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MIT-Led Study Says Geothermal Energy Is Viable

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the hot-rocks dept.

Power 291

amigoro writes to tell us about a study for the US Department of Energy, led by MIT, indicating that geothermal energy could account for 10% of energy production in the US by 2050. The study concludes that geothermal is proven, could impose markedly lower environmental impacts than fossil-fuel and nuclear power plants, and is likely to be cost-competitive with the alternatives. This coverage in LiveScience points out how big a player geothermal already is in the US: "The United States is the world's biggest producer of geothermal energy. Nafi Toksöz, a geophysicist at MIT, noted that the electricity produced annually by geothermal plants now in use in California, Hawaii, Utah, and Nevada is comparable to that produced by solar and wind power combined."

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GeoWhoWhat? (2, Interesting)

Cygnostik (545583) | more than 7 years ago | (#17717754)

I had no idea G.T. energy was already in use in California. Just goes to show how much one knows about where his own power comes from. But to say produces more energy than Solar and Wind combined, is that really saying much?

Believe me ! I am NOT a Google SHILL !! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17717848)



Believe me ! I am NOT a Google SHILL !! Not now, not ever !!!

Re:Believe me ! I am NOT a Google SHILL !! (4, Funny)

NoseBag (243097) | more than 7 years ago | (#17717958)

That's truly nice to know, Anonymous Coward.

As I continue down the long pathway of life, meandering here and there, never knowing what might be around the next bend, I can take pleasure and comfort in knowing that - somewhere out there - there is an anomymous coward that is not a Google shill. Perhaps I shall pass this bit of arcania on to my children - and then to their children in turn - until at some point in the far distant future it becomes a family legend. Thank you, anonymous coward, thank you.

Re:GeoWhoWhat? (3, Informative)

TranscendentalAnarch (1005937) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718104)

It's not really saying much for it. Not long ago I had an excel spreadsheet listing all of the power generating stations in the entire state of California including their power generation capacity. Of the over 37,000 registered power stations (this includes quite a few extraneous ones) Diablo Canyon and San Onofre together provided about 40% of the total power used in the state. The majority of California's power generation is Nuclear, Oil/Gasoline, and Coal based.

How is this projected? (1, Interesting)

definate (876684) | more than 7 years ago | (#17717772)

This doesn't seem like a viable alternative. 10% in the year 2005. Is that including forecast increases in power usage (as per population and ignoring other technological impacts). Additionally 10% isn't much overall, how can this be a viable alternative.

Re:How is this projected? (3, Insightful)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718270)

Quite to the contrary, 10% is huge and very significant, particularly because none of it is imported. Great advantages in balance-of-trade and not funding terrorism.

Re:How is this projected? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17718496)

And let's face it, 10% is almost 3/20ths!

Re:How is this projected? (1)

btgreat (895041) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718776)

Just because it will only hold 10% of the market in 2050 does not mean the power source isn't a viable alternative, it just means that it will only account for 10% of our power. It is a viable alternative even now, but that doesn't mean it is necessarily in use. Also, I think your concept of viable might be a little different than that of the author (I side with the author) as I would definitely consider the 10% mark to deem the power source as viable. Viable doesn't necessarily mean the best alternative, just one that would work. And if the trend in CO2 levels follows Al Gore's predictions, CO2-producing power sources might get a lot more heat (no pun intended) from the politicians, which would drive an even larger portion of the market toward more environmentally friendly power sources such as geothermal.

Iceland (5, Funny)

0racle (667029) | more than 7 years ago | (#17717786)

Iceland will be very happy to hear this.

Re:Iceland (4, Funny)

nwbvt (768631) | more than 7 years ago | (#17717938)

It must be nice to live right on top of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and a volcanic hotspot and get tons of free energy.

Well, except when one of the dozens of active volcanoes erupts, of course...

Re:Iceland (1)

Zeinfeld (263942) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718452)

Iceland will be very happy to hear this.

They already know. Iceland has been aggressively using geothermal energy for years. Unfortunately their techniques are not directly applicable except perhaps in Hawaii since they are essentially living on a volcano.

10% of energy requirements is a huge amount for a country the size of the US with the energy consumption of the US. It means that China could easily achieve a similar figure.

If you add that to wind you get a significant reduction in oil and gas import requirements.

These technologies are interesting because they have almost no running costs, the consumables are minimal. There is a huge potential for applying mass manufacturing techniques to reduce capital costs. Conventional power stations are expensive to build because they have to be built large for the sake of efficiency. They have to eke every last watt out of the fuel they consume. If you have essentially no fuel costs a 50% reduction in capital costs is much to be prefered over a 10% improvement in efficiency.

Re:Iceland (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17718656)

They already know. Iceland has been aggressively using geothermal energy for years.

So wait a minute. You actually thought he was really speculating that some country, maybe, say, Iceland, could make use of this? And just by sheer coincidence it turned out that Iceland is one of the forerunners?

Pardon the length of this reply. A more succinct slashdotter would just write "whoosh!"

Iceland will be pissed. (4, Funny)

r00t (33219) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718722)

This is no different from an oil well drilled into some other country's oil. Iceland already claimed the Earth's core. The USA is basically stealing from Iceland. You may think the Earth's core is under the USA, but it's really under Iceland!

