More on oil shale

Hmmm! Well the tone of some the comments on my last post -dealing with nuclear development of oil shale, helps illustrate one of the points that I want to make in this, a continuation in the posts on oil shale. The tone was quite negative, in general, with a number of folk being disturbed at my even bringing it up. It points to the fact that, as a political reality (bearing in mind that I tried to stick to technical matters) the use of nuclear adjustment to the local geology is not likely going to be popular. As tstreet noted, there is an article in the Colorado Constitution (article XXVI) that he helped put in there.
Section 1. Nuclear detonations prohibited exceptions. No nuclear explosive device may be detonated or placed in the ground for the purpose of detonation in this state except in accordance with this article. (Adopted by the People, November 5, 1974 Effective upon proclamation of the Governor, December 20, 1974.)

Section 2. Election required. Before the emplacement of any nuclear explosive device in the ground in this state, the detonation of that device shall first have been approved by the voters through enactment of an initiated or referred measure authorizing that detonation, such measure having been ordered, proposed, submitted to the voters, and approved as provided in section 1 of article V of this constitution. (Adopted by the People, November 5, 1974 Effective upon proclamation of the Governor, December 20, 1974.)

While I did not know about that as I initially planned this series, I had intended just to point out that the unhappiness of just one Senator with a nuclear program (and I was thinking of Senator Reid and Yucca Mountain) can delay its implementation potentially for decades. In this case it is likely that there would be at least eight, and I think the point is made. However, since I do think it is useful for folk to know these things, I thought I would continue with the rest of the story from a technical point of view.
Following the debates about the potential benefits that might occur from the use of nuclear explosives it was decided to see if it would work in three test detonations, that were given the names Gasbuggy ; Rulison and Rio Blanco.

The Gasbuggy shot, in 1967 used a 29 KT device at a depth of a 4,240 ft deep shaft, and created a cavity that was 80 ft wide and 335 ft tall, when one included the chimney. It also fractured the light shale around the opening. Anticipated dimensions were 165 ft with a 350 ft chimney.

The Rulison shot, in 1969, used a 43 KT device at a depth of 8,426 ft. it produced a cavity that was 152 ft wide, with a fracture zone that extends some 200 ft into the surrounding sandstone. (Predicted size was 160 ft with a 300 ft chimney). It is interesting to note that contractors now are seeking to drill near that shot, in order to extract gas from the shale. They have been restricted to drilling no closer than half a mile. And, lest there be some concern, let me quote from the article.

All the gas freed by the nuclear blast was produced and burned off at the surface, Bennetts said. The radioactivity at the site wasn't high to begin with, and since has decreased to below background levels, he said.

The blast formed a sealed cavity underground, according to state and federal authorities. "Even if you drilled a well into that cavity again, there's very little radioactivity remaining to be produced," Bennetts said.

But authorities say drilling limits will prevent the cavity from being touched. COGCC director Brian Macke said the COGCC was "very careful" in its decision governing drilling in the area, and will require strict conditions such as reports from Presco showing tracking of directional drilling to make sure the cavity isn't disturbed . . . . . . . . Though it's not required, Presco will have gas from the well tested for radioactivity, he said..

There was some measure of the gas produced

Following the blast, in 1970 and 1971, the companies burned off, or "flared," 430 million cubic feet of gas into the open sky. The commission said that the level of radioactivity in the air surrounding the site did not exceed normal background levels.
Rio Blanco, shot in 1973, was made up of a series of 3 30-KT devices stacked up the shaft, at a depth of 7,000 ft, with the devices actually at 1780, 1899 and 2039 m. Each device created a cavity that was some 120 ft in diameter, and about 250 ft high. (Against predictions of a 140 ft diameter with a 300 ft chimney.) Fractures from the explosions extended about 200 ft into the rock around the shaft.

The production of gas from the shots was reported to be less than had been anticipated and the levels of radiation higher, so that while the volume of gas that could have been collected "would have been commercially viable," that only held true had the gas been uncontaminated. It was not.

