The ASPO Conference - Second Morning

Lord Ron Oxburgh, former non-executive chairman, Shell UK; chairman, House of Lords select committee on science and technology; honorary professor, Cambridge University

The morning began with a Keynote address by Lord Oxburgh former non-executive chairman of Shell, who spoke on “Out of Oil, into Hot Water.” He began by noting the economic difficulties that are coming as demand continues to exceed supply. We are not, after all, making oil any more. (Ed comment – well let’s not forget biofuels – and it turned out he did not). Because these problems will arise around the time of peaking they will likely be precursors to it, and these economic consequences will come sooner than expected.

The problems, however, are not that we are running out of oil, rather it is that we are running out of cheap oil. When oil fields are abandoned there may be 60% of the original oil (OOIP) that is left in the rock. At present this is just too expensive to extract, but it leaves us with a problem since most transportation requires a liquid fuel. To work effectively the vehicle must have a small, relatively light engine, together with a storage reservoir full of fuel, that must in turn, be as light, yet energy dense, as possible. The Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) has filled that need for the past century or so. The fuels that power it are among the most energy dense of those commonly available. That alone, however, is not the problem.

The problem arises as populations grow, and expect to achieve the standards of more developed countries, with free access to cars and transportation. This has led to a growing fleet of vehicles to meet that need, and in contrast to the Hirsch Report (pdf) he felt that it would likely take over 40 years to change to an alternate method of propulsion. In this change oil prices above $70/bbl changes the paradigm. We have reached the end of an era, and need to start to change Now!

The challenge is so urgent that all potential alternates should be explored, including those that will not be considered appropriate for the long term. We need the breathing space, and thus should establish more nuclear and coal-fired power stations. But while this may solve some issues it does not really address vehicles and their need for liquids. To meet this need there should be two strategies, the first to find alternate sources of liquid fuel, and the second to find an alternative to the ICE. There is, however, no substitute for ICE on a plane, and for now that will remain a problem.

By gasifying coal, processing natural gas, or gasifying biomass we can sequentially process these into a liquid fuel to meet the need. However if this were done on a global scale the Greehouse gasses (GHG) produced by the first two would be at a disastrous level. Biomass, however, provides three routes to a fuel, gasification, crushing the seeds, and fermentation. However, if food sources are used, then this will lead to issues and conflict. It is better to use land that is not currently used for food. He showed a chart that broke land use down so that there are 42 million sq km of forest; 45 mill of deserts, crops occupy 16 million km and savannah 23 million sq km. To meet needs we would have to take a third of the cropland for ethanol, and a third for biodiesel, and this is not acceptable. We must, therefore look to crops that are not a threat to food production. He mentioned corn residue, elephant grass and Jatropha curcus as potential fuel stock, noting the benefits of cellulosic ethanol (Shell is partnered with Iogen in Canada to exploit this opportunity). Jatropha yields a seed that can be processed to yield oil, and again Lord Oxburgh is associated with D1 Oils in establishing plantations for the jatropha as a collaborative venture with BP.

However he felt that the largest untapped source was in urban waste noting that the waste in the US if tapped (by burning largely) could generate equivalent power to that needed to power the US fleet of vehicles. (Ed note Cork has a waste processing plant in town that produces energy that the town uses).

Changing the ICE has many potential benefits. Electric cars do not have to cost $100,000 . He showed a slide of the UK version, it is a mere $300,000 but has the advantage that the battery can be recharged in 10 minutes and so, with an initial range of 200 miles, it has some advantages over its American cousin.

He did not think much of the economics of using hydrogen as a fuel source for a car. However he did think that making vehicles much lighter, such as the Loremo diesel that is being introduced in Europe in 2009, may be the way to go. Fueled by biodiesel which, if produced responsibly, can cost $90 - $100/bbl it provides, an apparent alternative that gets high mileage.

In regard to existing fossil fuels, they will be used, since we need that breathing space, and for China and India it is the only large fuel stock that they currently have. However this will include carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) with costs going up 30% for the capture, and 10% for transportation. With such costs the process will only be used under government pressure.

Closing with the reminder that we will need every source that we can get, and that while it will take decades to reach optimal solutions we don’t have that time, but must make do expeditiously with what we have.