Nukes are the answer! (4, Interesting)

dreddnott (555950) | more than 7 years ago | (#17717792)

*Modern* nuclear power plants are the best solution to our coal and oil dependence.

I like how the summary states that geothermal energy generation is cost-competitive with straw men like solar power, and lumps nuclear power plant environmental impact with the other straw man, fossil fuels.

Re:Nukes are the answer! (2, Funny)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 7 years ago | (#17717842)

Ahh... I see you suggest modern nuclear power plants.

Did you know that archaic nuclear power plants produce a whole bunch of "unusable" nuclear "waste"? Further, every time we put in a new nuclear power plant a terrorist gets a weapon of mass destruction!

Re:Nukes are the answer! (4, Funny)

DilbertLand (863654) | more than 7 years ago | (#17717864)

Pass the aluminum foil please.....

Re:Nukes are the answer! (1)

DilbertLand (863654) | more than 7 years ago | (#17717902)

whoooshh....nevermind....I just felt the sarcasm flying past my head....

Re:Nukes are the answer! (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 7 years ago | (#17717982)

Damn, I was just about to hand you the piece my BBQ Ribs were wrapped in.

Re:Nukes are the answer! (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718230)

> Pass the aluminum foil please.....

Dude, everyone knows that doesn't work - the metal acts as an antenna! If you want to BLOCK the signals, I suggest wearing a hat made of lead. As an added benefit, it's great exercise!

Re:Nukes are the answer! (3, Funny)

dreddnott (555950) | more than 7 years ago | (#17717870)

Make up your mind! Are you an environmentalist or a neoconservative? I can't tell by the rhetoric.

Re:Nukes are the answer! (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#17717934)

Ahh... I see you suggest modern nuclear power plants.

Did you know that archaic nuclear power plants


I appreciated that. Unofficial +1, Funny for you!

Re:Nukes are the answer! (2, Interesting)

42Penguins (861511) | more than 7 years ago | (#17717980)

I concur! And speaking of defending America through energy, may I suggest to you some terror-free gas? http://www.terrorfreeoil.org/ [terrorfreeoil.org]

Re:Nukes are the answer! (2, Interesting)

king-manic (409855) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718018)



Ahh... I see you suggest modern nuclear power plants.

Did you know that archaic nuclear power plants produce a whole bunch of "unusable" nuclear "waste"? Further, every time we put in a new nuclear power plant a terrorist gets a weapon of mass destruction!


Although my sarcasm detector is deeply confused by your post, I'll hazard a reply anyways. A nuclear reactor can cause a large amount of damage but only slightly more then a standard gas/coal/oil power generation plant. Events like chernobyl were basically steam explosions when the operators purposely overode every failsafe for some reason. The major difference is a nuclear power plant is that after an accident, clean up takes longer. A modern reactor like a pebblebed or candu reactor would result in less nuclear waste and is even harder to have an accident occur.

Nuclear isn't "optional" is is the next most abundant fuel after the hydrocarbons are gone. So it's either now or later. You don't have a choice not to use it.

Steady-state is the answer! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17718088)

"You don't have a choice not to use it."

Apparently your universe doesn't have "conservation", nor "increasing efficiency".

Re:Nukes are the answer! (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718140)

You're right that nuclear power is a good idea. Absolutely.

You're wrong that we should be using shit reactor designs like pebblebed or candu. Blech! Fast neutrons or you're wasting precious uranium.

Re:Nukes are the answer! (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718524)

Oil has major disasters too which take many many years to go away. E.g. Oil spills.

Re:Nukes are the answer! (1)

malsdavis (542216) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718736)

every time we put in a new nuclear power plant a terrorist gets a weapon of mass destruction!

The idea that terrorists could obtain nuclear weapons grade material and then actually use it to create a thermo-nuclear device is absurd. Its not like someone can just walk into the reactor building of a nuclear power plant and sneak some highly fissile plutonium into their pocket and walk out (for starters, they would be dead by the time they reached the door). If they could, why would they not instead steal it from one of the many nuclear power plants dotted throughout various Asian countries which have only a fraction of the security and safety measures of nuclear plants in western countries. The only feasible way to steal fissile material would be to 1) secretly acquire the highly specialised handling and transportation equipment needed and 2) they would have to somehow forcibly takeover almost the entire plant - all without anyone finding out.

They could also try fly a large plane into the plant but it probably wouldn't do much as for decades nuclear plants have been designed to withstand plane crashes. Even if it didn't withstand the crash (which it would anyway) there may be some radiation released but that almost certainly wouldn't cause a chernobyl style "nuclear fire" disaster in all but the oldest nuclear power plants (certainly not in any of the proposed designs).

So how exactly do you justify the statement: "every time we put in a new nuclear power plant a terrorist gets a weapon of mass destruction"?

Re:Nukes are the answer! (1)

dreddnott (555950) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718824)

So how exactly do you justify the statement: "every time we put in a new nuclear power plant a terrorist gets a weapon of mass destruction"?


Anything is justified in the pursuit of humor, my good man.