Interestingly there have also been tests of this technology in the Former Soviet Union, one of which is reported to have increased the gas flow by a factor of 20 However our purpose is to look at the development of reserves and their contribution to the marketplace within the foreseeable future. Particularly within the next fifteen years, when we can assume that the shortages of supply will become evident, it can, I think, be realistically assumed that there can be no use of nuclear devices to enhance oil shale recovery out West.

At the same time, the toughness of the rock its strength and behavior under mechanical attack make machine mining of the shale a likely impracticality on a sufficient scale to produce perhaps much more than 100,000 barrels a day within that time frame. That judgment on my part is based also on the need to regenerate the capital for the program, reconstruct the facilities and get through all the necessary paperwork.

There are alternate methods for mining the material, including those that are used in conventional metal mining of large-scale underground deposits. However, the mining of something that can generate high levels of potentially explosive gases, if very large scale fracturing and blasting is undertaken, creates levels of risk that will make development of such plans a lengthy process. The mining of Gilsonite for example, was only realistically achieved when the hydrocarbon was mined using high pressure waterjets. But the strength of the oil shale makes the conventional use of that technique impractical - even if it were allowable, which is conjectural.

With these prospects being diminished, the only likely potential for oil shale to have a significant impact in the next fifteen years is likely to be through some smaller scale in-situ retorting. There are techniques such as THAI being tested in the oil sands of Alberta, and the in-situ retorting that Shell is currently evaluating. My intent is to discuss these in the next, and final post in this series.

The series also includes:
Where it is
Mining the shale
and the nuclear option

The security aspect of on-going, commercial (i.e. private), major-scale multi-decade mining using many functional nuclear bombs per mine is interesting to contemplate.  Is the scenario that Exxon and Shell etc eventually manufacture the nuclear explosives themselves?  Maybe there is a third party.  China  is good at keeping costs down. Or North Korea?  If the goal is commercial, as for this oil production purpose it must be, one would want the process fully competitive.  I'm sure we'd want to keep the monopolistic government out of bomb manufacture!  I would also hope the security situation wouldn't drive up the labor costs too much - there must be some good way to control access to hundreds of atomic bombs by thousands of coming and going mining employees for decades that is both safe and cheap.  
Didn't Dupont make the first one?
Well, they wouldn't be called bombs of course.  They would have to be called something less inflammatory, such as extreme thermal expansion devices, and they would of course be purchased on the open market.  One imagines that China would have the best price -- but Pakistan is probably not too far behind.
Well, let me understand this correctly.  There have been a handful of tests, and the results have been inconclusive (some  which might be defined as successes and some which would more accurately described as failures).  We have a plan which probably has the largest public stigma attached to it immaginable.  On top of that we have significant security and safety concerns (we can't even build nuclear power plants and we're going to start using nukes for mining oil shale?).

I think the negative reaction you are receiving regarding this whole idea is precisely because you are focusing only on the technical aspects, which in this case overlooks a huge part of the picture.  I don't want to say that what you are doing is unappreciated.  It's certainly interesting from an academic perspective, I suppose.  

But the reality is results have been mixed on a program that faces significant public resistance.  I see no reason to sink research money into this which could be more usefully spent on alternative energy or to increase energy efficiency.  I know ethanol is widely unpopular around here, but I would say funding ethanol research probably has more merit than spending it on this.  

You can't just look at the technical merits of something, you have to look at other things like public opinion and morality to determine its overall feasibility.  I mean, killing off 3/4s of the world's population would greatly reduce energy use and mean more resources for those of us who were left.  From a purely technical standpoint it might even seem to be a great way to solve our problems, but no one even bothers to consider it for quite obvious reasons.  

Nagorak - Hmmmmmm - morality - now there's an interesting concept - can't see it getting much traction in the continuing quest for energy though.

You see if you start applying the dangerous term "morality" to oil you might have to apply it to international relations, elections and all sorts of things that you really do not want "morality" to get a look in.

Extreme cynical mode disengaged.......

Yeah, you might be right, sadly.  
"I mean, killing off 3/4s of the world's population would greatly reduce energy use and mean more resources for those of us who were left.  From a purely technical standpoint it might even seem to be a great way to solve our problems, but no one even bothers to consider it for quite obvious reasons."