The first panel then begain to assemble, but the delegate from Cuba Dr Alfredo Curbelo could not make it, so the session chair Jeremy Leggett took the time to discourse on Climate Change. He pointed out the magazines that had put it on their front cover, including Vanity Fair, and noted that Peak Oil had not been so successful in getting the public attention. Nor perhaps the private support, since the IEA target of producing 116 mbdoe by 2030 requires an investment of $4 trillion, and that is not a done deal. And in the meantime it remains a controversial subject, given, for example the Exxon Mobil messages about there being no problem.

Accepting that the world does not need to see a temperature rise of more than 2deg C, since this would exacerbate current droughts and floods, we need to consider the implications for fossil fuel use – how much can we burn? But the current concentrations will take us over a 1deg C rise and there are other gases that contribute, so that the CO2 limit is going to be 400 ppm. Yet, if we are to run out of oil so quickly, will this be the problem that it is made out to be? If we are to address both issues we need to bring them together, and if we are to get the message out then we have to do this through local contacts and pro-active organizations.

Michael Dittmar then talked about Nuclear Energy and some of the issues that face that industry. There are currently some 439 plants, producing 371 GWe and in 2005 this was 15% of the world electric power generation. There are currently 30 reactors under construction. The age of the reactors, however, means that soon some of this fleet must be closed down which will lead for the need for some form of action.

Breeder reactors, that were once held to be very promising, have not proven as successful as hoped. He had tried but was unable to find how long it took to double the fuel elements concerned, and there Is only one breeder operating, with two under construction. Ho noted documentation that said that the (current) world uranium reserve will be gone in the time range between 2030 and 2040, meaning that we must anticipate developing “speculative” resources. A 7 GWe reactor needs 180 tons of uranium/year. And the 371 GWe production from 439 reactors adds up to a need for 67,000 ton/year. With a 1 – 2% growth for 20 years, this will lead to a need for between 51 and 130,000 tons of uranium. The reserve is thus going to run out in less than 50 years. In egard to those who say that uranium can be recovered from seawater, he noted that:
A reactor uses 6 gm/sec which, at seawater concentrations will require processing 10,000 cu m/sec of water. To put that in context the Rhine river flows at 2,000 cu m/sec.

He noted the flooding of the Cigar Lake mine and subsequent setbacks which was supposed to re-open in 2008 has led to the mine being set back to possibly 2011 , with the likelihood that this will lead to international shortages of fuel.

In looking at fusion, the current goal is to get to a prototype reactor by 2060, however this requires 56 kg of tritium/year. However, at best, the world supply of tritium in 2027 is expected to be 30 kg. This, and similar problems, leads him to state that “commercial nuclear fusion energy will always be 50 years away.”

We then took a break and came back to hear TOD’s own Nate Hagens discuss how we got to where we are, through brina development, survival of the fittest, and, with the use of audiovisual examples, showed the primitive that still resides in us all. It was one of those talks that are better experienced than read (and ASPO will have the DVD out in about two weeks). His theme was sufficiently well expressed that it was quoted extensively by speakers through the rest of the conference. He noted, however that breeding for select attributes does not necessarily guarantee survival – using the example of the Irish Elk . Now extinct, the antlers were used in sexual selection, with the largest racks getting to mate. This did not select for other survival skills, particularly those of changing conditions.

Thus it is not always the evident conditions that can be assumed to be optimum. Providing solar power for buildings is an example. The current trend is to retrofit solar to existing buildings, but, by adjusting the power density of new construction and the solar panel space available, a more conformable balance can be achieved, and Germany is moving toward this model. Yet in fuel source selection it must be remembered that there are not only direct costs (fuel costs to run the tractor for eg) but also indirect costs (say the power cost to build the tractor, or the refinery) and also the environmental costs that must also be factored in. And as time goes on the Energy return on investment (EROI) will decline. For example in oil production an original return of 100:1 may move to 30:1 and then 10:1, and in biofuel generation the energy costs of the water, which may flow at 1,000 times the volume of biofuel finally generated, can not only pose costs but also show stoppers, should the plant be located in a drought zone.

