Thanksgiving is a time to reflect upon our many blessings. At NEI, we know how fortunate our country is to have reliable, affordable and clean power from nuclear energy.
The clean aspect of nuclear is especially important as world leaders meet next week at COP21 to discuss plans to fight climate change. Nuclear energy facilities provide 63 percent of America’s zero-carbon electricity. Globally, nuclear power plants provide one-third of all zero-carbon electricity. One of nuclear’s major advantages relative to other low-carbon energy sources is its unique ability to produce large-scale electricity around-the-clock in extreme weather conditions. Now that's something to give thanks for.
Here are the top seven things we are thankful for this Thanksgiving:
Thursday, November 26, 2015
Thanksgiving is a time to reflect upon our many blessings. At NEI, we know how fortunate our country is to have reliable, affordable and clean power from nuclear energy.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
in the 1930s:
Although nearly 90 percent of urban dwellers had electricity by the 1930s, only ten percent of rural dwellers did. Private utility companies, who supplied electric power to most of the nation's consumers, argued that it was too expensive to string electric lines to isolated rural farmsteads. Anyway, they said, most farmers, were too poor to be able to afford electricity.
The Roosevelt Administration believed that if private enterprise could not supply electric power to the people, then it was the duty of the government to do so. Most of the court cases involving TVA during the 1930s concerned the government's involvement in the public utilities industry.
The piece on the Rural Electric Administration goes on to explain the battles that ensued, with utilities and members of Congress concerned that the government’s plan interfered overmuch with the free market.
By 1939 the REA had helped to establish 417 rural electric cooperatives, which served 288,000 households. The actions of the REA encouraged private utilities to electrify the countryside as well. By 1939 rural households with electricity had risen to 25 percent.
And of course much higher since then.
look at India in the 21st century.
“Electrification was central to how early nationalists and planners conceptualized Indian development, and huge sums were spent on the project from independence [in 1947] until now,” says Sunila S. Kale, assistant professor of international studies. “Yet despite all this, nearly 400 million Indians have no access to electricity. Although India has less than a fifth of the world’s population, it has close to 40 percent of the world’s population without access to electricity.”
This is from 2013 – I’ve noticed that counting those without electricity can be rather inexact. The following article from MIT Technology Review (from this year) sets it as “at least 300 million.” Place either number against the population of the United States and its immensity becomes clear.
Since he took power in May 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made universal access to electricity a key part of his administration’s ambitions. At the same time, he has pledged to help lead international efforts to limit climate change. Among other plans, he has promised to increase India’s renewable-energy capacity to 175 gigawatts, including 100 gigawatts of solar, by 2022. (That’s about the total power generation capacity of Germany.) And therein lies India’s energy dilemma.
A little more:
Already the world’s third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, India is attempting to do something no nation has ever done: build a modern industrialized economy, and bring light and power to its entire population, without dramatically increasing carbon emissions.
“Bring light and power to its entire population.” That sounds familiar. Different timetable, same goal - with the additional challenge, not faced by the REA, of keeping carbon emissions low. (Hydro power was a big part of U.S. rural electrification.)
Here’s the current plan:
Fifty-seven gigawatts of the planned new capacity is supposed to come in the form of utility-scale solar, including so-called “ultra mega” projects, ranging in size from 500 megawatts up to 10 gigawatts. … (In 2012, when Modi was chief minister of the state of Gujarat, he presided over the launch of the world’s largest solar installation: a group of plants totaling nearly one gigawatt combined.) Another 75 gigawatts of wind capacity is also planned.
Together, these additions would boost India’s renewable capacity from around 10 percent of the total to as much as 32 percent. At the same time, the government plans a program of building nuclear plants that would roughly triple capacity by 2024 and supply one-quarter of the country’s electricity needs by 2050. India also aims to further capitalize on its abundant potential for water power, particularly in the far northeastern states, where rivers tumble off the Himalayan plateau.
