Gallopingcamel emailed today hoping to draw more attention to the Zero Order Draft of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report and referring to Jeff Id’s post WG1 More Chapters Linked.
[Updated 8th January – see below]
His email explains:
“I downloaded chapter 5 (Paleo) thinking that the rest could wait until more time was available. However the site went dead within a matter of hours.
Government at every level seems to be determined to avoid what Evelyn Waugh describes as “a blaze of unwelcome light”. The higher one goes, the worse it gets. Thus I would like to republish the IPCC ZODs and have created a crude web site for that specific purpose: http://www.gallopingcamel.info/“
A point of interest is that the site went up on December 19 within hours
of the passing of two very influential people: http://www.gallopingcamel.info/Freedom.htm
He thinks the IPCC draft merits more scrutiny. Here’s his comment from Jeff Id’s post:
“I started with the Paleo part and soon found this gem:
“New palaeoclimate information and ice sheet models suggest that the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are highly sensitive to polar warming and CO2 concentrations. Stability thresholds may be close to the present day climate implying potential future irreversible melting.”
It will take me a day or two to understand why they think that CO2 is anything but a minor player for the ~800,000 years covered by the ice sheet records. No mention of the fact that CO2 lags temperature!
Then I decided to see which researchers are cited most. My counting is manual so I hope someone can redo this with an automated counter to get the numbers correct. The low numbers will stand up:
- Lindzen = 0 …….That’s OK as Richard is not into Paleo.
- Baliunas = 0 …….Do they think we have forgotten?
- Soon = 0 …….The IPCC ignores measurements and work confirming Hubert Lamb’s MWP.
- Shariv = 0 …….No need to even mention cosmic rays!
- Kirkby = 0 …….The IPCC scorns hard science. CERN schmern! CO2 rools!
- Loehle = 1 …….Dismissed as a “Low Resolution” study. (Translation “No Dendrochronology”)
- Briffa = 16 …….Trees rool!
- Jones = 19 …….Still a star in spite of some naughtiness.
- Ammann = 52 ……A legend in his own mind.
- Mann = 109 ……The IPCC still loves the Hockey Team! Penn State keep circling the wagons.
The IPCC’s blinkers prevent them from seeing anything but CO2. Pitiful!
The failure to even mention Shariv or Kirkby in the “Paleo” report shows that the IPCC exists in its own “Virtual Reality”.
OK folks here’s the specific link http://www.gallopingcamel.info/IPCC.htm. Time to do some reading.
Update 8th January. Following a request from the IPCC the files have been taken offline temporarily pending further discussion.
I am one of the ‘expert’ reviewers of the draft AR5 and will not therefore comment on specifics. The first thing that struck me upon reading Chapter 13 on sea levels were the number of assumptions, conjectures and surmises. In genera,l the degree of uncertainty in the draft is much greater than in the final version of Ar4, which in turn expressed many more uncertainties than the ‘summary for policymakers.’
Reblogged this on pindanpost.
[Reply – good, spread the word, V.]
Tony, I suspect the draft AR5 will be very thoroughly reviewed this time around by some of the newer reviewers like yourself and Anthony. I think that’s a very welcome development.
I’m afraid Anthony and the others might simply be ignored like some reviewers were the last time around. Their inputs were gradually pared back piece by piece until they were gone. That is the history here. How did McIntyre’s input work out with AR4?
It’s still important. Because when fawning newspapers report, gushing their praise for the IPCC AR5 process, asserting stupidities about ocean heat in the pipeline and such, the real review will take place in the comment sections.
[Reply – Exactly! V]
I don’t believe “uncertainty” is really much of a concern, in fact it gives them lots of room to say it wasn’t going to warm much if things sit at the low end of their range of uncertainty. At the same time, it gives UNFCCC what they need to continue their “process” because scientific uncertainty is not to be a barrier to action under the “Uncertainty Principle” under the Rio Declaration. So by having wide error bars, it allows the scientists to get away if nothing happens yet the UNFCCC can operate on the high side of those error bars for their “process”. Everybody wins. The IPCC can reach consensus that “climate will probably change” with the actual amount of that change having a wide range of uncertainty. At this point I believe it is simply process for the sake of process. There are billions of dollars and thousands of people invested in “the process” and it isn’t going to stop now.
Verity and all,
GallopingCamel includes this statement: “No mention of the fact that CO2 lags temperature!” in his post. I’m familiar with the historical origin of this statement, but am curious as to whether this sequence is necessarily a function of entirely natural processes. Supposing there’s anything to the anthropogenic CO2 contribution idea, might we not be seeing the introduction of a non-natural forcing into the mix which might cause the systems involved to react (sequence) differently? How could you know?
I am not saying that the process is “entirely natural”; humans release many materials into the environment that affect climate. CO2, soot, SO2 and many other materials all have some effect. That said, evidence that man made emissions are somehow dominant is weak. If it were otherwise, the “CAGW Scientists” scientists would be unassailable.