Can't you see that if we use nuclear power, the terrorists have already won? *WHOOSH*

Actually, they are not . (4, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#17717904)

Look, I am a proponent of Nukes. But we are in the nightmare that we are BECAUSE we became dependant on one main fuel source; Oil. Coal and natural gas is heavily used and that is also a big issue. OTH, if we use a combination of Nukes, Wind, Solar, Geothermal, wave, etc then if one has to be taken out of the mix, no big deal. More importantly, none can create a true monopoly (or oligolpoly) as is the current case with Oil.

Not only do we need lots of GT, but western North America and many other places on this planet are perfect for it. One thing that America needs to do, is to better develop geothermal residential heating. That is to place the outside coil of a heat pump in the ground and use the relatively good temp for our house heat. Outside of states that are pumping natural gas, this is probably one of the better ways to lower energy useage in America.

Nukes may be part of the answer (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718058)

Sell people permission to produce CO2, create a market for the trading of said permission. Require all energy producers to buy the requisite number of permits. Then put a limit on the amount of permits(CO2 production).

Problem solved. That may include nuclear, it may not, but the energy producers will decide what solution is best for them.
 

Re:Nukes may be part of the answer (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718552)

They tried this already. Except people overestimated how many CO2 credits many plants needed, re-evaluated, and created a glut of CO2 credits on the open market.

Re:Nukes are the answer! (4, Insightful)

Paulrothrock (685079) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718210)

I'm not an anti-nuke freak. In fact, I think they're necessary for human expansion into space.

However, I think that all sources of electricity should be treated equally. A per-megawatt subsidy to companies and individuals producing power should be implemented, and the electrical grid upgraded to allow the generation methods to compete fairly.

This would allow individual regions to produce electricity in the most efficient ways. In some places nuclear might be the most cost effective, once the total cost of construction, disposal, and security are taken into account. In a lot of places, it won't be. The Midwest, with its small population, strong winds, and large amounts of land, would be perfectly suited to wind power. New York and Maryland would have tidal power. Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico would use solar power.

What we should not do is provide special loans and incentives for companies to choose nuclear power, or any other specific power generation technology. The government should step in to make the true costs of generation match the price as closely as possible, and then let the market determine what power generation method to use.

Re:Nukes are the answer! (2, Interesting)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718288)

your post makes no sense at all. first you say "A per-megawatt subsidy to companies and individuals producing power should be implemented" then in the next paragraph you say "What we should not do is provide special loans and incentives for companies to choose nuclear power". government should stay the fuck out of it.

Re:Nukes are the answer! (1)

Anonymous McCartneyf (1037584) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718476)

The Midwest has been making some moves toward wind-farming. We've a few windmills west of Wichita.
But you ought to know, large amounts of the large amounts of land are used for farming. Corn, wheat, and soy farms probably can't use many windmills--windmills might interfere with the tractors and combines.
Maybe we can arrange that any farm that has an oil well on it should have a windmill.

Re:Nukes are the answer! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17718436)

Quit calling them nukes. They are concentrated geothermal reactors. Warm 'stuff' from the earth isconcentrated and becomes hot stuff and makes steam...
It's all in what you call it.

fissile nuclear fuel is a limited resource... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17718566)

..just as oil is. If demand soars, so does it price.

My opinion as a rookie; what do experts think about this?

Offtopic nuclear debate again? (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718816)

*Modern* nuclear power plants are the best solution to our coal and oil dependence.

Good - let's give some people money to design them instead of the tweaked Westinghouse 1950's dinosaurs that the lobby money is pushing. Accelerated Thorium and others have potential but current production plants are holes to throw money into as well as other problems. Pebble bed advocates have some good points but should hold off on the wildest claims until constuction of the first large scale pilot plant is actually finished (this year in China I believe).

You heard it here first (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17717794)

Don't come crying to me when we cool the planet core off and we end up in another ice age.

Re:You heard it here first (1, Informative)

Cygnostik (545583) | more than 7 years ago | (#17717898)

Actually, since it's the molten state of the magma as it churns and flows, the spinning of the core that creates the planet's magnetic field (like an electro magnet) - it's cooling would probably mean no more magnetic field and leave the planet to be bombarded with radiation from the sun among other things. The result would probably turn earth a little more like Mars. (inhabitable by humans to say the least)

Although... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17717808)

...by 2050 it will be too late to start using more environmentally friendly power anyway...
1: We'll be out of oil and forced into it and
2: Global warming will have progressed so much that we couldn't do anything to lessen it at that point except wait it out.

So what is the point?

Re:Although... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17717954)

oh noes!!! not global warming!!!
well, at least global cooling [ http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/661876/post s [freerepublic.com] ] will counteract the effects.

i wonder if we're dumber than we were in 75, or about the same.

id say dumber, since more people are falling for it this time.

Re:Although... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17718074)

Yeah, because a radical political opinion site will always trump global scientific consensus. It's a good thing you dummies are out there on the fringes. Maybe you should try reading a peer-reviewed journal sometime instead of goofy reactionaries.

Re:Although... (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718168)

Your claim that we will be out of oil by 2050 is demonstrably false. But what's really silly is the idea that it'll be too late, so we shouldn't even try.

This sounds dangerous. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17717818)

But won't stealing energy from the core [imdb.com] of the earth slow [blogspot.com] it down, causing the planet's electromagnetic field to rapidly deteriorate, killing us all?!