People have been considering it for a long time.  I attended a seminar at Caltech in 1977 where we "considered it", with expected use in the early 21st century.  Also see Kissinger:

Now ask yourself why all the media hoopla about the very non-contagious H5N1 which worldwide has killed fewer people OVER TEN YEARS than get killed in US car accidents EVERY DAY?  You have been told again and again on TV that a "natural" flu pandemic with significant world depopulation is inevitable, and coming soon. Furthermore, it is expected to radiate from SE China.  Why?  There is no scientific justification for this scare mongering.  Also see interesting facility report below:

"No one even bothers to consider [killing off 3/4s of the world's population] for quite obvious reasons."

I would rephrase that as "no one publicly calls for mass genocide, for obvious reasons, and everyone pretends that that means that noone is thinking about it."  

Sorry guys, but in less than 100 years 99.99% of every human who's alive today, is going to be dead because of natural causes (you know, the life cycle).

There is no need of any "killing". Maybe we can start asking the Vatican to allow for the use of preservatives, for instance.

And you got your diploma in fortune telling exactly where?
Sorry, I don't understand you.
What makes you so confident and extreme in your predictions.

By definition, the future is unknown and (to some extent) unknowable.

Why do you think you are an exception to this rule?

Note that often is is what we do NOT worry about that gets us. IMO life extension to rougly age 200 to 300 years will arrive well before the end of this century.

The rich die old.

Why 300?
Based on the ten or so books and four dozen articles I've read on the topic, the problems of extending life expectancy to age 300 seem to be near solution with current techniques. Beyond 300, it gets tougher.

Heinlein postulated life spans of 5,000 years, with the main cause of death ultimately resulting from boredom. But he thought of a way around that too . . . (which I will not reveal)

Read more Heinlein.

I've read about about 15 or so books on the subject plus seen quite a few infomercials. So I would have to claim to be more of an expert on this one. Trust me, 450 years is about the peak. Now that is with higher doses of geratol and the Maximum fiber diet.
Never met a transhumanist before? Then it's your lucky day ...
When the feds tell you they've set off a nuke and there was no radiation do you believe that? Want to buy a bridge?
I live about 15 miles from the only site east of the Mississippi river where nuclear explosives have been tested.  (Several devices were tested during the 1960s in salt beds near Purvis, Mississippi.)  As you might imaging, I have followed with interest the subsequent studies which have shown no significant radiation release.  One curious fact about the Mississippi nuclear tests is that they were conducted on leased private property which was then returned to the original owner.
All the gas freed by the nuclear blast was produced and burned off at the surface, Bennetts said.
Question: how does flaring it off make tritium non-radioactive? Seems to me that they might as well just use the gas, since they're just spewing it into the environment anyway.
Is tritium all you get? In that case I can see why it isn't much of a problem... only 12.3 years half-life, weak beta radiation.
It's a problem if you drink it as HTO. Or eat tritiated food. Certainly there are worse things in fission products, but they were flaring gas; most of the solid fission products must have stayed behind in the ground.
Short life radionucleides are "safe" - they decay before they get anywhere near you.

Long life raionucleides are "safe" - they emit so few particles per hour that their impact is low.

It's the MEDIUM term radionucleides which are the killers - they dump most of their radiation in say 5%-30% of a human lifetime.

Long enough to get everwhere - short enough to have a high and dangerous activity.

Question: how does flaring it off make tritium non-radioactive?

How did you come up with tritium? In case these were thermonuclear explosions, and the powers envolved suggest otherwise, then tritium is burnt to non-radioactive helium, at least for the most part (depending on the yield of the bomb).

In case it was a pure fission explosions, which appears to be the case, then no tritium is used or produced. The contamination would come from the tiny radioactive particles that mix with the gas.

The gas stimulation devices used a 3 kiloton fission trigger.  The balance of the roughly 30 kT yield was fusion.  The lower the fission yield the lower the overall residual fission fragment radioactivity and the "cleaner" the device.

I'll bet that the triggers were U-235 rather than plutonium since a yield that small would be inefficent in burnup and would leave the balance of the critical mass as residue.

The tritium in the well could come from three sources.