The oceans store more CO2 than the atmosphere does, typically at least 10 times more. When the oceans warm, CO2 becomes less soluble so over time gas will be released to the atmosphere. The CO2 released from a warming ocean will cause even more warming (yes, I do believe that CO2 contributes to reducing radiation from the Earth’s surface). However, ice core measurements show the CO2 concentration lagging temperature by 600 to 800 years. This makes nonsense of the hypothesis that CO2 is the main driver of temperature.
This analysis seems to hold up for the last 800,000 years if you believe the ice core records from the Vostok and EPICA domes. See:
Click to access CO2,Temperaturesandiceages-f.pdf
To my mind things such as CO2, soot, and SO2 are temporary problems. One must first realize that these things are all scrubbed out of the atmosphere rather quickly. SO2 and soot are fairly easily mitigated through the processing of exhaust and the amount of those pollutants emitted per kWh generated will likely fall over time. Additionally SO2 is scrubbed out. Soot is, too, as it falls to the bottom of the ice/sea and keeps carbon sequestered from the atmosphere for thousands of years. That carbon soot is very stable. It won’t react with much of anything.
The important thing to my mind is to look a couple of hundred years into the future. Can we continue increasing the rate at which we are burning carbon fuels for the next 200 years? I don’t believe we can. At some point they get more difficult to find and more expensive to extract and we can not continue increasing production of them. At some point the rate of increase of these pollutants stops and eventually turns downward. What happens to third world countries once we get to the point where carbon fuels are more useful as a raw material for manufacturing things such as paint, plastic, and fertilizer than for fuel? What do they do for energy? Do we end up with ubiquitous nuclear power? Clearly solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal won’t be enough. They aren’t reliable and may have climate/environmental impacts of their own to consider.
The main point, though, is that I see the climate changes introduced by CO2, SO2, and soot as ephemeral problems. They start going away the instant we stop producing so much of them. The real question to my mind is how we actually provide reliable, inexpensive energy once those fuels cost more than the energy they produce is worth.
When the Arctic sea ice melts in the summer, 100% of the soot accumulated is released to the ocean and eventually settles on the bottom (maybe, I don’t know how much might float around for a good while before sinking). The next crop of sea ice is soot-free until it begins to accumulate more which is again released as soon as the ice melts. In other words, it doesn’t accumulate in ephemeral sea ice. In glacial ice it likely works its way deeper and deeper into the ice and accumulates at the front edge of the glacier. Again, it eventually gets scrubbed out, deposited someplace, and that carbon effectively sequestered from the atmosphere. We end up with a global “soot layer” for sediment core samplers to find in the future.
I would expect us to find the biosphere is currently ramping up the removal of CO2. We can see some evidence of that though a linear increase in atmospheric CO2 while our emissions are rising non-linearly. The biosphere would be responding to the increased CO2 (with some lag) and we should see biology pulling more CO2 out today than it did 100 years ago. Bottom line is that I see any climate change we are effecting to be ephemeral and not a permanent change to Earth’s atmosphere and not likely to be harmful (or even noticeable) over the long term (geologically speaking). The record has shown us that spikes in CO2 are removed fairly quickly. Even if we were to dump all of our carbon fuels into the atmosphere in a short period we would see that CO2 begin coming out almost immediately. The only reason we are seeing CO2 rise now is that we are increasing our rate of emissions faster than the biosphere can increase its rate of removing them. In a couple of centuries that will no longer be true. A few centuries after that, CO2 levels would be back to what they would otherwise be. We can’t even delay the onset of a glacial period by more than a few hundred years if we wanted do because we just don’t have enough carbon fuels to do it. At some point CO2 release from acid rain reacting with the limestone in concrete will become a larger producer of CO2 than burning fuels.
So how much are we going to spend? How much are we going to damage the economies of the world to “solve” an ephemeral problem whose impact is probably more favorable than detrimental? Raising the temperature a couple of degrees is probably a good thing. If we went back to Holocene Climate Optimum temperatures, we would see the ITCZ move to higher latitudes, the desert regions of North Africa getting summer rains, Asia Minor getting more rain, India getting more rain. Is that a bad thing? And then when we run out of fossil fuels, the desert will reclaim the Sahara and we will likely begin to slip into the next glacial period.
We can’t *permanently* change the climate, we can only have a temporary impact and the overall impact is, to my mind, positive at that.
j ferguson –
I agree with you. I’ve always felt that the ‘Co2 lags temperature [in the past]’ argument is one of the weakest I’ve ever heard. In fact it isn’t even an argument – it is an irrelevant observation. Except where it is used to rebut the likes of Al Gore who attempt to say that all the temperature changes in the past were caused by Co2 changes. In that case it makes sense, otherwise it doesn’t because it doesn’t speak at all to the radiative properties of Co2 and its potential to increase atmospheric temperatures.