Just wondering.

Technology to use smaller temperature differences (4, Insightful)

wsherman (154283) | more than 7 years ago | (#17717820)

In energy generation, the point of burning a fuel is usually just to create a temperature gradient. Using naturally occurring temperature gradients is certainly attractive.

Existing energy generation technologies generally require a large difference between the high and low temperatures (e.g. steam generation). If economically feasible technologies are developed that can use gradients with smaller temperature differences then even the temperature gradients in the ocean would provide useful energy.

Please don't mess with the ocean gradients (4, Interesting)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#17717916)

I'm fairly comfortable that we've got a long way to go to screw up the earths core temperature and/or magnetism (that's not based on any scientific knowledge, btw). It seems, however, that we could much more quickly screw up ocean currents by changing the thermal gradients that exist (again, not based on hard science numbers). Since much of our weather patterns are based on those ocean currents, I would venture that a real effort to convert to using ocean thermals to satify a larger portion of humaities need for energy could very well alter the global weather in just a few generations. Maybe the numbers don't support my gut feeling, but I would need to be convinved otherwise before I considered using ocean gradients for power.

(and yes - using the gradients means reducing said gradients - it's that whole "laws of thermodynamics" thing Homer keeps reminding Lisa about)

Re:Please don't mess with the ocean gradients (1)

wsherman (154283) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718012)

Messing things up on a global scale would be difficult but messing up local gradients (right next the power plant) could definitely be a problem.

With respect to ocean gradients on a global scale, the ocean gradients are fundamentally maintained by solar and geothermal heating (and cooling due to energy being radiated into space) so, in general, they would be replenished.

Re:Please don't mess with the ocean gradients (2, Interesting)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718228)

Puny human, ocean huge! Anyway, for starters:

http://www.noaa.gov/questions/question_082900.html [noaa.gov]

Perhaps more interesting than anything else is that it states that a hurricane puts out about 1/2 the global electrical generation capacity; figure out how tiny a hurricane is compared to the ocean and you just have to be careful not to pull to much energy out in one particular place.

Re:Please don't mess with the ocean gradients (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17718388)

I think you misread that. It says that the total amount of energy released by the condensation of water droplets in a hurricane is "5.2 x 1019 Joules/day or 6.0 x 1014 Watts", which is "equivalent to 200 times the world-wide electrical generating capacity"...not 1/2. The 1/2 comes from the amount of energy used to maintain its winds, which is much paler in comparison.

Re:Please don't mess with the ocean gradients (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718428)

Yeah thanks, I wasn't reading very close, just pointing out that we won't really hurt anything, which holds fairly true even with just the wind.

Yes, yes we have a lot of resources (4, Insightful)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 7 years ago | (#17717830)

We get it. The US is a Big country with a lot of resources, you don't have to keep telling us stuff like "The United States is the world's biggest producer of geothermal energy." You know, even at only 20% of the nation's total electric energy consumption, the US is still the biggest commercial supplier of Nuclear energy? Beating out France and their 80% of their nation's energy consumption. We've got a lot of resources and a lot of needs, why do we have to favor Geothermal over Nuclear or Solar or Wind? Why can we invest heavily into all of them? Maybe with a diverse supply, we won't be caught with our pants down next time an energy resource starts to become more trouble than we need.

Re:Yes, yes we have a lot of resources (5, Funny)

ThanatosMinor (1046978) | more than 7 years ago | (#17717880)

Because you know as soon as we start to depend on geothermal energy, we're going to have to deal with property disputes from mole men and lawsuits from members of SPECTRE whose secret subterranean headquarters are being leeched of their oh-so-important liquid hot magma.

Re:Yes, yes we have a lot of resources (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 7 years ago | (#17717936)

why do we have to favor Geothermal over Nuclear or Solar or Wind?

Because only one can have the "best" return on investment, and that will be the one everyone invests in.

Yes, yes we have a lot of fat people. :) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17717994)

Except for the fact that in this case "best return on investment" is very location dependent.

Re:Yes, yes we have a lot of resources (1)

TheGavster (774657) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718406)

The best return on investment is the source with the plant/supply pipeline already built, followed closely by the source without any sort of expensive permits or regulations.

Re:Yes, yes we have a lot of resources (3, Funny)

Jarnin (925269) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718020)

We've got a lot of resources and a lot of needs, why do we have to favor Geothermal over Nuclear or Solar or Wind? Why can we invest heavily into all of them?

People like one solution for all their problems. 3000 years ago, folks had to pray to one god for good health and another god for plentiful harvests and good weather. Now-a-days most folks all pray to the same god for everything regardless of the situation, and they like it that way. They don't want to have to weigh benifits of going one route or another. They don't want to have to think about their options at all.

Maybe one day we'll be able to get past the "one solution to all our problems" fixation we have, but it won't happen any day soon.

Re:Yes, yes we have a lot of resources (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718254)

Of course, many people still pay homage to angels and saints and what not, so there are still small gods, but making one god the center of it all is conceptually cleaner, and apparently more attractive overall.

Re:Yes, yes we have a lot of resources (1)

dyslexicbunny (940925) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718352)

Why can't we find ways to reduce our energy consumption? Then we can stretch energy sources further and store what we don't need.

