Saturday, October 02, 2010

Warming Barry Brook's Blog

As the bunnies know, Barry Brook, owner operator of Brave New Climate, is a strong advocate of nuclear power as THE (his words) way to avoid the climate disruption soon upon us. He has even written a book about it, pictured on the right. Free publicity for friends here at Rabett Run.

Now Eli, Eli thinks that nuclear must play a significant role, but there are other technologies that will also be important, including a shift from coal to natural gas, solar and wind. Eli is what you call a moderate Rabett, moderation in everything, including moderation. Joe Romm, on the other ear, thinks that nuclear is cods liver oil, but then Eli don't agree with everyone on everything either.

However, to the point (spoil sporting again), in reading through the National Academys' report of doctoral graduate programs, Eli came across a tab for "Emerging Fields" and in that tab the bunny found that fourteen of the best places in the US have (more likely restarted) nuclear engineering programs.

Institution Name Number of Core Faculty Number of Associated Faculty Number of Students
GEORGIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY 7 3 19
KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY 4 0 6
MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY 35 0 79
NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY 8 9 23
OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY 7 3 16
PENN STATE UNIVERSITY 14 26 23
PURDUE UNIVERSITY 11 5 31
RENSSELAER POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE 7 10 4
TEXAS A & M UNIVERSITY 15 19 38
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-BERKELEY 12 2 47
UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI 6 0 10
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 12 131 14
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT URBANA-CHAMPAIGN 10 21 47
UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND COLLEGE PARK 4 3 7
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN-ANN ARBOR 20 1 59
UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI - COLUMBIA 5 0 27
UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO
6 2 22
UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE 9 15 16
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN MADISON 29 N/D 43

They are both a trend and a remnant. Nuclear engineering programs were everywhere in the US in the 60s, but started to shut down in the 70's for multiple reasons, no new plants being build as one, the increased difficulty of operating research reactors being another. What remained trained operators for the existing nuclear plants. One of the things that happens in academically dying fields is that departments of dying stuff convert themselves into department of dying stuff and trendy stuff. Thus, Departments of Anatomy became Departments of Anatomy and Neuroscience or Departments of Anatomy and Paleoscience. In other cases, Deans politely ask department to merge, as in Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering. In yet others, the departments glom onto a part of their field that is expanding, as in the Department of Nuclear Plasma and Radiological Engineering.
The Department of Nuclear Engineering was established in 1958 as an inter-disciplinary program and was granted departmental status in 1986. Its name was changed to the Department of Nuclear, Plasma and Radiological Engineering in 1999 to reflect the three paths typically followed by its students, and the wide variety of courses available to them. The change was approved by the Illinois Board of Higher Education at its June 15, 1999 Board meeting.

"The name change has been in the works for a long time," said James Stubbins, department head. "The purpose of this name change is twofold: first, to emphasize that the nuclear engineering discipline, as it is taught at the University of Illinois, is not just about commercial nuclear power, and, second, to better reflect the breadth of the undergraduate curriculum, the graduate program, and the diversity of the faculty.

"Over the last few years, the faculty has developed a modified undergraduate curriculum," Stubbins continued. "The primary purpose of the revised curriculum is to explicitly include two new sub-fields or paths of study: Radiological, Medical and Instrumentation Applications, and Plasmas and Fusion Science and Engineering. The third, the traditional Reactor Power, Safety and the Environment sub-field, is also an option. The explicit incorporation of the new sub-fields has been performed to better prepare our undergraduate students for employment in radiation-related sectors of the U.S. job market, and to better reflect the expanding opportunities in the evolving nuclear engineering discipline in line with faculty research interests."
The nuclear engineering department where Eli had collaborators began hiring materials scientists and converted into a Department of Materials Engineering but the school has brought back a nuclear engineering program.

It looks like Nuclear Engineering departments might be making a comeback. The key in the US is going to be Steven Chu's attitude as head of the Department of Energy. Of course, when a thousand flowers bloom, some die

22 comments:

Lionel A said...

A very good text on nuclear power generation is provided by W.J. Nuttal in 'Nuclear Renaissance: Technologies and Policies for the Future of Nuclear Power'.

Provides an overview of old technologies and a wide range of later developments pointing the way to scalable power plants, some transportable by sea.. Discusses the nuclear waste quandary and delineates between the grades of waste pointing to technologies which would serve to limit the quantity of high grade waste by using this in newer design plant. Also explodes the 'weapons proliferation fear' meme.

For more on this book visit Amazon, where there is a Kindle version available) or here:

Nuclear Renaissance at Google

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

Lionel A. says, "Also explodes the 'weapons proliferation fear' meme."

Unfortunate choice of metaphor.

Barry Brook said...

Thanks for the profile, Eli.

Of course, I'm happy with whatever works, and if non-hydro renewable energy can fulfil a greater role than I anticipate, then all's the better. But it's good to see important institutions taking nuclear energy seriously again. Even in Australia, the University of NSW is about to restart a Masters in Nuclear Engineering. The Renaissance cometh? I hope so, for climate's sake.

By the way, for the best (free!) book ever written on nuclear energy -- even though it's now 20 years old -- read Bernard Cohen's "The Nuclear Energy Option". Superb, and incredibly readable:

http://www.phyast.pitt.edu/~blc/book/

Anonymous said...