George – you sum it up very well. The ‘anywhere between 1 and 6 degrees [or even a bit more!!]’ is a licence to scare – with a bullet-proof insurance policy. I have to say to myself the real contention is the mean of the ‘best estimates’ of the 5 most realistic scenarios [i.e. ignoring B1] which is 3 degrees by 2100. Then I can respond happily with ‘No it’s won’t’ and get on with my life. Oddly, 3 degrees per century is the FAR prediction of 1990 and that is quietly running at about 100% wrong (100% exaggeration).
Verity and all – a happy interglacial Christmas to everyone! 🙂
Thank you so much for confirming a suspicion. And of course the Gore version is nonsense.
and might I had a Merry Christmas to Verity and clan, and to the frequenters here.
from Washington State
east of the Cascade Crest
Merry Christmas to you all.
I’ve promised my family a blogging-free Christmas. Preparations kept me busy yesterday so comments and replies to this thread (of which I have many) will have to wait a couple of days. They’ll keep.
Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year to Verity and her fans.
Just when I was giving up hope of resurrecting any more of those WG1 files another six were received just in time for Christmas.
Good point about uncertainty. It is ironic that uncertainty, the quantification of which was so criticised and derided, can now become a major plus in keeping the whole AGW industry alive.
Your point sounds just like the IPCC argument for why the process needs to continue 😉
When I think about the many variations in chemistry – factors that contribute to ‘keeping’ CO2 in the ocean or releasing it, it occurs to me that it is very difficult to estimate the release accurately. Small variations in pH, CO2 content, salinity, counter-ions etc. as well as variations in temperature make the calculation of CO2 release from any temperature rise bounded by a large uncertainty also. In fact can anyone point to publications of such calculations and estimates?
Without wishing to resort to fearmongering of ‘running out of things’ I do believe we need to develop renewable sources of energy and materials. The subsidies and incentives offered to current biofuels have only hastended commericialisation of early iterations of technology that are not long-term viable and would not stand commerically on their own. It could be argued that this has accelerated R&D (which it has) but perhaps in a hugely inefficient manner. I’m an optimist. I do believe we’ll look back in 100 years and consider current energy technologies in the same light as we today look back on the age of stream.
I would expect us to find the biosphere is currently ramping up the removal of CO2.
I agree. Again our uncertainty gives room for doom and gloom scenarios.
a licence to scare – with a bullet-proof insurance policy
That’s exactly what it is.
That uncertainty is a major part of the game. It is a key part. If you look at the “Precautionary Principle” it specifically says that a threat to the environment only needs to be plausible and once “consensus” is reached that it is plausible, scientific uncertainty is not to be a barrier to action.
And it reverses the burden of proof. It places anyone who would want to prevent action in the impossible position of having to prove a negative. In order not to take action you have to prove CO2 can NOT change climate or prove that any change in climate would NOT damage the environment. It is a completely Orwellian twist of logic.
So the IPCC can produce a document with wide error bars from “no change” to “we’re all gonna die” which basically means absolutely nothing but gives “the process” what it needs to continue forward. It’s simply insanity. I couldn’t figure out how intelligent people could possibly fall for it until I saw the sums of money involved.
You are right to say that we can’t go on burning fossil fuels. Clearly we are going to run out in a century or three. Furthermore what we call “Fossil Fuels” should mot be burned to produce heat; they have much better uses than that.
For many years I worked on fusion power until it became obvious that it was the “Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow”. Is it 40 years in the future or 400?
You are also right about the so called “Renewables”. None of them is scalable to the point that they could replace even our existing coal burning power stations.
There is a solution that will support our energy needs in the long term by which I mean at least 10.000 years. I refer to fission power given that we already have several technologies to choose from, many of which have been proven over decades. Some people fear rising CO2 levels (I welcome them), so they should love the fact that every GW of nuclear power implies a 3,000,000 tonne/year reduction in carbon emissions (11,000,000 tonnes/year of CO2).
If you are interested in the long term here are a couple of links you may enjoy:
We don’t even need thorium reactors. We have technology right now that is much safer than the 1960’s-1970’s technology of most power plants operating today. We also have the technology to eliminate the spent fuel issue. China is basically developing what was the US plan. Bill Gates is helping them develop fast neutron reactors to recycle “spent” fuel rods. Again, I urge everyone on the planet to read “Smarter Use of Nuclear Waste” from the December 2005 issue of Scientific American and to investigate such plants as the Westinghouse AP1000 and GE ESBWR. These plants do not require any external power or pumps to dump decay heat after a shutdown. We can recycle the fuel rods. Heck, we can convert depleted uranium to fuel.