  1. tertiary fission - U-235 usually splits into 2 fragments but in some small fraction it splits three ways with tritium being one fragment.

  2. unfused fusion fuel.  One way to do fusion is H2 + H3 (deuterium plus tritium.)  The downside is that tritium is as expensive energetically as plutonium.  USually a hydrogen bomb uses LiD (lithium deuteride) as the fuel.  Neutrons split the Li into H3 and helium-4.

  3. methane activation.  Hydrogen in methane could pick up a neutron and than another.  Note that most fusion reactions give up most of the reaction energy as fast neutrons.

I've never had anything to do professionally with weapons other than being a prospective target during the Cold War so the above are largely educated guesses.
Turns out I have some huge cracks in my knowledge.
  1. I suppose should lead to insignificant amounts of T in this case
  2. I was aware just for the H2+H3 method and assumed LiD requires higher energies/yields. But if this is the only obstacle then the more expensive method should be a better pick, right?
For 3) I had no idea, I just assumed that the low percentage of naturally occuring D is making it implausible. Does this mean the light water in reactors becomes highly radioactive? Or (to answer myself) the lower neutron density makes the reaction improbable?

Just for the record I am against using nuclear devices for commercial purposes - I just don't think it is moral and can easily get out of hand.

A nuclear explosion produces neutron densities many orders of magnitude greater than a controlled fission power or research reactor.

Fission neutrons are about 2 MeV at creation and average much less in the coolant (< 1 eV) during thermalization while a fusion neutron is 14 MeV.

Tritium is a problem for practical nuclear devices in that it decays with a 12 year half life.  That makes the shelf life of a nuclear explosive considerably less than that of a Twinkie.  It is used as a gas for "boosting" a fission reaction and for "dial-a-yield" purposes.  An external vial containing tritium is allowed to vent to the critical assembly in proportion to how much yield the general wants.  No boost might give 20 kT, max boost maybe 100 kT.

As to one's moral objections, the argument that "guns don't kill people, people kill people" has always made sense.  It is certainly prudent to keep tight control on the gadgets and to only use them with judgment and restraint.

Thanks. The moral argument usually goes on with "guns make people killing people a lot easier". The bigger the gun, you know... Since I have a certain opinion about the ability of homo sapiens to screw up things otherwise seeming unscrewable, I'd rather leave this one as an option of last resort.

Nuclear power does not bother me that much because first the dangers are quite exaggerated (IMO), and second the technology has gone a very long way to get where it is now.

I'm going to be a contrarian and say that this might actually be done.  It is probably the only possible way to extract the oil from shale after peak oil hits.  So someone is probably going to try it.  
When we're talking about a systemic detonation of scads of Thermonuclear Devices deep underground,  you might describe your role as 'Devil's Advocate' instead of Contrarian, since it sounds like we're creating Hell. (PEACE, atheists/agnostics.. I'm not presenting that from a religious perspective, despite the loaded terms.. )

I don't begrudge the purely theoretical exploration of various proposals, but this one just seems to make our present forms of degrading and destroying our planet (Mountaintop Removal, etc) look like a dress-rehearsal.  This reminds me of the Tom and Jerry cartoons where Tom is sawing off the branch he is sitting on.  Saruman could hardly have come up with a better one.

Dude, I'm old enough to have lived thru the era when they detonated megaton fusion weapons above ground just to see how they would work.  If TPTB want to maintain their current lifestyle with no changes whatsoever, cheap oil is required.  They'll use the nukes, call it safe because the explosions are 2000' down below water tables, and call it national security.

And to tell the truth, if my choice is between a bunch of aboveground reactors (and their waste disposal problems) and existing bombs set off 2000' below the surface I'm not sure now what I would choose.

I'm sure, as you said above, that there will be advocates for this option.  Given the choice myself, I would call it a false-choice and take neither.  The 'outa-sight, outa mind' option of going underground with the nukes just sounds like another FreeLunch option, while we could well be (to use more Tom and Jerry analogies) sawing a circle in the floor around our own feet.

Solar Fusion is good enough for me..