Again, the best option is to do a combination of both. But will politicians take both options seriously? I suppose they will only when necessity becomes a factor.

Re:Yes, yes we have a lot of resources (1)

Warlok (89470) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718426)

Why can we invest heavily into all of them?

There really is no reason. Go to the broker of your choice, open an account, and start buying stock in oil, natural gas, coal, wind, solar, and geothermal companies. Do some research to find out what other companies are doing B2B with the first set of companies to provide equipment and such, and invest in them as well. Now, talk to your friends and colleagues and get them to do the same. Wait a year or two, and viola! Diverse energy companies are now yours to choose from. You're welcome.

Of course, you could petition government for more taxes, or the same taxes redistributed differently, or some other application of force by government, to rid the world of oil, coal, and other "things that burn" in favor of wind, solar, and geothermal. But that wouldn't make sense, would it?

Anti-nuclear bias (4, Insightful)

dsanfte (443781) | more than 7 years ago | (#17717882)

When used correctly, nuclear power has no emissions and no leaked radioactivity. Its only associated problem is NIMBY-related, namely the long-term storage of "waste", which would in any case be less important if the US rescinded its silly ban on breeder reactors.

Re:Anti-nuclear bias (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17718002)

and the only problem with "NIMBY" when your dealing with nuclear power is if it does go wrong it could well end up in MBY even though it went wrong in YBY, or TBY or SEBY, or ABY.

NIABY!

Re:Anti-nuclear bias (1)

dsanfte (443781) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718028)

When my dealing with nuclear power is what?

Re:Anti-nuclear bias (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17718134)

That assumes that it going wrong in that form could even happen in the first place, which in several modern designs is no more possible than it would be for the sun to blow up. Self-regulating processes are fun.

Re:Anti-nuclear bias (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17718050)

No worries. The tree huggers will prevent the "thermal drilling" in Yellowstone (imagine tee shirts with bear and elk that say 'stop the drilling'), the "bird killing windmill", the "ocean life killing tide pools", the totally "evil and ugly hydro power plant", "unsightly looking coastal wave generators" and the "ugly land scape destroying solar array".

Yet when all's said and lobbied against, they'll all want to flip on the light switch after work and there will be zero options left on the table.

--a troll to be sure

Re:Anti-nuclear bias (4, Interesting)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718122)

Actually, I myself used to live in downtown chicago and recently moved out to a small town in rural Illinois. I live 20 miles away from a nuclear power plant in Byron, IL and on clear days can see the two condenser stacks from the second story of my home.

I have no problem having a nuclear power plant in my "backyard", and would be more then happy if it was a fast breeder reactor that could continually burn it's fuel (as to have very little waste). If you want to get (cheap, less-polluting energy) you have to give (having production close by, being rational with regards to generation method).

Most people don't get that a coal-fired electical generation facility puts out more radiation then a nuclear power plant. Go figure.

Re:Anti-nuclear bias (1)

Paulrothrock (685079) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718236)

Most people don't get that a coal-fired electical generation facility puts out more radiation then a nuclear power plant.

Where do you get this figure?

Re:Anti-nuclear bias (4, Informative)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718276)

"Former ORNL researchers J. P. McBride, R. E. Moore, J. P. Witherspoon, and R. E. Blanco made this point in their article "Radiological Impact of Airborne Effluents of Coal and Nuclear Plants" in the December 8, 1978, issue of Science magazine. They concluded that Americans living near coal-fired power plants are exposed to higher radiation doses than those living near nuclear power plants that meet government regulations. This ironic situation remains true today and is addressed in this article."

http://www.ornl.gov/info/ornlreview/rev26-34/text/ colmain.html [ornl.gov]

Re:Anti-nuclear bias (1)

dsanfte (443781) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718296)

Easiest match I could find. [ornl.gov]

The link itself references the December 8th, 1978 Science magazine article "Radiological Impact of Airborne Effluents of Coal and Nuclear Plants", where the authors determined that:

"Americans living near coal-fired power plants are exposed to higher radiation doses than those living near nuclear power plants that meet government regulations. This ironic situation remains true today and is addressed in this article."

More specifically:

Trace quantities of uranium in coal range from less than 1 part per million (ppm) in some samples to around 10 ppm in others. Generally, the amount of thorium contained in coal is about 2.5 times greater than the amount of uranium. For a large number of coal samples, according to Environmental Protection Agency figures released in 1984, average values of uranium and thorium content have been determined to be 1.3 ppm and 3.2 ppm, respectively. Using these values along with reported consumption and projected consumption of coal by utilities provides a means of calculating the amounts of potentially recoverable breedable and fissionable elements (see sidebar). The concentration of fissionable uranium-235 (the current fuel for nuclear power plants) has been established to be 0.71% of uranium content.

Re:Anti-nuclear bias (1)

radl33t (900691) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718358)

Authoritative results from google 1 second.

Anti-Modern bias (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17718294)

"Most people don't get that a coal-fired electical generation facility puts out more radiation then a nuclear power plant. Go figure."

Most pro-nuclear posters don't realize that coal plants have emission control equipment. Go figure.