That’s impressive and, with the push to renewable energy sources, it has the potential to speed the country’s goal of universal electrification, further industrialization, and lower carbon dioxide emissions.
So, yes, the nuclear energy industry could point at these developments and say, We’re thankful that the atom has played and will play such a significant role in India’s progress. And that would be justified. Really, though, that misses the point. The important part is that this will bring “light and power” to an entire population. Progress, it’s fair to say, doesn’t happen – in the United States, India or anywhere else - without electricity. That’s something to be thankful for. Thankful for the light.
Posted by Mark Flanagan at 2:07 PM
Monday, November 23, 2015
The UK's remaining coal-fired power stations will be shut by 2025 with their use restricted by 2023, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has proposed.
A little more:
Ms. Rudd wants more gas-fired stations to be built since relying on "polluting" coal is "perverse".
Only if gas-fuelled power can fill the void created by closing coal-powered stations would coal plants be shut, she said.
“Perverse!” Still, that doesn’t sound as promising as it could, from our perspective. But:
"Gas is central to our energy-secure future," she said. "So is nuclear."
She believes that plans for new nuclear power stations, including those at Wylfa in Wales, Moorside in Cumbria and Hinkley Point in Somerset, could eventually provide almost a third of the low carbon electricity the UK needs.
Well, let’s see: coal and natural gas each currently generate about 30 percent of the UK’s electricity, with nuclear energy and renewables at about 19 percent each.
Almost all of the country’s nuclear facilities will close by 2023, with none built since the 1980s, yet the British have determined that without nuclear energy, their carbon dioxide emission reduction goals are sunk. Thus, a lot of new build, including, interestingly, the first nuclear facility in the west sourced from China.
Consequently, the country will transition from coal and natural gas now to renewables and nuclear energy in 2035, with the percentages tipping away from fossil fuels by 2019. I source this from the Updated energy and emissions projections 2015, published by the U.K. government’s equivalent of the U.S. Energy Information Agency.
We initially thought to use this information as a club with which to beat Germany. It intends to close its nuclear plants by 2022 and has been ripping up its economy to do it. Even if Germany wants to leave nuclear energy – and boy, does it ever – it seems backward to close the plants with no viable replacement rather than develop the replacement and then close the facilities.
Therein lies the real difference between the German and English experiences. England is closing its coal plants with something to bridge the lost power while nuclear and renewable sources ramp up. Germany has no such bridge.
Not closing energy doors almost guarantees greater success because it forestalls haste and poor decision making. We’ve sometimes heard that nuclear energy is the bridge to a renewable energy future, but England’s plan suggests that natural gas is the bridge and the future belongs to nuclear and renewable energy. That strikes us as enabling a smoother transition to a viable low carbon regime and a significant role for base load energy - a net good however one approaches it. A model for Germany? Perhaps not, given the politics. A model for the U.S.? Well, we’ll have to see. But it certainly seems to be a working model, for whomever implements it.
Friday, November 20, 2015
NEI's Maria Korsnick participated in a panel discussion on energy at the Republic Governors Association annual meeting in Las Vegas yesterday. NEI's Mike McGarey passed along this report:
|NEI's Maria Korsnick with Gov. Sam Brownback|
Kansas Governor Brownback moderated a session that included Idaho Governor Otter and Wyoming Governor Mead and an audience of governors staffs. She noted that despite the challenges, new plants are being built and that with the right federal and state policies -- driven by carbon constraints -- high-performing existing plants can stay on the job far into the future.
Idaho's Butch Otter enthused about SMRs. In the most "tweetable" exchange, Governor Brownback asked, "Why don't the environmentalists love Nuclear energy's zero emissions?", to which Maria replied, "Maybe they just don't know us well enough yet."
Thursday, November 19, 2015
I join my colleagues here at NEI and throughout the NEI membership in expressing our deep sadness over the senseless loss of life in last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris. We extend our sympathy to you, your countrymen and your colleagues. Truly, none of us in this industry are untouched.