As I recall, the underground nuclear tests for "peaceful" purposes were looked upon much more favorably in the late 60s than they are today.  Three Mile Island, Chernoble and other  things have caused a massive shift in public opinion.  However, a shift of opinion back in the other direction is possible if the disruption of available energy is rapid enough.

The fight to hang to suburbia could become very intense.

I greatly doubt that the "nuclear" option would be used to extract oil or gas from "shale oil" to "hang on to suburbia".  Suburbia will have to fend for itself.

What does seem entirely possible is that the U.S. military complex would set up some sort of DOD fuel authority and use it to attempt to keep fuel flowing to the military.  The kind of heavy nuclear activity, and the need for exemption from the normal marketplace pressures as well as blanket protection from lawsuits make some kind of DOD/DOE program resembling the 1950's Cold War days of the "off budget" skunkworks type projects used to create our nuclear arsenal most likely.

The Army Corps of Engineers has alread issued a widely known report (at least widely known among the "peak aware" crowd) stating clearly the threat to military readiness that is implied in "Peak Oil" or oil depletion.  It is hard to believe that the military intends to let the most powerful military establishment in world history just "wind down" without an effort to save it.

Even if the oil shale could never produce enough oil/gas to answer the needs of our current consumer lifestlyle, one can see that an energy "fortress",  able to keep the military in enough fuel to retain continuity and control could be forged out of the combined energy from the tar sands in Canada, the shale oil in the West, and the natural gas remaining in the Canada/US outback.  This would maintain the U.S. military as a formidible power in the world, especially as less well endowed nations and continents saw their military establishment waning away.

Europe, to me, is an example of a continent that is almost impossible to defend as a viable world power area.  They will be completely dependent on outside fuel very quickly, with Russia and the Middle East in close proximity.  France can stave off with nuclear power and weapons a bit, but are still in a precarious place.  The ITER Project holds out promise, but still does nothing to cure the "liquid fuels crisis", and will take too long to build.  The error of putting ITER in Europe is now becoming transparent to all, a hollow sort of victory for those of us who were against it from the start.

The U.S. military already runs a huge nuclear program so they have none of the public's fear or revulsion at the thought of the nuclear detonation option.

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

The fight to hang to suburbia could become very intense.

There is a difference between "hanging onto suburbia" in all its current details -- long daily commutes, large vehicles, natural-gas furnaces, etc -- and living in the suburbs in a sustainable fashion. Which suburbs you're talking about is probably also important. The Front Range suburbs in Colorado have, IMO, a reasonable chance in succeeding at electrifying themselves. Fly into Denver on a summer day and look at the area of roofs baking in the sunshine, or stand out on the plains a few miles to the east in the 10-15 MPH breeze that blows every day, and you see why I think suburbia survives in some places. Add telecommuting, smaller electric vehicles, improved household efficiency. Plus the fact that there's substantial local coal and gas resources to help get through the conversion. The suburbs in the Boston-to-Washington corridor are a very different story...

I've come to the conclusion that Baby Boomers are so trained that the mention of the word "nuclear" produces in many a reaction akin to the sight of a rattlesnake.  The event triggers an emotional reaction that completely bypasses the higher reasoning centers of the brain.  The only response is blind fear and loathing.

Nuclear stimulation of tight gas and in-situ retorting of oil shale sound like reasonable processes that may someday come about - once the Baby Boomer generation fades from political significance.

As to the gas from the nuclear stimulation, the main radioactive species is tritium.  It has a 12 year half life so after 5 half lives (60 years) its concentration has decayed to 1% of its original levels.

It might be possible to develop nuclear explosives with less emitted fast neutrons and so less formation of tritium in the methane.

As to flaring, the tritiated water formed would be dispersed over a wide area and soon mingle with natural background and  fallout.  Burning the gas in the home would have more significant effects although I couldn't find the actual measured concentrations in the gas.

If one can flare the gas at the site, why not build a CCGT and make electricity with it?

We used to say "Never Forget", but I don't know why anymore.

I'm sure the generation of Americans that sees their own complicity in dropping those bombs on Japanese civilians might be caught in some irrational regrets, fears and anger, but your comment thoroughly devalues the perspective of people who saw where 'Absolute Power' had led us to, both in those bombs, and standoffs with the USSR.