We do not need to spend billions of dollars developing new technologies, we simply need to utilize the technologies we already have at hand right now. Our nuclear policy is quite stupid.
In fact, if you build a combined fuel cycle facility with two or more modern conventional plants and a reprocessing facility on the same site, you no longer need to move highly radioactive material around. After the initial fuel load, you move nothing but natural uranium 238 around and possibly some waste that decays to background in only a few hundred years rather than thousands or tens of thousands of years. The waste produced is only 10% of the waste of today’s process and it decays in short enough time that we can use more conventional construction to sequester it from the environment. We know how to build a building that will last 300 years as we have some standing today.
Hope you’ve all had a good time during the festive season and all enjoy the New Years’ celebrations.
gc and george,
As you may already know, I’m an ex-reactor physicist and nuclear plant designer and have been involved in most aspects of the nuclear industry including decomissioning and waste management. My personal feeling is that it’s about time that our politicians made a full, frank and honest committment to civil nuclear power. Sadly we are still stuck with the nuclear industry continuing to be associated with the nuclear weopons programme.
IMO the first thing we need to do is be honest and fess up to what has gone on in the past, admit that we based our original nuclear plants on a fuel cycle and power generating technology that was designed to enrich uranium and ‘breed’ plutonium for the nuclear weopons programme. A lot of water has passed under the proverbial bridge since then and the world has changed dramatically both economically and politically since then and it really is time to now ‘move on’ and re-engineer the whole nuclear industry so that it now fits is future purpose which is to play a key part in guaranteeing future energy supplies. Key to this is ensuring that futur enuclear technology is made available to all nations and not just to a chosen few i.e. its very important that the whole nuclear proliferation issue is dealt with head on.
IMO the Thorium fuel cycle (and to a lesser extent technologies like fast neutron reactors) is crucial to this whole process but we all need to understand that it is not a panacea and somehow we must get from where we are today nuclear industry wise to where we need to be in the longer term future. Because of what has gone on in the past this transition isn’t going to be easy. My personal feeling on fusion power. particular that based on tokamak technology is that it is, for this century at least, a complete and unnecessary distraction. I’m over 50 now and was told when I first visited JET at Culham when I joined the UK nuclear industry shortly after graduating that fusion power was only 10 years away. 30 years later its still supposed only 10 years away provided we spend more billions on it. In many ways optimisim and the over-hyping of the potential for fusion power is very mcuh like the pessimism/alarmism and over-hyping of man’s contribution to climate chnage. The tipping point will always be 10 years away and probably will never in reality ever be reached.
I often wonder whether or not the ‘powers that be’ know this and have another agenda (insert your favourite conspiracy theory here e.g. Agenda 21 etc) which is why we are currently in the situation we are in i.e. wasting valuable resources on dead end techologies like wind and solar PV generation. My personal feeling is that those who are currently in power don’t want a situation to develop in which their power and control is significantly reduced. Cheap and plentiful energy that is not under their control is the last thing that they want and so they have created and funded this whole environmental lobbying industry so that they can continue to stay in control using the justification (and IMO wholely manufactured perceived threat) that we must ‘act now’ in order to ‘save the planet’ from us humans.
Quick quiz question! Besides climate change what other subject links John Beddington. David Palmer and Steve McIntyre? If you are reading this Steve you are not allowed to answer.
I think you can take a lot of the fear out of the plutonium fuel cycle if you “poison” the fuel with P240 which is practically impossible to separate from P239 and which you don’t want anywhere near a weapon. P240 undergoes spontaneous fission which is not exactly something you would want in that application but is quite useful for reactor fuel. A combined cycle plant would not require the plutonium to ever be removed from the site so it makes security issues less of a problem. But more importantly, the reason why Carter decided to change from reprocessing to burial is now moot. We didn’t want to set an “example” for the rest of the world by creating plutonium for reactor fuel but the world has gone ahead and done it anyway. France reprocesses their fuel, so does Japan, China is going that route. India has a fast neutron breeder program. We are about the only major nuclear power that ISN’T reprocessing the fuel. Our policy, while good-intentioned at the time, has now been surpassed by events. Now it is stupid in the context of what is going on in the rest of the world.
One of the benefits of the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) is that it produces very little Plutonium and that the main isotope is Pu238. The world has essentially run out of Pu238 which is a darned shame for those of us who are interested in the outer planets.
Simply put….there is no substitute for Pu238!
It is too late for the US to get into wet reprocessing but if we ever start building power reactors again you can bet that pyro-processing will have a place here. There will also be “Burners” using today’s waste as tomorrow’s fuel.
The pyro processing is what I am referring to. Please see the link I posted below in response to KevinUK. We are building power reactors here. The Westinghouse AP1000 was approved for building just before Christmas and two plants in Georgia (USA) have already started construction.