Re:Anti-nuclear bias (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17718150)

The problem is, even if the plants work reliably, we don't yet know how to do "long-term storage of waste" correctly with "no emissions and no leaked radioactivity". We *think* we can find a geological repository that will bottle things up for the few tens of thousands of years necessary, but no human engineering project has *ever* been constructed with that kind of duration in mind, so there are always uncertainties, and we are placing any mistakes on the next 100 generations to solve. And that's just the high-level waste. There are ample amounts of lower-level waste.

The uncertainty is why people don't want the waste storage in their backyards (or even in the middle of the Nevada desert somewhere).

While having breeder reactors would reduce the amount of highly radioactive waste that would ultimately have to be stored, it doesn't eliminate it. Also, the resource (U and Th supply) is still finite, even though it can last a long time if used appropriately (probably a century or two). We'll have to switch to some alternative eventually. Switching to renewable energy sources and becoming more efficient is that much less power that we need to generate with nuclear or other options. It is a worthwhile investment because it is sustainable, although even geothermal deposits can be temporarily depleted if heat is withdrawn too quickly.

Re:Anti-nuclear bias (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718308)

A fast breeder is used to burn the fuel. It will totally destroy the waste. IOW, waste is a none issue. But many ppl do not want the reactor in their backyard. It really does not have to be by big population centers. What is needed is work on superconductors and energy storage. And no, hydrogen is not going to cut it.

Re:Anti-nuclear bias (1)

Cygnostik (545583) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718334)

And don't forget that incidents to happen while transporting the waste. There was one just recently, I think it was from one of the California plants, the truck driver stopped at some point in like Idaho or something - noticed he'd been leaking... Oops!! Also funny was that I didn't catch anything on the broadcast/spoonfed news about it. I happened accross it while searching for some semi-relevant info. "Nuke waste spill? We can't put THAT on the news, it'll depress people. Lets get back to that raging wild-fire we've been doing live reports on for the past 5 days, RATINGS ARE HIGH!"

Re:Anti-nuclear bias (4, Insightful)

radtea (464814) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718280)

When used correctly, nuclear power has no emissions and no leaked radioactivity.

Sure, and when used "correctly" a coal plant doesn't emit anything much either. If we're comparing fantasies we can go on all day, each of us discounting anything we don't like about our preferred technology.

The problem with conventional fission power is a) it is relatively easy to use incorrectly and b) when it is used incorrectly you have an expensive pile of radioactive scrap metal where you power plant used to be. The high energy density of the core means that small mistakes can produce large consequences, and the radiogenic properties of neutrons means that the whole core will be moderately radioactive, making in situ repair of the sort you can do on a coal plant impractical.

Advanced pebble-bed designs fix some of this, particularly by taking most of the high-Z elements out of the core so you get much shorter lifetime low-level waste, but they are not yet a proven technology, thanks to the dearth of investment in the past thirty years.

But honest proponents of nuclear power should own up to the problems rather than making exceptions for them. The earthmuffins are having the same effect on rational energy policy that Creationists used to have on evolutionary theory.

Darwinian orthodoxy (particularly gradualism) went unchallenged for far longer than it should have because everyone was afraid that the kooks would seize on disagreements between evolutionists to justify their insane lies about the fundamental soundness of the theory. In the same way, admitting that there are real issues with fission power that have not yet been solved in any production environment (although there are some promising leads) may sound like you are "giving in" to the BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything) but in fact it is the first step to making the morons irrelevant to the debate.

Re:Anti-nuclear bias (1)

abigor (540274) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718668)

I believe Reagan lifted this ban in 1981 (assuming you are referring to the ban on reprocessing spent fuel), but uranium is so plentiful that there hasn't been much interest in reprocessing. In the interests of non-proliferation, the U.S. has voluntarily witheld from reprocessing and breeder reactors. Again, I am dredging this out of my memory, so I could be wrong here. But I'm pretty sure reprocessing and breeder reactors aren't in use more because of public opinion than anything else.

Re:Anti-nuclear bias (1)

wall0159 (881759) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718672)

What nonsense. You are saying that it's impossible to make an informed and reasoned decision that nuclear power is not the best solution.

The _fact_ is that there _are_ other alternatives, and the merits of all options, and their _total_ costs, should be considered when deciding which to pursue.

Don't be so glib, and don't assume that everyone who thinks renewable energies are worth examining is a NIMBYer.

As for this: "When used correctly..." as Einstein said:
"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe."

Obligatory (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#17717910)

1. Earth farts
2. Profit!

Iceland! (4, Interesting)

localman (111171) | more than 7 years ago | (#17717926)

I visited Iceland a couple years ago, and I became sold on geothermal. I mean, Iceland is a small country, but they have fairly high power needs per capita because of the cold climate, and they run almost entirely off geothermal, as I understand it. This isn't some apologetic green technology that is decades or more from delivering affordable massive power, like solar, wind, etc. No, this is the real thing: a geothermal plant puts out power at nuclear reactor levels. And these things are clean.

My favorite part of the visit was swimming in the Blue Lagoon [art-iceland.com] ... a spa built alongside the runoff from a geothermal power plant. Seriously: you're in the middle of a lava rock field, and boiling hot waste water pours from the power plant into a huge outdoor pool. In the cold air you can nearly cook yourself as you swim closer to the power plant. But it's clean enough to swim in.