We know this tragedy strikes our colleagues and friends at Electricite de France particularly hard, with the loss of Electrical Engineer Juan Alberto Gonzalez. Clearly his work, talent and spirit will be missed, both at EDF and the International Youth Congress.
We are indeed one community in the nuclear energy industry, and each of us shares this loss and stands with you. Our industry has a great legacy of achievement working with its many French colleagues. Through that, we have experienced great resilience and commitment. This will truly guide us in recovering from these horrific events. We join you in building new hope for future, and you remain in our thoughts and prayers.
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Times are bracing. The first fall chill contributes, of course, but it’s bracing, too, that the spotlight has fallen so strongly upon nuclear energy. The White House Nuclear Energy summit two Fridays ago contributed mightily to this sudden attention and so has the COP21 conference in Paris next month.
These two events seem to have spurred exceptional interest in the atom, even when the summit or the upcoming U.N. climate change conference are not explicitly mentioned.
From The Los Angeles Times:
Nuclear energy's importance in reducing emissions is beyond dispute. In January, the International Energy Agency called nuclear power “a critical element in limiting greenhouse gas emissions.” It calculated that global nuclear generation capacity must more than double by 2050 (to about 750 gigawatts) if there is any hope of limiting temperature increases to the 2 degrees that is widely agreed as acceptable.This story from Power covers the Washington summit:
Even some former nuclear opponents are getting behind the energy source now. Ken Caldeira, climate scientist working for the Carnegie Institution for Science, Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University, noted that he was arrested while demonstrating against nuclear power near the front gates of the Shoreham facility—which was never placed into commercial operation—in the early 1980s. After studying climate science in graduate school, Caldeira changed his tune.Another story, this one tied to COP21, tries a local angle to make a more general point:
“The environmental community should be embracing nuclear power as one of the very few technologies that can provide high-density power in an environmentally acceptable way,” Caldeira said.
America’s contributions toward combating climate change will fall short of what’s expected from this country – and seem double-faced – if the U.S. is also shutting down nuclear-generating capacity, which is its largest source of carbon-free energy.This is from the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press. It makes the point that New Jersey generates most of its electricity from nuclear and yet Oyster Creek plant is closing in 2019. That’s what the “double-faced” comment refers to.
We know that COP21 might be delayed due to the terrible events in Paris last Friday. COP21 remains important, but it’s not the most important thing occupying our minds right now.
Even so, the conference will happen and it will likely issue the first viable global climate change solution since the Kyoto Protocol. Nuclear energy, it is safe to say, will enjoy more attention than it has received in these quarters for some time. If we have to wait for it a bit longer, we’ll wait.
Thursday, November 12, 2015
I’m giving a signal boost to One Direction’s fifth album, “Made in the A.M.,” which at the end of the day is just perfect. (Both puns intended – looking at you, Harry.) You may wonder what this band has to do with nuclear energy. Turns out since they launched the Action 1D campaign this past summer, quite a lot.
|Louis, Niall, Harry and Liam for Action 1D.|
|Woof. Why so serious, Teen Tara?|
|OTRA Pittsburgh concert, August 3, 2015.|
Lesson learned: Boy bands make life better.
For a group born of “The X Factor,” the One Direction guys have remarkable chemistry. They have stayed close to their roots, are reportedly some of the nicest guys in music and seem grounded in reality despite being members of the world’s biggest boy band. Perhaps most admirable is the fact that they are very charitable, lending time and money to various causes. And hand to God, their music is really enjoyable.
Plus, their longstanding appreciation for the role fans have played in their success is a welcome show of humility. In her review of the boys back in February, Elle Hunt of The Guardian made mention of the fan empowerment:
The band’s super fans, called One Directioners, feel they can share in their idols’ success largely because they’re told, repeatedly, that they created it.