It's not that surprising to see the blase' advocates of this 'Quite Reasonable' energy supply show such a disconnect from the very recent history that should serve to warn us of not only the hazards of playing with this Pandora's Box of Power, but also of the Industrialization of High Energy Programs and their very real cumulative effects on numerous systems within our Biosphere.  (Including the distastrous problems with many of the oversized Hydro projects, etc)

In contrast to the irrationality of Fearing radioactive power and weapons, which have considerable evidence behind it as a source of great harm and being difficult to control and contain; I have to remark on the irrationality of those drawn to the Siren's song of Massive Quantities of cheap nuclear power.   Cheap at any price and damn the torpedoes..

Nuclear stimulation of tight gas and in-situ retorting of oil shale sound like reasonable processes that may someday come about - once the Baby Boomer generation fades from political significance.

And once the susequent generations die of radiation sicknesses, nuclear proliferation and subsequent terrorist nuke strikes, and global warming, they too will have faded from political significance and all other significance as well.

Oh, I stand corrected. They will not fade from ironic significance. Nor from ROFLMAO significance.

Such heavy thinkers this new generation.

Here is some good old-fashioned thinking from science fiction of about fifty years ago: Set our 2 million prisoners to work with pick axes to mine the shale the good old way coal was mined a hundred years ago. Not enough human power? Hey, how about putting some of those ten million illegal immigrants to work in the shale mines? Now THERE is a sure political winner!

Who needs nukes when we can use wetback power?

The difference in 99% vs 90% uptime in mining equipment usage is far more important than the labor cost. That's why dragline operators make so much money. Sure, they could replace them for half as much money, or a fourth as much money, but it's a false economy.
Remember what happened when Reagan broke the PATCO union? For every dollar saved in salaries we had ticket prices go up 100$ as the inexperienced new controllers had to let gaps between planes go from two minutes to three, or something like that.
The upsurge in ticket prices caused by the scarcity of landing slot usage did save the airlines, though, even if the public had higher ticket prices, more crowded planes, and less convenient travel times for business travellers.
My god did the business class and first class travellers pay for breaking the union. Off peak hour budget travellers didn't have to worry because they weren't in the crowded time slots for landings, so they didn't notice.
Excellent Points.
I second the emotion.
This latest post on using a nuclear blast as an energy source for fracturing the shale bearing rock indicates the test had no oil extracted, only gas and for a relatively short period.  This period was much less than the half life of the radioactive element so the energy produced could not be safely used in public gas distribution system. So, where is the positive energy benefit?
Second, if the earlier post is correct on the residual heat of the rock remaining for several months (estimated to be 700 deg. F or higher), injecting air under high pressure to get the oil to flow out might start an intense fire in the blast cavity.  As with any chemical reaction involving gases, as the temperature and pressure increase so does the rate of reaction (burining).  The activation temp of the kerogen would have to be far higher than 700 deg F to keep from burning most of the material in the insitu retort process.  The whole thing sounds very far fetched.  Probably much safer to use the U-238 in nuclear reactors and try to solve the waste problem by reprocessing it or developing a long term storage solution.
It's not HO's fault. This is a case study in addiction: when deprived of all ordinary means of satisfying their craving, what things will the addict turn to in extreme desperation?
In 1999, one month before the blackouts, a poll found only 23% of Bay area residents in favor of nuclear power for the production of electricity. Three months later, two months into the blackouts, the count was 57% in favor.
Never underestimate the power of an ox being gored to sway public opinion.
Yea, who you gonna believe?  Environmental whachos and the MSM or your lying eyes?

On big issues where the effects don't touch one's private lives, people are willing to procrastinate on the hard thinking of making a major decision.

Force the issue with experience that demands a response and people get serious.

Opposing nuclear power was for a long time a cost-free option where one supposedly gained self-respect as a "progressive" thinker "in tune with the times."

In the real world, tradeoffs eventually have to been made.

Today we can all sit back and automatically reject using nuclear explosives for extraction of hydrocarbon resources - it costs us nothing since the fuels are still freely available and at a not unreasonable price.  A necessary and urgent calculation when we are really short and many of us are out of work or threatened by foreign enemies may well be different.