Also, there are a couple of plants where construction was halted after the TMI incident that are now in the process of being completed and a couple of plants that were licensed but never built are now under construction. There are currently about 6 nuclear plants in the US in various phases of construction / completion / reactivation.
E.G. Bellefonte 1 ( http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN_Decision_to_build_Bellefonte_1_1908111.html ) and Watts Bar 2 ( http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/newsarticle.aspx?id=14228&LangType=2057 )
16 licenses to build 24 plants have been issued since 2007:
Eesh, my comment fell into the moderation bucket, probably because it had too many links. I am guessing it will be addressed when it is convenient.
Bottom line was there are currently 16 license applications to build 24 plants in the US.
I need to check but I’m sure the AP1000 design post dates TMI so it’s very unlikley that a previously mothballed construction project could be started up and retro-fitted with the new AP1000 design. At least not unless all they’d done is poured some concrete for the foundations. So I presume the two plants you mention are AP1000s and are two out of the 6 you mention but the others are of earlier designs.
One of the problems that has always hindered the civil nuclear programme in the Uk is that we’ve tended to keep significantly changing the design of the reactors we build. In the Uk we started with gas-cooled Magnox reactors, then moved on to Advanced Gas-Cooled Reactors (AGR) then a single Pressuried Water Reactor (PWR). In between we seriously and almost opted for Steam Generating Heavy Water Reactors (SGHWR). Even when we built the AGRs we still insisted on building different designs so we have ‘pairs’ of AGR stations like Hinkley Point B/Hunterston B, Heysham I/Hartlepool and Heysham II/Torness.
Thankfully now that UKAEA (an R&D organisation) no longer rules the roost as it did pre-privatisation of the UK electricity supply industry (ESI), we have finally decided to use other people’s nuclear technology rather than insist on developing our own.
Kevin, I didn’t mean to imply that previously started AP1000 plants are being completed, sorry. What I meant was:
1. Previously started plants are being completed.
2. AP1000 has recently been approved for construction. This is a rather exciting event in that field because the AP1000 is a new sort of plant that uses passive safety measures that don’t require human intervention to activate and can’t be accidentally turned off as happened at TMI.
Based on you last comment I now know that you are from the US nuclear industry and most likely have been previously involved in the fuel processing sector?
In your opinion Why do you think the ‘rest of the world’ has opted to reprocess their spent fuel in order to extract its plutonium? Why not instead if you want weopons grade fissile material opt for building a gaseous centrifuge plant instead as that would be much cheaper?
Oh sorry, I’ve just answered the question I’ve just asked for you. Sadly its going to take a lot of effort to divorce the civil nuclear power generation industry from the nuclear weopons industry.
I often wonder what would have happened if the US had not decided to drop the ‘atomic bombs’ on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in order to shorten the Second World War? If we hadn’t have had the Manhatten project would it have made much difference to the outcome of the Second World War?
How much longer would it have lasted if the US had decided to drop only one of the two bombs rather than both in relatively quick sucession? It seems pretty illogical now reflecting on what went on in the past i.e. that we could reach a situation where we had an arms race that ultimately could have led to possible ‘mutually assured destruction’ but the fact is we did. Why did we?
Was western democracy under that much threat and communism so evil that we really had to contemplate the possibility of killing so many people?
Ironic really given the fact that we were prepared to consider doing that because defending democracy was so important yet we are currently contemplating replacing democracy with a new world order on the basis of a trace gas that is essential to all life on our planet?
No, I have never worked in the nuclear industry in my life. I have had friends that have and I have read extensively on the subject as it interests me.
I don’t believe they are doing it “in order to extract plutonium”. At least not plutonium for weapons. Here’s the thing: Uranium reactor fuel is U-235. There isn’t much of that found in nature. In order to get enough of it to make reactor fuel, you must enrich it. What happens in a reactor is that when U-235 fissions and releases neutrons, some of those neutrons are absorbed by the natural U-238 and when they absorb this neutron they become P-239. So as a fuel rod “burns” over time, the U-238 is being converted to P-239. By the time a reactor fuel rod is declared to be “spent”, nearly all of the energy being produced is by P-239 fission as the U-238 has been converted to P-239 through transmutation by absorbing a neutron.
When a “spent” fuel rod is pulled out, there are a lot of decay products in that rod. Only about 5% of the potential energy has been used but a buildup of various decay products in that rod make it unsuitable for continued use as fuel. You can think of it as being contaminated with nuclear “ash”. This fuel rod can be re-processed and those impurities removed and the remaining material re-used for fuel again. Countries that have no indigenous supply of uranium favor this route because it allows their fuel supply to last much longer … many, many times longer, and it eliminates the problem of having to store nuclear waste for tens of thousands of years. Much of this “nuclear ash” has a rather short half-life and will decay to background levels of radiation much quicker than plutonium will in a “spent” fuel rod.