There are many criteria that need to be met to build a geothermal power station at a given location, but I think the research and development needed must be far less than for some other technologies, and the end result is completely proven, so the risks are minimal.

My ideal-yet-realistic world features geothermal and nuclear supplementing each other, with the preference towards geothermal.

Cheers.

Re:Iceland! (0, Flamebait)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718112)

>This isn't some apologetic green technology that is decades or more from delivering affordable massive power, like solar, wind, etc. No, this is the real thing: a geothermal plant puts out power at nuclear reactor levels. And these things are clean.

Cut your bullshit. Seriously. Just because you are uneducated and just happen to have experienced GT in person, thats still no reason to spread bullshit about other energies (seeing that over here more energy is produced by wind than in the US by geothermal)

Re:Iceland! (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718190)

Um, IIRC from my science classes, one of the biggest problems with nuclear power is the plain hot water. If they dump it into rivers, it can screw up the ecosystem pretty badly. So if geothermal is doing the same thing, how is that any better? As for the nuclear waste, I seem to recall a story on here about using big lasers to make it decay REALLY fast.

Re:Iceland! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17718404)

Um, did you know that Iceland is over a major mantle plume/hot spot? The island is heavily volcanic. There's a reason they can do geothermal like nobody else.

Re:Iceland! (2, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718622)

I visited Iceland a couple years ago, and I became sold on geothermal. I mean, Iceland is a small country, but they have fairly high power needs per capita because of the cold climate, and they run almost entirely off geothermal, as I understand it. This isn't some apologetic green technology that is decades or more from delivering affordable massive power, like solar, wind, etc. No, this is the real thing: a geothermal plant puts out power at nuclear reactor levels. And these things are clean.

Do keep in mind that Iceland is geologically unique. It can run almost entirely off of geothermal because a) it's population is small, and b) geothermal sources are widely and readily available.

Re:Iceland! (1)

phliar (87116) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718802)

Iceland sits on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, i.e. on top of a volcano -- which means there's a lot of heat very close to the surface. In the middle of a continental mass -- say Colorado -- you have to go much deeper to get to usable heat and it may not be feasible.

(But there is a giant volcano under Yellowstone. Hey, maybe that's Cheney's energy plan!)

Geothermal Energy ... (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718098)

... is just a lot of hot air ... isn't it?

yellowstone national park? (1)

Doppler00 (534739) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718110)

If it wasn't for the ridiculous environmental regulations, we could supply a great deal of power from this location, probably only using 20 acres out of the entire site. However, it seems they would rather us continue burning fossil fuels than use renewable natural resources we already have.

Has anyone ever calculated the heat capacity of the earth? I mean, if we start running geo-thermal plants I assume we are allowing the earth's core to cool quicker than it otherwise would have. Maybe the amount of cooling is 0.001% or something more than what the earth loses already. Still would be interesting to know.

Re:yellowstone national park? (1)

jo7hs2 (884069) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718178)

Yeah, but we could, like, pop the magma bubble and all die. OMG!!! Didn't U C t3h shows?

Unfortunately, there is opposition to this too (5, Insightful)

j. andrew rogers (774820) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718164)

Among the many reasons the high-quality geothermal resevoirs of the western US have not been exploited more than they have is that they attract opposition from environmental groups. Since the land is largerly Federal in many of the locales they are talking about, they use their clout in Washington DC to hinder local geothermal development since there is little overlap between their supporters in Congress and the constituencies that are affected, so it is a low-cost political bone. Instead they build space efficient natural gas and coal plants, which produce much more power with much less land use.

Geothermal power plants of any scale cover large areas of land with a sparse network of pipes. It is usually not the case that you drill one well and put a turbine on top of it, instead you drill a large number of wells, about one well per 20-40 acres and aggregate the output at a central set of turbines. It is not as though you are paving the region, just putting in a small well-head and a pipe to transport/aggregate the output. Note that you also have to have pipes to pump the condensed water back into the ground in separate wells; they do not dump it into the atmosphere. Unfortunately this covers the land with a very sparse spiderweb of pipes that are deemed "ugly", offending the aesthetic sensibilities of the occasional jackrabbit or some such.

The western US has enormous geothermal potential, but people will have to get used to the idea that there will be vast sections of high desert they never visit that will covered in pipe networks for heat transport. Perhaps they would like a coal plant built next door instead.

Danger in Doing NOTHING! (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718172)

The article was succinct and straightforward, and ought to be read by every U.S. Congressman. The arguement on energy sources has been more or less front page since OPEC in the early 70s, but what has Congress done?

Debate, debate, debate, but the U.S. Government Reps, Senators & Presidents have more or less refused to commit the country to policies designed to keep thye U.S. being held hostage to external threats on oil supply, UNTIL the price doubles in a short time. New policy implementation takes the better part of a decade to make a serious impact, so lets start it now.

Coal is a disaster and has been known as such for decades, yet what does our U.S. Congress do about it? The answer is obviously nothing.

How many more debates and decades before we either solve the damn problem or we get throttled by the external forces from the enlightened societies with their wonderful societal standards where the oil comes from.