In selection of the best option there is a term called the discount rate of values and Nate illustrated this, and how choices can be modified by external stimuli. This relates to the degree of foresight involved in making a selection or choice. The historic trend has been for us to select for immediate solution/gratification. One of the problems is that this leads to what (and here he quoted Dr Schlesinger) are the two prevailing stages of attitudes toward Peak Oil – complacency and panic.

The first three speakers were then joined by Matt Dempsey of the Irish Farmers Journal, Mary Graham who works in the reality of helping communities in Africa (after the celebrities go home), Philip Walton who spoke to nuclear issues, (and had some significant disagreement with Michael Dittmar, to the point that Chairman Leggett stopped taking questions (or comments) on the subject after some heated words with audience participation), and Gerard O’Neill .

The discussion had by now begun to focus more on Ireland, and it was clear that the speakers thought that Ireland was in trouble. At the end of a long gas line from Russia, they must import almost all their fuel, 70% of it along this pipe, And so they have set a goal of 33% from renewable energy. Because of the problems with the intermittent nature of wind, it was suggested that the turbines would only yield 25% of faceplate power. This led into the debate about nuclear power, with emotional and rational points being brought forward.

There is a sense that folk are becoming divorced from the dirty reality of life. That jobs, such as pig farming can be exported so that no-one need get dirty. But this departure takes with it an understanding of the reality of production, and without that understanding sound judgments become more difficult. Further culture must be considered, the outsider coming in and making recommendations, or installing systems, may do so with disregard for the culture and mores of those who need to be helped. That may lead to many problems and ineffective efforts. Further solutions may need to be at a greater level than just that for Ireland, yet the people aspects are an equivalent part of this equation, whether in Mali or Mayo.

The session then broke for a lunch of Irish stew.

To be continued . . . .(And Chris Skrebowski noted in the afternoon that for those of us who write these things after midnight – we get to blame Colin Campbell (grin) – hoping the links work ‘cos they do at this end.

Was there much discussion about Jeff Rubin's comments about declining oil exports?

Go Nate!,

He and I talk from time to-time, but those opinions and points of agreement are privately kept...

I wish I were there.

Storage for Wind and Solar is coming along. Vanadium Redox batteries have low charge per cubic centimeter, but a huge warehouse filled with them is no big deal out in the boonies where the wind farm might be...

If the kind of money that is being dumped into nuclear plants were diverted to solar/wind farms with these giant batteries, we wouldn't need the nukes as much for now, and even less in the future.

Stuart Studebaker

Toronto, ON

While I am probably not as optimistic as Mr. James about the uses of PRT, I certainly want to see investment and exploration of the possibilities. I think the airport and college campus applications are most likely to be early successes. With further development, feeder systems to other transit modes may replace buses in some areas. So far, ULTRA crew seems to be doing some things right and have production vehicles and testing ongoing with an operational system beginning next year. Ultra's low speed is at least competitive with buses and light rail which average under 25 mph.

What remains to be seen is whether the touted benefits actually accrue: lower operational and capital costs, decreased energy usage and pollution, increased service and decreased wait and travel times.

"Lord Ron Oxburgh, former non-executive chairman, Shell UK; chairman, House of Lords select committee on science and technology; honorary professor, Cambridge University"

Impressive title to be sure. His remarks, as reported here, however, must be said to leave much to be desired. A quick look:
"The problem arises as populations grow, and expect to achieve the standards of more developed countries, with free access to cars and transportation."

Have any of you ever been given "free" access to cars and transportation? O.K., since your college days, when for some of you, Dad sprang for the wheels? Talk about starting from a broken premise and working your way outward!

The follow on sentence is given with no proof, and is so astounding that the need for proof should be considered ABSOLUTE:

"This has led to a growing fleet of vehicles to meet that need, and in contrast to the Hirsch Report (pdf) he felt that it would likely take over 40 years to change to an alternate method of propulsion."

(!!!!!) I ask, no, this time I BEG any thinking person to consider that statement for a few moments, please. In a 40 year window, the U.S. electrified the countryside, built the interstate highway system, changed from steam trains to Diesel on the rail, changed from prop planes to jets in the air, built the U.S. nuclear power industry, and completely built the television industry. The U.S. did not do any one of the above in 40 years, they did ALL OF THE ABOVE IN THE SAME 40 YEARS (roughly 1938 to 1978), oh, and in our spare time won a world war went to the moon!

