How much time do we have? An Engineer Looks at Global Warming, Part 1

This is the first of a three part series entitled An Engineer Looks at Global Warming. Engineers are trained not to take sides. They are trained to understand the problem before proposing a solution. They are trained that in coming up with a solution everything is a trade-off. Every alternative worth investigating will have plusses and minuses, benefits and costs. This training goes against some of our most basic tribal instincts and is not always successful. But it does give an engineer a different perspective than most. Engineers solve problems by asking questions. This series asks three questions about global …

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Nuclear Waste: A Tale of Two Particles

For practical purposes, used nuclear fuel remains radioactive forever. However, the penetrating form of radiation is essentially gone in about 500 years. After that, the used fuel must be swallowed to be harmful. But that would require eating rocks. Bacon is probably more dangerous than aged nuclear fuel. You are much more likely to swallow that carcinogen.

Low CO2 Electricity: The Options For Germany

This paper is based on the latest iteration of the Gordian Knot Group’s electrical grid model. The potential primary sources are wind, solar, nuclear, gas and coal. At user option, the model implements both battery and hydrogen storage. The model minimizes the sum of the grid cost and the social cost of CO2 at a user supplied CO2 price. In this paper the model has been exercised on Germany for a range of CO2 prices and nuclear costs. The results demonstrate the overwhelming importance of the cost of nuclear to the combinations of grid cost and CO2 emissions that are …

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Preserving Nuclear Ore

A conservationist view of nuclear waste Spent nuclear fuel is a potentially valuable source of electricity, power for deep space probes and pacemakers, and uniquely effective, cancer killing drugs. After a few hundred years, it is no more dangerous than any other highly toxic poison. Only a sinfully wasteful society would treat such a bountiful ore as a disposable nuisance

The GKG Grid Model

This document describes the GKG (Gordian Knot Group) Grid Model. It is not a user’s manual. Rather it attempts to outline the model’s assumptions and limitations, and serve as a reference to which the GKG analyses based on this model can refer to avoid repeating this description in each of those studies.

The Lessons of Three Mile Island

On March 28th, 1979, the nearly new Unit 2 at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania suffered a meltdown. This was an exceedingly expensive industrial casualty. The plant was a multi-billion dollar write off. The nuclear establishment did much finger pointing, soul searching, and hand wringing. Two major semi-independent reports were published: the Kemeny Report and the Rogovin Report. They claimed to have learned a number of important lessons. This note compares the lessons they should have been learned, with the lessons that were learned. In writing this piece, I had essential help from Mike Derivan, one of …

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