When 1D blew up, nobody — not even people who liked them — figured they'd be anything more than 16 to 18 months of kicks. What the band and their fans have built over the past five years is unique. If the girls sound cocky and vindicated when they scream, they should. And 1D are brilliant because they know exactly who's in charge.
|My sign at the OTRA Pittsburgh concert. Add activist to my resume.|
I started exploring this concept right after the campaign launched by pairing the #action1D tag with several tweets on climate change. As a result, Directioners gave us our most popular tweet to date:
The unprecedented engagement with our content simply could be because they support the campaign overall, or because they love the whale photobombing a shot of Diablo Canyon (props to PG&E’s John Lindsey for capturing that). Regardless of the reason, that equates to thousands of new, action-oriented stakeholders from around the globe being exposed to nuclear as the only source of energy that provides always-on, large-scale power without emitting any carbon.60+ scientists say nuclear must be in energy mix to protect climate, biodiversity http://t.co/K4uR4iiQCM #action1D pic.twitter.com/pMECTISwsj— Nuclear Energy Inst. (@NEI) July 15, 2015
Gaining their support for nuclear energy is especially important as we approach COP21. The band specifically addressed the Action 1D video compilation to those gathering for climate talks in Paris. That means these guys and Directioners are looking for meaningful actions to curb climate change. When the largest single source of global greenhouse gas emissions comes from energy supply, you don’t get more meaningful than supporting nuclear energy. If world leaders at COP21 are serious about reducing global carbon emissions from the power sector in order to keep temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius of warming, not only do they need to maintain the global nuclear supply, they need to expand it. Several climate experts like Michael Shellenberger, Mark Lynas and James Hansen agree and have become increasingly vocal about their support for nuclear energy as a key player in the solution to climate change. Even the White House is now firmly on board. The Obama Administration had a “coming out” in favor of nuclear as a clean energy and climate mitigation solution last week when it hosted the White House Summit on Nuclear Energy.
The urgency for major solutions to climate change is at its highest level. Now is the time for Directioners to take a “chonce” on nuclear and become advocates for this clean energy source. And for all you pro-nukes who are still skeptical about One Direction’s music, don’t knock it till you try it. Besides, all I’m asking is that you keep an open mind about it, which is all we’re asking Directioners to do about nuclear energy and climate change.
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Veterans are unique members of American society. I am lucky to have served in the military. I had the opportunity to experience firsthand things most people only read about. From the threat of North Korean nuclear proliferation to tension in the South China Sea to patrols in the Strait of Hormuz, my six years in the Navy left me with skills, experiences and perspectives you cannot find anywhere else.
Despite this, the transition to civilian life and getting a job is still a challenge for many of our veterans. Prior to working at NEI I wrote veterans policy for a 2014 gubernatorial candidate. I spent months researching issues, talking to veterans and trying to determine how best to support and serve these men and women. This experience allowed me to spend time studying the root cause of issues like unemployment.
I believe many Americans do not understand how diverse our veteran population is. I do not mean cultural or socioeconomic diversity. I mean the diverse set of experiences, skills and perspectives our veterans gain while in the military. To many Americans, a veteran is someone who served boots-on-the-ground in Vietnam or Fallujah. In reality, those veterans – who are among the bravest – represent a fraction of the 22 million veterans living in America.
On this Veterans Day, don’t thank a military member for their service; ask them about their experience. My father and I both spent time in the military. He served the military police as an enlisted Army soldier for three years in Germany between the Vietnam War and the Gulf War. I served as a Naval Officer for six years driving warships in the Western Pacific ocean in the post-9/11 era. We are both veterans. But if you get to know either of us, you will quickly find that our experiences were profoundly different. Neither of us spent time under fire, but we both have stories to tell.