If Lord Oxburgh were a 20 year old, I could understand him not knowing the above, but given the face I see in the photo shown, Lord Oxburgh was alive to see most of what I have just described. His 40 conjecture, without ironclad proof, is to be considered completely nonsensical on the face of it.

But he soldiars on....
"By gasifying coal, processing natural gas, or gasifying biomass we can sequentially process these into a liquid fuel to meet the need. However if this were done on a global scale the Greehouse gasses (GHG) produced by the first two would be at a disastrous level."

Let's lay aside the greenhouse gas for a moment (although the line about building coal fired plants to provide "breathing room" is almost too good a straight line to pass up!), and talk about the conversion efficiency of the above schemes....They are what I have often referred to as "death by one thousand conversions." The "sequential processing" of high carbon fuels into a liquid fuel require the building of not one industry but about a half dozen interlocking industries, all of which must be built at the same time, and infrastructure provided to move, store, and consume the new product. In America, we cannot even get an old fashioned straight forward oil refinery built!

I will just take the coal gasification thing, (right now, that's the new/old hot ticket in my home state of Kentucky). First, you have to have a vibrant coal mining industry, with all the machinery and labor needed for that, then a CTG (coal to gas) industry, a GTL (gas to liquid industry), and then some type of processing to refine the syn crude on out to finished motor fuel. Did I forget anything? Oh yeah, the massive water handling operation, and then some method of waste water disposal, and some type of carbon sequestering industry, which doesn't even exist yet, because it is about time we finally quit laying the carbon issue aside, given that the rest of the program is such a catastrophe.

Now think for a second....Lord Oxburgh thinks it will take 40 years (!!) to chang the propulsion of vehicles, but thinks we can build the above type of "sequential processing industries in much less time??

It is complete nonsense. Oxburgh's program makes the plug hybrid auto and the PV and concentrating solar industry look like small beans to pull off by comparison.

Once more, we are seeing people falling for the same petroleum industry pap....there are no alternatives, and if there are, they will take far too long and do far too little. It is us in the petroleum business or nothing.

I am holding out hope that the folks gathered at Cork are clever enough not to be taken in. Either way, if the petrol industry hopes to make that argument, surely the next time they will use arguments more coherent than those attributed to Lord Oxburgh.

Roger Conner Jr.

Brilliant critic, Mr Roger. I couldn't agree more.

From 1897 to 1916, a 2/3rds to 3/4ths smaller and MUCH poorer United States of America built subways and elevated rail in all of her larger cities and streetcars in *500* cities and towns !

Twenty, not forty years, and without modern technology !


Would it be fair to say that the primary reasons this might not be so easily done in the 21st century are economic? Lower labor costs probably had a significant impact on the ability of municipalities and private companies to build systems, roads and bridges.

Probably not fair if you factor in inflation. Today's high labor costs will look just as much a bargain in the rear view mirror as the low labor costs of 1992, 1972, 1952, and so on.

Oh if we could only pay for yesterday's labor with today's inflated dollars and incomes. And Mr. Greenspan might be right for once when he sees higfher inflation ahead.

The GNP of the USA, inflation adjusted, is 25 times greater today than it was in 1910.

Labor is labor, whether paid four silver dimes per hour or $21/hour (depending upon skill level of course).

The USA, with a much smaller population, also had much less labor available AND the only methods known in 1910 required MUCH more labor than modern methods.

In 1910, holes were dug with pick & shovel. Backhoes today.
In 1910, crowbars and gangs of men adjusted track, Hydraulic jacks today do it faster with fewer men.
in 1910 concrete was mixed by hand on site and spread by hand. Today we use concrete mix trucks and concrete pumps.
In 1910, supplies came in via mule drawn wagons, today much faster & larger capacity trucks (tomorrow battery trucks from the rail served warehouse ?)
In 1910, wooden ties were the only choice. Today, concrete is the most common choice, with composite (recycled plastic) ties as common as wood.
In 1910, jointed track was bolted together, today it is welded (much less labor, easier on rolling stock).
Etc. Etc, Etc.