It is a matter of economy and not having a nuclear waste problem. Also, this reprocessing also contaminates P-239 with P-240 which makes the plutonium impossible to use for a weapon. P-240 is nearly impossible to separate from P-239 and it undergoes spontaneous fission. You do not want something that undergoes spontaneous fission anywhere near a weapon.
By building fast-neutron reactors and the reprocessing facility on the same site as the power plant, you never again need to move highly enriched nuclear fuel around after the initial fuel load. If you need more fuel, you bring in natural uranium or even “depleted uranium”, expose it to the fast neutrons in the breeder, and it becomes P-239 that you then use for fuel.
But even better, you can also use that fast neutron reactor to mutate other atomic species to those with a shorter half-life. So if you have some medical waste with a 10,000 year half life, you might be able to process that into something with a 100 year half-life. That is much easier to sequester.
Please read this, it explains it much better than I can. It is six pages and worth your time. Everyone should read this:
“I don’t believe they are doing it “in order to extract plutonium”. At least not plutonium for weapons. Here’s the thing: Uranium reactor fuel is U-235. There isn’t much of that found in nature. In order to get enough of it to make reactor fuel, you must enrich it. What happens in a reactor is that when U-235 fissions and releases neutrons, some of those neutrons are absorbed by the natural U-238 and when they absorb this neutron they become P-239. So as a fuel rod “burns” over time, the U-238 is being converted to P-239. By the time a reactor fuel rod is declared to be “spent”, nearly all of the energy being produced is by P-239 fission as the U-238 has been converted to P-239 through transmutation by absorbing a neutron.”
‘When a “spent” fuel rod is pulled out, there are a lot of decay products in that rod. Only about 5% of the potential energy has been used but a buildup of various decay products in that rod make it unsuitable for continued use as fuel. You can think of it as being contaminated with nuclear “ash”. This fuel rod can be re-processed and those impurities removed and the remaining material re-used for fuel again. Countries that have no indigenous supply of uranium favor this route because it allows their fuel supply to last much longer … many, many times longer, and it eliminates the problem of having to store nuclear waste for tens of thousands of years. Much of this “nuclear ash” has a rather short half-life and will decay to background levels of radiation much quicker than plutonium will in a “spent” fuel rod.’
Much of what you’ve written is accurate and is useful for anyone reading your comment here. However some of it is somewhat inaccurate and possibly misleading.
The primary reason my spent nclear fuel is reprocessed in the UK is to recover the Plutonium 239. Now that some year ago we decided to scrap the possibility of building a Commercial Demonstartion Fast Reactor (CDFR) it no longer makes sense to reprocess most of our spent UK nuclear fuel.
We continue to do so largely because we have to reprocessing our spent Magnox fuel and because we’ve already built our Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP) at Sellafield and politically it doesn’t look too good if the only spent oxide fuel we end up reprocessing is oxide fuel from non-UK (particularly Japanese) foreign reactors.
The Plutonium 239 we recover is given a ‘fuel credit’ on the basis that at some future date it could be fabricated into mixed oxide fuel (MOX) and ‘burnt’ in a future Fast (neutron) Reactor or Thermal (neutron) Reactor that works on MOX fuel cycle.
I can personally assure you that it is the ‘worst kept secret’ in the world that he early Magnox nuclear plants we built and operated in the UK were operated in such a way as to optimise Pu-239 production. The Pu-239 extracted from reprocessing the spent fuel from these reactors has been diverted to the UK military nuclear programme (for weopons and nuclear submarine propulsion).
I can also tell you that the worst nuclear accident in UK history , the Windscale Pile 1 fire of October 1957 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windscale_fire) was directly caused by a decision on Harold MacMillan’s part to accelerate breeding of Tritium (from Lithium) in the Windscale Piles for the ‘megaton Hydrogen bomb’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Macmillan).
In the past the UK civil and military nuclear programmes have been undeniably linked, and the sooner this fact is acknowledged and ‘fessed up to’ by our UK politicians and assurances are given that the two never will be again in future, then perhaps we may even gain acceptance of civil nuclear power within the UK even by the ‘Greens’. If not then IMO we never will.
I’m an ex-UKAEA employee and have worked at many different UK nuclear sites includng right next to Windscale Pile 1 at sellafield.
‘By the time a reactor fuel rod is declared to be “spent”, nearly all of the energy being produced is by P-239 fission as the U-238 has been converted to P-239 through transmutation by absorbing a neutron.’
This statement is not quite fully accurate so may a point you to this link – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plutonium-239. The U-238 is capable of ‘capturing’ a relatively low energy ‘thermalised’ neutron in order to create U-239 which then under goes a quick beta decay to form Np-239 which emits a further beta particle (and neutrino) to form the very stable isotope Pu-239 (half life of 24,200 years).