American veterans make up 1 percent of our population. So on this Veterans Day, get to know one. Share a meal or a cup of coffee. Listen to the diverse accounts of the mechanics, the cooks, the medics, the logisticians, the intelligence gatherers, the JAGs, the electricians and the gunners. Ask questions about who they are, where they served and what they learned. There are 22 million stories out there waiting to be shared.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
TerraPower is the nexus of several intersecting nuclear topics, including new technology and the global marketplace. The company, which is developing what it calls a traveling wave reactor, made a deal with the China National Nuclear Corp. to build a prototype traveling wave reactor and then a commercially-scaled version of it for deployment.
At the same time, the U.S.-China agreement on commercial nuclear energy cooperation entered into force over this past weekend. The required congressional review period has ended, and the two governments have concluded diplomatic exchanges that set the agreement in motion.
Daniel Lipman, NEI's vice president for suppliers and international programs, said this about the agreement.
"Through 2040, the direct economic benefit to the United States from this renewed agreement with China is expected to be between $70 billion and $204 billion, with 20,000 to 45,000 American jobs supported annually. In addition, this commercial relationship will help maintain U.S. influence on nuclear safety, security and nonproliferation.”
This is from NEI’s press release. You can read all of it here. The industry fought hard for this agreement; its failure would have been a terrible blow to the U.S. nuclear industry. It would also have put the brakes to TerraPower’s ambitions. But it did not fail and the brakes are off.
We asked TerraPower’s Director of Technology Integration Kevan Weaver about the company’s reactor, China and the trade deal. Weaver says the agreement “is especially important for the future of the American nuclear industry,” especially because it fosters supply chain growth in the U.S. – a boon for those trading with China and for the domestic marketplace.
Rather than paraphrase him further, though, we offer the interview in full.
Q: Can you explain briefly the idea behind the travelling wave reactor and how it differs from the current generation?
Weaver: Our traveling wave reactor (TWR) design differs from the existing fleet of light water reactors by using sodium as the primary coolant and depleted uranium as its main source of fuel. The TWR can greatly simplify the traditional nuclear fuel cycle, making it cheaper, safer and more proliferation resistant.
In more detail, the TWR core utilizes mostly fuel made from atoms unable to sustain a chain reaction on their own. Certain atoms can be converted to sustain a chain reaction through irradiation. As the reactor runs, the TWR gradually converts what is called “fertile” material into the fissile fuel needed to sustain a nuclear fission reaction and generate the heat necessary for electricity production. The design offers a simpler fuel cycle that allows for the expanded use of nuclear energy to produce electricity without new enrichment or reprocessing plants.
Unlike other proposed fast reactors, TWR fuel does not need to be reprocessed – eliminating a key proliferation risk. The characteristics of the reactor also allow the TWR to be safer than current plants and enable it to shut down safely without the need for on or off-site power, or human intervention.
Q: TerraPower recently announced that it will build a prototype in China. How did this deal come about?
Weaver: In order to effectively develop our technology, we need a partner that has both the experience in fast reactor development and the demand for baseload energy production. These two requirements translate into a very short list of potential partners and, over the years, we have had conversations with China, France, Russia, India, Korea and the United States. China has always been a strong possibility, given their existing fast reactor experience and exponential electricity demand.
On Sept. 22, TerraPower and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to further collaborate on advanced nuclear technology and potentially build a prototype reactor in China, where market forces are dramatically increasing nuclear energy demand. This MOU builds on our previous collaboration with China and takes us one step closer to building the first TWR. We are grateful for the support of the two governments.
Q: NEI has been much engaged in ensuring that the China 123 agreement (which allows trade in nuclear technology) makes it through Congress. This can seem a bit abstract to everyday folks, but you directly benefited from this action. Can you explain its importance to you?