Global Cooling (1)

booch (4157) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718192)

Um, if we were to convert the earth's thermal energy into electricity, wouldn't that lower the temperature? I imagine much of the electrical energy would convert back to heat, but a lot of it would be converted to mechanical energy. So perhaps this is a partial solution to global warming.

Of course, I'm sure we'd hear some people complaining about the new problem of Global Cooling.

Re:Global Cooling (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718284)

but a lot of it would be converted to mechanical energy
Ends up as heat. Entropy.
 

Interview with Jeff Tester (MIT chairman) Sat. (2, Interesting)

sterlingda (732011) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718202)

This coming Saturday, I will be conducting a 1-hour, live interviw with Jefferson Tester, who headed this Geothermal panel and report. It will be broadcast live [freeenergynow.net] from 6:00 to 6:55 pm Eastern time. http://pesn.com/2007/01/22/9500449_MIT_Geothermal_ Report/ [pesn.com]

The planet is like an electrolytic cap (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718340)

You let all the smoke out, and the thing's gonna quit working.

New Zealand gets 75% from geothermal (1)

wayneo13 (950853) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718378)

USA and many other countries including Australia has a long way to go to have clean energy. New Zealand gets 75% of it's energy from geothermal.

Re:New Zealand gets 75% from geothermal (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718636)

I'm guessing 2 million sheep don't have many electricity demands...

Re:New Zealand gets 75% from geothermal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17718726)

Where did you get 75% from? Its actually around 6.4%.

The bulk of generation in NZ is Hydro (64%), followed by gas (16.1%), and coal (9.7%). We've been quite lucky as our hydro capacity has sustained us for quite a while. However quicker, cheaper construction of gas plants etc has meant that renewable numbers are slipping.

GeoThermal (1)

scarolan (644274) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718438)

I used to live in the Puna district on the Big Island, a couple miles away from the geothermal plant. It was really loud - I suppose that was the steam turbines causing all the noise. I always wondered what would happen if one of the pipes exploded. It would not be fun to breathe a giant cloud of hydrogen sulfide gas. Personally I'd feel much safer living near a nuclear plant, but that's just me. I believe nuclear's cheaper too, but maybe the good folks at MIT have figured out a way to bring the setup costs down.

Stopgap solution. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17718588)

One thing that's notable by its absence in the article: how long will this energy last, given current energy usage? For instance, Australia (where I live) is currently exploring nuclear power. The Age [theage.com.au] ran an article a while ago, suggesting geothermal as a solution to Australia's energy needs that would last 75 years, based upon a single site in South Australia. Add more sites, and that time frame obviously goes up.

The way I see it is, you build the power plants you need now, based on geothermal and similar technologies that are known to be clean and safe, even though you also know that they won't last forever. You then use those power sources to develop other fuel sources. Australia has an obvious solution: solar power. Grab some of those vast, empty tracts of land, and throw some mirrors, water pipes, and so forth thereon. Hey presto, power that's almost free for the taking (just maintenance and salary costs, more than anything else, to pay.)

Now, solar power doesn't work well at night, right? So build some power storage plants. Hydro plants (pump water up when there's a power surplus, let it run down and drive turbines when there's a deficit) work well for that. So does a solid flywheel. And the storage doesn't have to be close to the power plant. So in the most extreme version of this vision, you have your hundreds of towns and cities, each with enough power storage stations to hold the energy for 24 (or 48, or 72, or whatever) hours of demand; and your solar or wind or tidal plants elsewhere, feeding those stations.

All of a sudden, you don't need an ultra reliable transmission system spanning the entire continent. If it goes down for a couple of hours, it's no big deal. Fix it, get the power flowing again, and nobody will notice. Flywheels can be built pretty much anywhere - say, underneath the roads of the cities, out of the way of water, gas and other pipelines ... You also can draw your power from any source you care to name, without worrying about whether it can run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All you care about is that it can supply enough power, on average, to run the cities and towns, with a sufficient surplus that you can recharge the storage reasonably quickly. When everything's working smoothly, and you have a surplus, that energy can be applied to other things - desalination, perhaps, or maybe aluminium smelting; anything that uses a lot of energy but which doesn't need it all the time is a potential sink for when the storage systems are fully charged.

Solar might not be viable in the US, but the above is still a useful blueprint for any country, regardless of how the storage systems are recharged.

We have the technology already. All we need is the political willpower to make it happen.

Environmental effects (1)

Xybot (707278) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718610)

Don't assume geothermal energy production has no environmental footprint [teara.govt.nz] . Personally I still think Nuclear is the way to go.

Re:Environmental effects (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718658)

Problem with nuclear is the waste. Reprocessing plants are *not* cheap, so they offset the cost (it was worked out in the 80's that nuclear was the most expensive technology, with many plants only surviving by government subsidy (producing some weapons grade stuff on the side I'd guess)).

True they don't go wrong often, but when they do... you don't wanna be in the same country..

Geothermal Catastrophy (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718762)

Let me be the first to predict that stealing the earth's warmth will cause global cooling and an imminent ice age. Or else, releasing all the stored heat will contribute to global warming.

Either way, the earth's core will probably stop spinning and we'll have to find a way to restart it.
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