From that Wikipedia article
‘Fission activity is relatively rare, so even after significant exposure, the Pu-239 is still mixed with a great deal of U-238 (and possibly other isotopes of uranium), oxygen, other components of the original material, and fission products. Only if the fuel has been exposed for a few days in the reactor, can the Pu-239 be chemically separated from the rest of the material to yield high-purity Pu-239 metal.
Pu-239 has a higher probability for fission than U-235 and a larger number of neutrons produced per fission event, so it has a smaller critical mass. Pure Pu-239 also has a reasonably low rate of neutron emission due to spontaneous fission (10 fission/s-kg), making it feasible to assemble a mass that is highly supercritical before a detonation chain reaction begins.
In practice, however, reactor-bred plutonium produced will invariably contain a certain amount of Pu-240 due to the tendency of Pu-239 to absorb an additional neutron during production. Pu-240 has a high rate of spontaneous fission events (415,000 fission/s-kg), making it an undesirable contaminant. As a result, plutonium containing a significant fraction of Pu-240 is not well-suited to use in nuclear weapons; it emits neutron radiation, making handling more difficult, and its presence can lead to a “fizzle” in which a small explosion occurs, destroying the weapon but not causing fission of a significant fraction of the fuel. (However, in modern nuclear weapons using neutron generators for initiation and fusion boosting to supply extra neutrons, fizzling may not be an issue.) It is because of this limitation that plutonium-based weapons must be implosion-type, rather than gun-type. (The US has constructed a single experimental bomb using only reactor-grade plutonium.) Moreover, Pu-239 and Pu-240 cannot be chemically distinguished, so expensive and difficult isotope separation would be necessary to separate them. Weapons-grade plutonium is defined as containing no more than 7% Pu-240; this is achieved by only exposing U-238 to neutron sources for short periods of time to minimize the Pu-240 produced. Pu-240 exposed to alpha particles will incite a nuclear fission.’
So in other words, if you want good bomb grade Pu-239 , having first ‘bred’ it you don’t leave it in the reactor for too long but instead take it out. The longer you leave it in the reactor the more likley it will become contaminated with Pu-240 which will so degrade it’s explosive potential as well as making the process of assembling your plutomium bomb more hazardous.
Now I have a question for you George. If you want to separate out military plutonium production from civil production and decide that you don’t want to reprocess spent fuel from civil thermal oxide fuel cycle based nuclear reactors but go for direct disposal of the spent oxide fuel instead, how could you continue to produce high grade weopons material, if you wanted to continue to make good bombs or for that matter wanted a nuclear bomb without a civil nuclear power programme?
“The primary reason my spent nclear fuel is reprocessed in the UK is to recover the Plutonium 239. Now that some year ago we decided to scrap the possibility of building a Commercial Demonstartion Fast Reactor (CDFR) it no longer makes sense to reprocess most of our spent UK nuclear fuel.”
Correct. Jimmy Carter talked the UK into going along with us and not reprocessing fuel in order to “set an example”. In the meantime, France decided to continue with the original plan. And yes, P-239 can be extracted, as you say, if you don’t leave the fuel in the reactor too long. My point is that the process can be done so that it intentionally creates P-240 making the resulting plutonium “poison” for a weapons use.
Now that said, at this point the US and the UK are the only ones NOT reprocessing spent fuel so Carter’s fantasy world never came to pass anyway. His vision was that if we didn’t recycle fuel, we could convince others not to, as well. That didn’t work out that way. The point I am making is that if you are going to recycle fuel, which makes a lot of sense and avoids the need for sequestering fuel for tens of thousands of years, then it can be done in a way that reduces weapons proliferation problems.
‘Correct. Jimmy Carter talked the UK into going along with us and not reprocessing fuel in order to “set an example”. ‘
‘Now that said, at this point the US and the UK are the only ones NOT reprocessing spent fuel so Carter’s fantasy world never came to pass anyway.’
Neither of those two statements is true as i explaine din my last reply.
In the UK we continue to reporcess spent fuel from our Magnox reactors because direct spent fuel disposal is not an option (because of the chemical activity of the magnesium/aluminium alloy that clads the uranium fule rods in Magnox fuel).
We continue to try to (and certainly intend to eventually) reprocess the bulk of the spent fuel from our AGRs, largely IMO for political rather than technical reasons and becaus eatthis stage we don’t have a viable direct spent fuel disposal option.
THORP (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_Oxide_Reprocessing_Plant) has been a complete and utter mess more or less since it started up in 1997. It has since suffered a number of process plant equipment failures one of which involved an (undetected until 2005) 85 cubic metre leak of highly active nitric acid solution containing 20 tons of uranium and 160 kgs of plutomium into the plant’s secondary containment vessel. This leak had gone undetected from July 2004 or April 2005 i.e for at least 9 months. Quite frankly what a f***ing mess!