Weaver: 123 agreements are like the rulebooks for a sport – you can’t play the game unless all parties know and agree on the rules. Renewing the China 123 agreement enables the United States and China to “play” together on peaceful commercial nuclear energy technologies for the next 30 years. This is especially important for the future of the American nuclear industry, as the ability to export our products and services grants U.S. companies access to one of the world’s largest markets for advanced reactors. It continues to be an important mechanism for fostering innovation and supply chain growth in an energy market where demand is growing fastest. Put simply, the agreement allows us to accelerate the scientific developments needed to achieve secure, affordable and emissions-free energy production.
Q: Has TerraPower found it difficult to negotiate the U.S. financial and regulatory systems? Other companies, such as NuScale and Terrestrial Energy, have also announced that they will work with non-U.S. regulators and entities. Is this just the nature of working in a global marketplace or has the U.S. become less attractive for new nuclear technology?
Weaver: The driving force in our decisions always goes back to TerraPower’s mission: creating a technological solution to raise living standards on a global scale. According to the International Energy Agency, 1.3 billion people – 18 percent of the global population – live without access to electricity; nearly 97 percent of these live in sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia.
Since the inception of the TWR project, our investors have also mandated that TerraPower must be a for-profit business; this means we require an active market in which to sell our technology. The intersection of these two factors makes it very clear that both demand and growth are centered outside of the United States.
In fact, according to projections by the Energy Information Agency, the United States will only experience a 0.3 percent/year increase in energy consumption and a 0.7 percent/year growth in electricity sales through 2040. Contrast that with projections from the International Energy Agency that say by 2040, 76 percent of the growth in installed nuclear capacity will concentrate in China, India, Korea and Russia. Nonetheless, while we are looking abroad for our first plants, we do look forward to bringing our technology back to the United States when demand dictates.
Q: What is TerraPower’s timeline, if any, for its prototype reactor?
Weaver: We hope to break ground on the first 600-MWe TWR in the mid-2020s, followed by the commercial 1150-MWe plants in the early 2030s.
Friday, November 06, 2015
This has certainly been a busy week for exploring the intersection of nuclear energy and policymaking. First, there was the NEI/Christian Science Monitor presentation on the COP21 conference (see post below for more on that) and today, the focus shifts to the home front with a White House Summit on Nuclear Energy.
Not to waste your time (too much), here is the link to the live stream, which will presumably go live nearer 1:00 pm EST, when the summit kicks off.
See you there, if only virtually.
Wednesday, November 04, 2015
Let’s set the table for new comers. The COP21 conference intends to bring together as many as 195 world leaders to sign an agreement to reduce carbon dioxide/greenhouse gas emissions consistent with limiting temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius by 2100.
U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the agreement already hammered out limits temperature rise to 2.7 to 3 degrees Celsius. That sounds like a minor difference, but it is not – the impacts on world population would be severe. But Figueres says that focusing on that misses the point. (my transcript – buyer beware)
If you define successful as assuming that the Paris meeting will solve climate change, then the answer is No. I have been say for at least a year that that is possible. You cannot turn an economic development model that we have been using for 150 years and that turn it around in one or even 23 years.
She offered three goals for the Paris conference. First, she said, it will act as the “receptacle” for national climate plans. Second, it will signal that countries are willing to step off what she called the “business-as-usual path.” While the plans as submitted may only limit temperature rise to an aggregate 2.7 or 3 degrees Celsius, she said they draw an “arc into the future,” with a better outcome achieved through further, more stringent accords and advances in technology.
Third, it will reflect increasing political will to act on climate change. That’s the short-term – this gives a better idea of the long-term.
This transformation is underway, it is unstoppable, and what we need to do here is ensure we can increase the pace because it is urgent that we get to a 2 degree pathway and measure ourselves transparently along the way.
Figures said that if Paris represents the staring point and 2 degrees the end point, what happens in-between is the journey. So – let the journey begin – in Paris – next month.