"I am become death, the destroyer of worlds" J. Robert Oppenheimer, Trinity 1945 ... destroyer of worlds." I suppose we all thought that, one way or another... You still don't think he knew what he & his Science, is all about? Where is all the radioactive waste from that old CO reactor Eli, what hole did it end up---going down? Haven't scientists been working at Yucky Mtn. in NV for the last two centuries and even that is a no-go; scientists say. "Not safe enough" say the smart folks that cash their checks. Most of them have been working there long enough to retire twice.) But hey, the beating goes on. In for a penny, down for a trillion. Whats new doc? BEEGEE and the CHI-COM-S will give it all away to the world for FREEdom. Even Boner from YouToo wants the world to have FREE-power, at very reasonable prices for the unwashed masses. Soon we will all know the true costs. I even dusted of my old copy of the 'Effects of Nuclear Weapons', DA Pam 39-3, it is thick & long---totally RAD. Don't go over 500, thats for sure. You all would need hare plugs, just to keep lookin kool...

Why drive, when you could be doing a Fly-bye.

CapitalClimate said...

According to its history page, the 'Tute's Course XXII has been in continuous operation since 1958, unlike Meteorology which was merged into Earth Sciences many moons ago.

Anonymous said...

http://columbia.washingtonhistory.org/anthology/maturingstate/seduced.aspx

David B. Benson said...

My comment was eaten by the Flying Internet Monster.

David B. Benson said...

Actually, its on the next thread down.

I suppose I made a mistake.

David B. Benson said...

Some community/junior colleges have 2 year programs training nuclear reactor operators. The main reason is that the current crop are of retirement age.

frflyer said...

"explodes the 'weapons proliferation fear' meme."

Can someone explain why the U.S. is so concerned about Iran's nuclear energy development, if it doesn't potentially lead to nuclear weapons?

If including new nuclear in the energy mix will be necessary to end the use of fossil fuels, I'm willing to accept that. But I'm for expanding use of solar and wind etc, as quickly as possible.
Nuclear proponents seem to see nuclear as the only solution, with renewable unable to contribute in a meaningful way.

Well, in Arizona, nuclear advocates recently tried to have nuclear classed as a renewable, eligible for the same tax credits as solar.
So how many nuclear power plants might they build in Arizona?

According to the NREL, Arizona has potential for 285 GW generating capacity from solar thermal equipped with heat storage. The equivalent of about 150 nuclear power plants, adjusting for capacity factors.(my rough guesstimate) The NREL gives parabolic trough solar plants, with heat storage, a capacity factor of 50% and gives power tower type plants 70% capacity factor. This is based on something like 4 or 6 hours heat storage. I forget the exact number, but longer hours of heat storage are feasible.

EliRabett said...

frflyer Wanna bet on that? Iran is certainly trying for breakout. YMMV on how good or bad that is, but it is sticking your head in the sand to say they ain't trying.

Horatio Algeranon said...

Why are US colleges restarting nookyalur programs when our government could prolly get excellent engineers from Iran? (and Pakistan??)

They could work under H-1B visas right?

Anonymous said...

Good morning Eli. I would like to know where Israel has their reprocessing & seperation facilities? The ones we have in the US, that are required to make the BOMB, are Big-Wide-&-Long. One I know is at Hanford.

http://www.ccnr.org/B_plant_reprocessing.html

Catch real big fish here and at the other sites, if you get a wild hare. I don't see any structures in Israel that are large enough to make all their weapons(200+/-?)...that Ehud said Israel had, when he was PM? I can't see their facilities from up here. And if you want to know how this is all going to end, read that big black book in your night-stand drawer---the answers are in the back:)

Anonymous said...

Snow Bunny say:

The banks were told there was a 1 in 10 million chance of a commercial nuclear power plant meltdown. Although there had already been one non-commercial damaging explosion.

Three Mile Island's meltdown let behind a non-usable billion dollar plant. Gone was the banks' investment.

Now the government passed a law saying the federal government would be responsible for any damage from radiation disbursement due to an explosion.

Still the banks are not keen for the risk. Plus the utility customers aren't thrilled to pay more and don't want one in their backyards.

EliRabett said...

Dimona. Next

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

Anon: "And if you want to know how this is all going to end, read that big black book in your night-stand drawer---the answers are in the back:)"

Really? The Joy of Sex has the answers?

EliRabett said...

Instructions

Horatio Algeranon said...

The Joy of Sex has the answers?

Like anon said, "in the back"

David B. Benson said...

frflyer --- See my comment on the next thread down.

Turns out that some amount of power has to be produced fairly steadily or else rather expen$ive storage is required. So a mix of gnerating methods will work best. The mix will be different for different regions.

FancyRat said...

I think nuclear has the advantage of working independent of local conditions (apart from needing cooling water like all forms of thermal power generation). That makes it easier to roll out across the world. It is the whole world (including Africa, India, less developed parts of Asia, South America) that needs much more power with much less CO2.

Wind and Geothermal depend on location specific conditions. Solar depends more on regional conditions, so may be genericaly usable for some regions, but not all. Nuclear can also be built adjacent to existing coal/oil plants, connecting easily to existing infrastructure. Where transmission infrastructure is missing, Solar and Wind become very attractive as smaller scale, local installations.

dhogaza said...

"Why are US colleges restarting nookyalur programs when our government could prolly get excellent engineers from Iran? (and Pakistan??)

They could work under H-1B visas right?"

Hmm, might be a cheaper approach to ending the problem than bombing the facilities ...

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