Sunday, February 27, 2005

Solving Iran!

I was stunned to watch the “pundits” on the Sunday morning shows discuss the deal between Russia and Iran regarding the supply of nuclear fuel for power plants. I guess it is necessary to be totally technically illiterate to be a pundit. What they all missed is the quid pro quo in the deal, Iran gets processed fuel from Russia in exchange for a equal amount of burned fuel. It’s sort of like the old soda bottle return programs. Or the old Charlie Chan movies, No tickee, no washee!
How would you like to see a program that
1) Supports the people of Iran at the expense of the mullahs?
2) Builds a path toward eliminating Russia’s surplus stocks of weapons grade uranium?
3) Reduces global carbon dioxide emissions?
4) Increases the supply of oil without additional drilling?
5) Prevents war with Iran?
Does any of that sound attractive? Well, how about throwing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in the waste bin along with the other Cold War Era arms control treaties and start thinking as if we had entered the 21st Century? The treaty hasn’t been working very well anyway! Would you trade a useless treaty for the list of benefits above? If your answer is yes, this is what you need to support.
1) We allow the agreement to go forward subject to a free election in Iran (That puts the mullahs at a disadvantage, they don‘t want free elections because they will lose!).
2) We allow Russia to dilute its surplus of weapons grade uranium to commercial grade fuel and sell it to Iran which burns it, subject to forcing the material to be shipped and inspected by US & UN entities with each having a veto over subsequent shipments for violations of the agreement. Note that shipping spent fuel for reprocessing is quite problematic under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which is why it has to go.
3) We encourage Iran to generate its electrical needs with nuclear power in lieu of fossil fuels thereby decreasing the amount of carbon dioxide spewed into the air.
4) Item 3 above allows Iran’s oil to be diverted into the world oil market, driving down world spot market prices.
5) By reducing fuel costs for electricity generation, we provide more of it and thereby a more modern standard of living for the Iranian people, fostering democracy and leading to a more friendly, democratic Iran.
So why do you need to be technically competent to understand all this? Simply because the world is driven by economics and the MegaWatthour-electric (MWHe) fuel cost to burn oil in a modern, combined cycle gas turbine power plant with a thermal efficiency of 60% (i.e. state-of-the-art) is essentially equal to the cost of one barrel of oil. If the price of a barrel of oil is $50, the fuel costs to generate one MWHe will be $50. The last time I saw the fuel cost of surplus fuel from Cold war stocks, one MWHe equivalent cost about $23 for nuclear power plants. Over the life of a power generating plant, the difference in additional capital and interest costs for a nuke over a cogen will be dwarfed by the savings in fuel costs. Economically, the facts demand a switch to nuclear power. What holds it up are the touchy-feely worries of the Ecofreaks about meltdowns and the Non-Proliferation Treaty. If you’ve already indicated a willingness to drop the treaty, are you now willing to risk a meltdown in Iran? Even the Sierra Club might sign onto that list of benefits!
Now does this mean we should build Russian reactors in the United States? Of course, not! We want newer, better technology for our new nuclear power plants! Read about one sample of the choices read here.
Calculations: One barrel of oil is 42 US Gallons. Texas crude weighs about 7.286 pounds per gallon and has a heating value of 19,460 BTU/pound. This computes to 567,142 BTU/BBL. Converting from BTUs to KWH we use a value of 3412 BTU/KWH. The result is about 1662 KWH/BBL. At 60% thermal efficiency, we get 997 KWH/BBL. 1000 KWH = 1 MWHe. So rounding off, we need one barrel of oil to generate 1 MegaWatthour of electricity.
Update 2/28/05 8:33 AM -
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39 Comments:

Blogger Bill Kirk said...

Finally somebody is getting closer to the truth about power generation. Nuclear power generation is used to supply base line power but it cannot be used to supply peaking power because you cannot vary the power output fast enough to respond to peak power requirements. Peaking power is supplied by gas or oil fired systems. Peaking power costs, in the US, something like 10 times the cost per KWHr that nuclear power costs. Every country needs nuclear power generation for their base line power - including America. Nuclear power is the cheapest, cleanest and safest power generation available to date. Iran is right to want nuclear for base line power generation. It is wrong to want nuclear capability for weapons.

Our strategy with Iran should be to encourage nuclear power gneration but control the nuclear elements from being turned into weapons.

Bill Kirk

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Blogger Timothy Birdnow said...

Once again, Bruce, you have shown yourself a candle in the dark! Excellent post! The media pundits see a nuke as a nuke. It was refreshing to hear someone make an intelligent argument on the matter!

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