It gets worse! Since then (http://www.yourindustrynews.com/thorp+nuclear+plant+may+close+for+years_32737.html) we’ve had a series of further plant failures which have threatened to lead to the complete closure of the entire plant.
‘Construction of Thorp began in the 1970s and was completed in 1994. The £1.8bn plant went into operation in 1997 with the assurance from its then owners, British Nuclear Fuels Ltd, that it would reprocess 7,000 tonnes of spent fuel in its first 10 years of operation, two-thirds of the business coming from abroad..
To date, Thorp has completed about 6,000 tonnes of its initial order book and is now, largely as a result of the broken evaporators, limited to processing 200 tonnes a year – about a sixth of its original design capacity.
And the latest news (http://www.in-cumbria.com/no-major-job-losses-when-sellafield-thorp-plant-closes-say-bosses-1.901558?referrerPath=kendal) is that the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) who are now responsible for managingthe operation of THORP through Sellafiled Ltd,
‘there was no “viable market” for the Thorp oxide fuel reprocessing plant beyond 2018.’
So here we are and the UK NDA are effectively announcing an end to revenue generating fuel reprocessing in the UK and re-deployment of thos eworking involved on non-revenue generating ‘clean up’ activities. If this isn’t a great example of what John Brignell at Numberwatch calls ‘taking in each others washing’ I don’t know what is.
The UK nuclear industry is in a complete mess. While it is how on earth can we any confidence in its future and so expect the UK taxpayer to fund a new programme of nuclear power generation when we haven’t even dealt properly with the liabilities of the last one?
Just exactly what is the UK economy going to get out of a re-surgence in nuclear power in the UK? What much needed foreign revenue is this going to bring into the UK economy? What technologies and services are we going to be able to sell to international markets as a result? From what I can see not a lot, compared to say shale gas exploration and production. With shale gas, at least we’d be able to export any spare shale gas we find in the form of liquified shale gas instead of having to import it from Qatar, the US etc.
“In the UK we continue to reporcess spent fuel from our Magnox reactors because direct spent fuel disposal is not an option (because of the chemical activity of the magnesium/aluminium alloy that clads the uranium fule rods in Magnox fuel).”
It is my understanding that the final delivery of Magnox fuel has been made and there will be no more. It’s done. From this point on, the UK buries all of its “spent” fuel or sends it to France for reprocessing. The UK has no indigenous capability for reprocessing “conventional” fuel and will therefore be forced to waste quite a bit of potential fuel in order to be politically correct.
My impression from reading this is that Magnox is done:
See the NIPCC Reports for science ignored.
No papers by Don Easterbrook or Timothy Patterson in
Chapter 5: Information from Paleoclimate Archives.
<a href=http://www.elsevierdirect.com/ISBN/9780123859563 Ch. 14 p 335, Dr. Donald Easterbrook, ed. (Elsevier, 2011) (http://www.elsevierdirect.com/ISBN/9780123859563/EvidenceBased-Climate-Science).
I just watched Tim Patterson (and Ross McKittrick, Ian Clark and Jan Vizier) presenting to the Canadian Senate Energy and Environment Committee and was struck by the clarity of his description of the science. All the presentations were excellent.
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Good to hear from you, the person I hold most responsible for getting me into this!
I hope you will agree to join a team of reviewers to work on the AR5 documentation. If I thought it would do any good I would resort to flattery. We need you!
My little project has encountered its first obstacle. Predictably the IPCC sent a “Cease & Desist” message. Just click on “IPCC Email” on this URL:
Just read the ‘IPCC email’. Its not from a lawyer so treat it like the spam it is.
I’m more than happy to join any team that shows what a shower of (insert appropriate expletive here) the IPCC are. If AR5 was a nuckear reactor design/safety case report I’d have well and truly have torn it to shreds by now so I’m more than happy to make what ever contribution I can to show how biassed the AR5 will be. Personally I don’t think it’ll matter much anyway as the game is well and truly up for them.
All the BBC and Guardian bias can’t change the world’s climate and that in the final analysis is the only thing that counts. The world is going to continue to cool over this decade and most likely the next as well and the IPCC can come up with as many fairy stories as they like. People know that CAGW is a scam. They’ve had enough of paying being taxed for no reason. As we say in the UK, they are ‘skint’ they don’t have any more spare cash to waste on useless enterprises like subsidising renewable energy schemes.
Right on the money as usual.
The IPCC’s cause is lost but in some ways that makes them more dangerous. Take a look at this post by Jo Nova:
One has to marvel at the testicular fortitude of Tim Ball and John O’Sullivan. They are an example to us all; there has to be some way to help them.
As a physicist and engineer your contribution will be especially valuable. When mistakes cost lives and money one cannot afford sloppy thinking. My public email address is email@example.com
Thanks for the emails and comments. I have started to look although it will be slow for a while as I’m helping a few people with other projects already.
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