In the turn-of-the-century era, the USA devoted a significant social & economic effort to build Urban Rail. A MUCH lower effort today could do MUCH MORE today. That is the force multiplier of technology and capital.

Best Hopes,


The following systemic differences might have some bearing on this:

(comparing 38->78 to 2017->20x7)

1) Growth vs replacement. Growing on empty is generally easier than a whole systemic replacement (e.g. fill a void vs displace/replace)

2) Economic growth curve vs economic stalling/diminishing curve (the productive economy actually grew then, now it's 70-90% financial economy that grows. Productive physical economy is being down-sized, off-shored, labor-shorted and just plain let to rot)

3) Somewhat united political/economic trend vs splintered aims (e.g. modernism of tech/edu/economic development vs our current risk-based post-modern state of beings that pulls into various mutually non-complementary directions)

4) Strong political leadership vs failing political leadership (need I say more?)

5) Honest hard working citizens vs lazy-ass complaining professional consumers (sorry to put it bluntly, but we've become more of the latter)

6) Longer term economic planning vs. make profit this quarter and slightly worry about the next (harder to finance, build and steer projects with 20-40 year horizons and co-ordinate those together across industries)

In this situation, yes, I think it probably would be possible to change things in equal or less time (barring no limit from energy sources), but it would also probably require a big external impetus or several of them.

The old modernist "let's design and build a better world, because we can" ethos is dead and buried for the most part.

Now it's more of "every man for himself", which doesn't necessarily help in the matter (although Austrian school economists will of course vehemently disagree, just on principle)

But with cheap energy and materials available locally. That makes a big difference.

Would you have to develop industries to replace oil with coal gasification? No more than you would have to with total electrical transport. They're both going to cost a bundle and take decades.

But with cheap energy and materials available locally. That makes a big difference.

Would you have to develop industries to replace oil with coal gasification? No more than you would have to with total electrical transport. They're both going to cost a bundle and take decades.

Let's remember that this is a report of what he said rather than his own approved text but I think you have caught an important theme. If he is urging trying everything regardless of its sustainability, he is urging that we fritter away resources on things that will impede sustainable solutions.

Dittmar's comment further down that after 2040 nuclear power must run on speculative resources means that plants constructed today cannot be assured that they will operate for their design lifetime. In that case, nuclear power is just an expensive distraction rather than even a temporary fix as Oxburgh would have it. So, his proposal needs to be considered against the opportunity cost of lost energy security owing to continued reliance on depletable resources. If the stop-gap actually has a much greater negative effect, it should be avoided.


A single point of contention: could it be possible that you are misinterpreting Lord Oxborough's use of the Queen's English when he speaks of free access to automobiles. I believe "free access" means readily available at an affordable price in this context. However, I don't disagree with the thrust of your post.

It is my fault for paraphrasing - I took his remarks to mean "free - as in without central government control", and I should have used "open" perhaps instead.


I think you need to take into account the fact that the existing infrastructure represents sunk costs and a shift to an alternate infrastructure means we loose a significant portion of that investment.

Nate's comparison to the Irish elk applies here. The Elk developed along a specific path ( a large rack of antlers to attract females) but that development actually hindered the elk when it sought to adapt to a changed environment.

We are like that elk. We are hindered by the fact that we have proceeded along a development path centered on cheap FF. Where we live, what we eat, how we earn a living, how we amuse outselves, all derive from this fact. This results in great social inertia and an inability to change.

Look at AGW. The issue has been known for several hundred years and has been identified as a critical issue for at least 20 years but look at all the vested interests which seek to impede change. Consider as well that even if you or I seek to alter our own lives our alternate choice is made difficult by the lack of viable options. It is difficult, possibly dangerous, to revert to pedestrianism in a car-centric environment.

I am not disagreeing with you over the speed of past development but I do think Oxburgh is providing a realistic estimate of the time required to adapt. But I don't believe we will make the attempt to adapt. We are all going to go down with the ship.

Hi Roger,

Since his main alternative was to use coal. I asked him about the report regarding peak coal and the peaking of coal production in the US along with the end of Anthracite reserves in the 1970s.

Another person after me asked him about coal reserves stating that there has recently been published approximately ten reports on peak coal.

