of the package to make it clear that it is impure.

                    2. Re: SugarFree,

                      Yes. And deviled ham in a can. I had a very white trash upbringing

                      Hey! Deviled ham on crackers is delicious, and I didn’t have a white trash upbringing!

                      Mostly a dirt poor, 2nd-hand-store-clothes upbringing, but white trash? Never!

                2. Pickled balogna is fantastic.

            3. Yeeeeaaaah. That’s what’s wrong with you.

          2. Ever since I moved to Cali from the south, I’ve had a really hard time finding Penrose Hot Sausages. And pickled eggs out here are white instead of pink. Who the fuck wants to eat a pickled egg that’s not pink?

            1. Who the fuck wants to eat a pickled egg that’s not pink?

              You’re not really talking about food, are you?

      2. What a terrible thing to do to Parmesan cheese.

  7. Add another caveat: if the loony enviros get fracking stopped. They’re trying.

    Was it MNG who was telling us that enviros aren’t opposed developing every new energy source?

  8. Are you kidding me? Fracking is going to be what destroys the US aquifers and has the potential to disturb gelogical faults, (possibly causing earthquakes?). Face the truth, there are too many people living an unsustainable lifestyle for this to go on much longer, we are reaching the end of the rope as far as a Western standard of living goes. Once oil and nat gas are gone, and we’ve polluted the world with spent nuclear fuel, our water is not fit to drink nor grow crops with, what do you think will be left? Gaia’s cycles will wipe out Western Civilizations attempts to make the world a linear, progressive place.

    1. “we’ve polluted the world with spent nuclear fuel”

      Come on, man. In the last century we had upwards of 500 atmospheric nuclear tests and countless ones underground.

      I’m not saying we should try to fuck things up even more, but you know, have some perspective.

      1. I am sure there is a very accurate count of the underground nuclear tests.

        1. Not the ones where they were digging caves to hide UFOs.

    2. No it can’t.

      Look up “aquiclude” and get back to us.

    3. Re: WTF,

      Fracking is going to be what destroys the US aquifers and has the potential to disturb gelogical faults, (possibly causing earthquakes?)

      What aquifiers?

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/ear…..Bowl.html#

    4. Once oil and nat gas are gone,…what do you think will be left?

      Coal.

      1. Interestingly, there is enough Thorium currently in the mountains of leftover coal ash to power the US for hundreds of years.

  9. The rebirth was stillborn … in the United States. China had octoplets.

    1. Say what you will about the evils of China’s government, they actually WANT to grow their economy and be an economic superpower, unlike the worthless bureaucatic dickheads who run America today.

      1. Nah, they just want to save face.

      2. And it’s an ethos.

  10. copypasta offering to the FSM, so fucking saved right now

    Hey Hit & Run,
    My name is pancakes, and I hate every single one of you. All of you are fat, retarded, no-lifes who deny global warming. You are everything bad in the world. Honestly, have any of you ever gotten any compliments? I mean, I guess it’s fun making fun of people because of your own insecurities, but you all take to a whole new level. This is even worse than jerking off to pictures on facebook.
    Don’t be a stranger. Just hit me with your best shot. I’m pretty much perfect. I was captain of the chess club, and starter on my Model UN team. What activities do you do, other than “jack off to Ayn Rand rape scenes”? I also get straight A’s, and have a banging hot life partner (She just hugged me; Shit was SO cash). You are all selfish Zionists who should just kill yourselves. Thanks for listening.

    1. Not funny in the slightest. You know I’m just going to delete it when you aren’t looking.

    2. needs a Somalia reference

  11. I know of one lefty congressman who supported fracking, so there is hope for some bipartisanship on the issue.

  12. I’m wondering – if it were possible to harness the power of STEVE SMITH’s rapeyness, how many average homes would that power for a year? Free energy!

    1. I’ve always wondered if minge’s hand-wringing could create enough energy to power his microwave and toilet, making him a closed-circuit.

  13. “Bottom line: cheap natural gas will likely outcompete all other energy sources for producing electricity for some time to come.”

    Except coal. Which is fine.

  14. For totally selfish reasons I am hoping Congress doesn’t put a stop to fracking. My wife owns many acres, including the mineral rights, sitting atop the Fayetteville Shale in Arkansas.

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