We know that nuclear energy will have an important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. China, India and many other countries are looking seriously at nuclear energy – and renewable energy sources, too – to bring down their emissions. I mention China and India because they are huge, rapidly developing nations, reasonable proxies for the issues that have foiled earlier efforts at consensus (notably at COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009) – how to balance the needs of developed and developing nations. It’s inherently interesting that nuclear is a big part of how they will industrialize while containing greenhouse gases.
Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, has no such concerns and was quite happy to make the obvious point.
“The bottom line is that nuclear is the only 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week source of power that does not result in the emission of greenhouse gasses. It’s hard to believe that we can limit temperature increase, and its associated impacts, without a vastly expanded use of nuclear energy.”
If you watch the Claussen segment, which kicks off the presentation, don’t miss the Q&A exchange about Germany. Claussen and an audience member knocks back the notion that Germany represents a breakthrough in privileging renewable energy sources. It’s very entertaining. (I haven’t read this myself, but is Germany really importing wood from the U.S. and Canada to burn as fuel, as an audience member says? If true, it’s quite – distressing. Topic for further research. Granted, this event was co-sponsored by NEI, so no criticism of Germany is too much, but the wood chips still have to fall where they will.)
You can watch the whole presentation on YouTube. It’s only an hour in length. Well worth your time and with a lot of interesting content I can’t cover in a short post.
Tuesday, November 03, 2015
The Wall Street Journal's Jon Keegan recently published a very interesting infographic on how long your iPhone would keep operating depending on the ultimate power source. Keegan analyzed the energy density of certain fossil fuels, batteries, and even body fat (which was pretty cool) and analyzed how long an iPhone could run based on its theoretical battery volume.
Keegan looked at three scenarios: regular use, LTE browsing, and stand by time for an iPhone 6s. Under those conditions, Keegan estimated that the lithium ion battery in your iPhone should last 15 hours from regular use, 10 hours from LTE browsing, and 10 days on standby. The results ranged from an hour from a lead acid battery (similar to that of the one in your car) to 10 days by diesel fuel from regular use. In case you were curious, body fat would power your phone for 9 days.
|Can't fight the power.|
Interestingly, there was one fuel source that didn't make Keegan's cut: uranium. For those of you who are wondering, uranium oxide, the fuel that powers nuclear reactors, is so energy dense that its fission process could power your iPhone for almost 12,000,000 days of regular use! That’s over 32,000 years!
If for some reason you left your phone on standby mode, you would not need to charge your phone for 515,000 years.
I have many questions for Apple CEO Tim Cook. Would my warranty last that long? Would I be able to keep my original data plan? How is this possible?
Keegan analyzed electrical energy density in Watt hours per liter (Wh/l). This is the measurement of electrical energy per hour in a certain volume (in this case, a liter). In Keegan’s analysis, he calculated the densest fuel to be diesel fuel at 10,700 (Wh/l). The uranium fuel in nuclear reactors has 13.2 billion Wh/l.
This is simply the energy released when nuclear fuel is in an operating reactor. Less than five percent of nuclear fuel is from the Uranium-235 isotope. Also, not all of the U-235 isotopes fission. If we assumed that the battery was powered by U-235 and had 100% fission, we’d be talking about trillions of WH/l. If you'd like to check my work, click here.
Here's another real world example. A typical 1,000-megawatt reactor can be sited on a 1.3 square mile parcel of land, a size roughly equivalent to New York's Central Park. This includes all of the plant's operations, including security and onsite storage of used nuclear fuel.
To generate the same amount of electricity, a solar facility would require 45-75 square miles, between 1.3 and two times the size of Manhattan. A wind farm able to generate as much electricity would be larger still, between 260-360 square miles, or between 7 and 11 times the size of Manhattan.
The ability of nuclear energy to deliver so much carbon-free electricity in such a small package makes it so valuable to our energy future.
EDITOR'S NOTE: After taking a second look at our calculations, we discovered that we had underestimated the potency of uranium by a factor of 1,000. Thanks to The Nuclear Advocate on Facebook for pointing out the error.