If that person is reading this would you please tell/refer us about the other reports? Dose any one know about those reports?

Is any one watching the price of crude? Its going crazy, as I write it was close to $83.70!



Fears of dollar collapse as Saudis take fright

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, International Business Editor
Last Updated: 8:39am BST 20/09/2007

Saudi Arabia has refused to cut interest rates in lockstep with the US Federal Reserve for the first time, signalling that the oil-rich Gulf kingdom is preparing to break the dollar currency peg in a move that risks setting off a stampede out of the dollar across the Middle East.

• China threatens 'nuclear option' of dollar sales

Ben Bernanke has placed the dollar in a dangerous situation, say analysts
"This is a very dangerous situation for the dollar," said Hans Redeker, currency chief at BNP Paribas.
"Saudi Arabia has $800bn (£400bn) in their future generation fund, and the entire region has $3,500bn under management. They face an inflationary threat and do not want to import an interest rate policy set for the recessionary conditions in the United States," he said.
The Saudi central bank said today that it would take "appropriate measures" to halt huge capital inflows into the country, but analysts say this policy is unsustainable and will inevitably lead to the collapse of the dollar peg.

WOW is right!

The US Dollar Index last traded at 78.925. The drop on Thursday is just about as much as the drop on Tuesday!

If US Dollar Index continues dropping, the long term interest rates could increase sharply as the demand for long term US bonds falls. As the rates of many home loans are determined by long term interest rates, the US real estate problem could become a lot worse.

Would it not be the sweetest of ironies if 3 months down the line the Fed had to reverse the latest interest rate cut because of an extended run on the dollar?

Don't bet against it just yet............

Could it be that the Fed is looking at excess capacity in the service sector, especially health care, and is preparing for a shift to manufacturing by moving the dolar lower? If GM manages to shift health care onto the union, single payer will not be far behind and that will lead to dramatic job cuts is the insurance industry. Much lower manufacturing cost owing to single payer together with a low dollar would be a double spur. The shift to service made sense in an environment of saturated markets for manufactured goods, but an energy transition opens opportunities for a huge market for manufactured goods, especially plugin hybrids, wind turbines and solar panels. Forcing the Euro up reduces Europe's advantage brought by its larger investment in manufacturing capacity so far and makes special sense as we see Germany waivering in its commitment to its growth manufacturing industries. The key thing is to break the yuan free from its dollar peg so that the US advantage in automation can bring it to substantial market dominance.


Wow - do you think anyone will invest in starting/expanding a manufacturing facility during a period of rampant inflation?

I'm not an economic expert - but currency debasement has never been claimed to be a road to prosperity. It typically leads to the poor house. Anything of value heads for cover and productivity drops off a cliff.

You might want to check your premises here.

Depends. China's currency is probably unsustainably low and because of this they are making quite a bit on exports. You are correct I think that inflation favors borrowers too much and so raising capital is difficult with high inflation, but high unemployment reduces inflation and eliminating the health insurance sector should lead to higher unemployment. It would also free up quite a bit of capital since the health care services sector accounts for 16% of GDP. Reducing costs by 30% or so produces a large chunk of change. The combination of low employment, available capital, and a large market for durable manufactured goods might lead to a boom over the next couple of decades, bringing employment back up. US competitiveness in manufacturing really is affected by the way we do health care so making a shift might be enough to change our economic prospects quite a bit.


The sound of the other shoe dropping. Absolutely inevitable and predictable. This is just the start, and thinking through the extent of the consequences just makes my head swim.

Hello TODers,
Spain faces frightening parallels to Britain

Spanish officials have furiously denied reports that the country’s property market is heading for a crash or that a clutch of banks may be in the same boat as Northern Rock.
Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Thanks Bob. I've been harping on the international aspects of the bubble for quite a while and it's nice to have some corroboration. As I see it, Spain has been the recipient of a lot of northern European profits, especially British, and when the thing pops it will really hit them hard. Or did.

And then there's China.

As I have previously discussed, perhaps a good way to ascertain the truth is to assume the opposite of what most public officials are saying (theory is borrowed from "Atlas Shrugged").