Funny, the peak power demand that "caused" the blackouts had nothing to do with base load nuke power. It was all hydroelectric and natural gas power.
Enron's creditors just lost another multimillion dollar lawsuit over electricity pricing. Snohomish was the power company that sued them and got the trader voice recorder audit tapes about "deathstar" and other scams. Was in the paper about two days ago.
Hello TODers,

I am no geologist/hydrologist, but large scale open pit gold mining in Nevada, and other places, has already wrecked the underground watertable and the Humboldt river flow:
Drier, Tainted Nevada May Be Legacy of Gold Rush

When they are gone, the vast pits they leave behind will create a deficit in the aquifer equivalent to 20 to 25 years of the total flow of Nevada's longest river, the Humboldt, according to state figures tallied by independent scientists. That is three times as much water as New York City stores in its entire upstate reservoir system. "When they stop pumping, what you're going to hear is a huge sucking sound," said Robert Glennon, a law professor at the University of Arizona who has written on water issues in the West. "The impact on the Humboldt River will be catastrophic."

One thing is certain: in the hot desert sun, the water will constantly evaporate. And for every gallon of evaporation, the lakes will draw another gallon from the aquifer beneath them. Most will take decades, if not centuries, to fill. Then they will be like huge desert sponges, sucking from the aquifer eternally.
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Good graphic illustrating this process:

I would suspect nuclear oil shale mining, at much deeper depths, at a much larger scale, combined with fracturing and ground shaking that gold mines do not have, would make Nevada's tragic water problems look like small potatoes compared to the water problems of the oil shale states.

Bob Shaw in Phx,AZ  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

HO and TOD readers,

Just to clarify things (because I was confused myself), the three detonations that HO mentions in his article, Project Rulison, Gassbuggy, and Rio Blanco, were designed to stimulate the production of natural gas from "tight" gas sand formations.  To my knowledge, no nuclear detonation has been done in oil shale, though it was proposed and studied, under the name of Project Bronco, under the overall umbrella of Project Plowshares (warning PDF). Under the same umbrella project a high-explosive non-nuclear charge was detonated in oil shale in Project Pinot.  The gas that was produced from these explosions was already free gas in the rock formation that was targeted for explosion.  

There have been many advances toward stimulating permeability in tight natural gas reservoirs in the meantime that are much more effective than using a nuclear device.  The 430 million cu ft of gas that was flared during these nuclear experiments is not an impressive amount to someone in the business of drilling and producing natural gas wells - even in the tight rocks of the Piceance Basin.

One of the many huge TECHNICAL problems about doing this kind of thing in oil shale is that in most places, the oil shale is either at the surface of within a 1000 ft from the surface.  Moreover, it is considered a fresh water aquifer in the Piceance Basin, so how do you keep the groundwater from becoming contaminated with radiation?

the thing is, you can't. but allot of the general populace has bought the propaganda from the nuclear industry that all radiation is harmless to a point that they will allow the contamination and even drink it.

i am also reminded of a case in Russia that two people who were out in the woods found a warm metal container/containers.
they died within the week from radiation sickness, the stuff ended up being waste form a reactor. some big wig decided to just dump them out in the woods to cut corners.

The real propaganda is that ANY radiation is morally unacceptable.

Public policy is based on the linear effects hypothesis.  Quantifiable ill health effects corellated with high radiation doses are interpolated to zero dose and zero effects.  This is considered a conservative basis for public policy.

However, the science is more complicated.  We know that natural background radiation for human populations vary from about 100 millirems per year to over 1,000 yet no isolatable quantitative health effects.  For example, residents of Denver get maybe 4 times the radiation as residents of Miami.

I'd be interested in actual dose calculations for peak individuals and for populations from widespread use of nuclear-stimulated natural gas and oil shale.  I suspect that any health effects from radioactive constituants would be trivial compared to natural variation in doses.

Only with real numbers can rational judgments be made.

Has this article been artificially moved up on the front page? I got a weird sense of 'deja vu' when I read the first few sentences below the heading...
It did get moved up; many of the comments are from July 2.