After the near collapse of German state-owned banks IKB and SachsenLB the chairman of Deutsche Bank, Josef "Jo" Ackermann admitted today that they themself have about 29 billion in bad credit that could lead to losses of 600 million or so.,1518,506929,00.html

I wonder how this all will play out. Seems like a crisis in slow-motion.

Assuming the US imports 15 million barrels a day, at $70 per it works out to a daily leak of a billion dollars. That's 365 billion a year for oil alone. Add Chinese imports and the costs of war, there's not a lot left for Ben's helicopter. We knew it would happen eventually. All the dollar had left going for it was military superiority, solid corporate governance and dependable currency control. The three legged stool is down to two rather truncated legs at the moment.

However, this will all pass, just like a kidney stone.

Heading Out,
Thanks for this update, especially since Mr. Guiness might have tried to convince you to go to bed straight away ;-).

I'm trying to sort out the reference to "A reactor uses 6 gm/sec," presumably referring to uranium. Are you using gm to mean "grams" rather than the more standard "g"? My search for another unit turned up "gigameter" and a few other nonsensical units in this context.

Andre' Angelantoni
Six-Month Carbon Diet for Business

I'm going to hazard a guess and say "yes" and to say that the 6 g/sec value "works" if the tons are "metric tons" (1000 kg or 2200 lb-mass). Actually, you get 5.71 g/sec using the 7 GWe and the 180 metric tons (technically, the 7 GWe is a value for "power" and it also has to be gross power not net power produced. To properly convert to uranium required you need an equivalent energy value like 7 GWe-yr).

Where the numbers must have gotton lost in translation is the factoring up to 439 reactors. The energy equivalent is off by more than an order of magnitude for the uranium requirement.

I think there is a typo. The 7 should be a 1. Then the total use makes sense. The "e" at the end of 1 GWe usually means electric output.


Starship Trooper: thanks.

mdsolar: yes, I wondered about that, too. 7 struck me as too large and "1" and "7" are easy to mistake when transcribing.

Andre' Angelantoni
Six-Month Carbon Diet

Actually, the "burn rate" of U3O8 (as U-235) strikes me as about right for electrical generation over a year's time.

I was just pointing out that gross generation and net generation can be different (though not as different as what is experienced by a coal-fired power plant with all the extra demand for fans, pulverizers, and gas cleaning devices) and that this had to be the "average" for a year of operating time (8760 hours or 31,536,000 seconds). Running at a gross output of 7GWe for 1 year would give you the approximate burn rate for U-235.

However, the error seems to be in the "conversion" of the 371 GWe value. The value 371 GWe is only 53 times greater than the value of 7GWe. The EIA listed the power generating capacity globally in 2005 as 374 million kilowatts (or 374 GWe). So, the burn rate and uranium required does not match up, at least directly.

If I were to guess, the difference or disconnect between the burn rate and the uranium consumption numbers is the difference between the natural U-235/U-238 ratio (Uranium needed) to produce 3-5% enriched U-235 pellets (which is the "burn rate" noted above). Since natural ratio of the U-235 to U-238 is about 0.7%, enriching to 1 tonne of 5% U-235 requires ~ 7 tonnes of "natural uranium."

Maybe something got lost in translation from Irish to English (LOL!).

The operating temperature and pressure of steam from a coal fired plant is significantly higher in a coal fired plant, resulting in higher efficiency.

I have been told that nukes use 4 pole generators and FF use 2 pole generators (hydro 10 to 24 pole mainly). Wind can be 2, 4 or 6 with 4 most common (not certain on any of this).

When Zimmer was converted from 99% complete nuke to coal, it became a very inefficient coal fired plant.


Yes, the temperature and pressures in a coal plant are substantially higher. And this does improve the thermodynamic efficiency.

When Zimmer was converted just about the oly thing that could be kept was the colling tower arrangement and the generator. The steam turbine was unsuitable for use at the pressures and temperatures (with reheat) that are characteristic for coal-fired power plants.

Although PWRs tend to be more efficient than BWRs, the typical 1000°F/1000°F superheat/reheat regimes that characterize coal-fired power plants can often perform more efficiently because the operating temperatures and pressures are som much higher. And those coal plants operating in the supercritical range are now challenged in efficiency by only high and medium by-pass gas turbines.

Yes, 30 years ago, 1000 F 1000 PSI was "state of the art" for coal plants. What is the best todsy ?

Also glad to hear @ Zimmer. When first announced, they were going to re-use the nuke steam turbines. Glad that changed ! Unsure what effect using 4 pole vs. 2 pole generator has on steam turbine efficiency & design.

Best Hopes,


They ought to have been able to use the low preassure turbine and the condensor since there hardly can be any significant difference in the condensing temperature.

Unfortunately I have forgot the rule of thumb for when a two pole generator is more economical then a four pole generator. But it depends on size and rmp and not on the heat source for the boiler.

I have read about an intersting idea for using multi pole genartors in wind powerplants withouth gearbox. Their main problem is the mass of structural steel to be sufficiently rigid and keeping the gap between the rotor and stator constant is the crucial part. A Swedish railway engineer if I remeber right then figured out that the gap could be held constant and the forces transmitted by a circular set of tracks and using railway wheels as a bearing and building the structure like a spoked bicycle wheel with a much larger part of the steel in tension instead of compression. I hope I understood the scetches right.

I've been struggling with this problem in my copious spare time. I start work tommorow. Anyways, how about moving the mountain to Muhammed. Keep the gap constant by moving the stator with a tiny microprocessor controlled stepper motor.


I haven't escaped from reality. I have a daypass.

You have cause and effect backwards. Since coal is more expensive than uranium, it is worth the trouble to make the generation process more efficient.


I haven't escaped from reality. I have a daypass.

Based in the factor of 2 or so agreement I get on the figure he gives for the amount of sea water to process to support one reactor (he is a little low), I think he is already using natural uranium mass units rather than enriched. This kind of makes sense since he also speaks of the limited size of the known reserve. Hopefully the viewgraphs will be put online before too long.


IMHO, we will reprocess spent fuel before we strain seawater, despite the negatives and problems associated with past efforts to reprocess fuel.

This makes the available fuel resource significantly larger. Plus there is a very good chance of finding more uranium ore.

Lack of future fuel is not a good reason to delay building nukes IMO.


Yes, lack of fuel is not the largest problem. Waste, safety, low EROEI and high cost probably come before that.


I regard reprocessing spent fuel as an assurance that even if the prognosis for available uranium ores is grossly wrong the rectors in use and planned can be used for their whole life lenght.

Blame the lateness of the hour. I think I was copying his slide, though can't remember, and gram is I believe what he meant, but I was writing ferverishly at the time, and may not have fully heard the comment.

There are lots of things that we can do to make the problem less of a problem, but we have to do them together. There is strength in numbers and 1 gallon of gasoline not used per week by 100 million automobile drivers can make a BIG difference.

The problem is we do NOT do things together anymore. During WWII, everyone did something to help the war effort. They bought war bonds, recycled materials or something, anything to help. People wanted to feel that they were doing their part to help make things better.

In today's suburban big box store so called "society" we are all isolated against our neighbors that represent competition for scarce resources, like jobs. We are divided so that we can not work together to solve the big problems. This might work well for oil companies and some politicians, but it will ruin us soon, if we do not all work together.

Of course, there are many other differences between WWII and Iraq II:

1) Draft vs. All-volunteer

2) Nearly complete support of populous in prosecuting war (after Pearl Harbor).

3) Leadership which gave direction to the citizens on how they could help in the war effort beyond spending.

I think the US population is more sedentary, less skilled at making and fixing things due to the shift from a manufacturing to a service economy and very much lost on how to help end the war. Our citizens have been given nothing to do, we don't believe in the cause as a whole. Of course our military families are shouldering a large portion of the burden with the losses of their sons and daughters.

If we as a population were led to believe by a unified Congress and President that we had an urgent need to make serious changes in our economy for our nation's survival, I think we would see dramatic shifts in attitudes. Prior to Pearl Harbor, there was a large anti-war movement which virtually melted after Hawaii was bombed.

Are the powerpoints being presented at this meeting posted anywhere? They would be useful to view.


Powerpoints will be posted I believe, and a DVD is going to be issued in a couple of weeks. Check with ASPO-Ireland.