36 thoughts on “Sandpit

  1. Dan, I went off on a tangent in another thread and mentioned a red beard who wanted to execute prisoners. (And I do think of him as a red beard. No hair on top with a man dangling out of the bottom of the beard.) I think his problem was simply a normal type of human thinking carried too far. A lot of people like to watch sports and support a team and they will support their team and consider it to be the best and regard the opposing team as terrible, completly regardless of what the actual evidence maybe. And for the most part this kind of thinking is all fine and harmless when it is confined to sports or online computer games, but it tends to become counter productive when applied to all aspects of life.

    I think red beard thought that if someone commits a crime and ends up in prison then they are no longer part of team Lawful Society and therefore must be on an opposing team – Team Evil. When I said I didn’t approve of executing them he decided I must be part of the opossing team and therefore I must be pro rape, pro murder and pro car theft. When I explained that I wasn’t pro these things and actually against them, he seemed genuinely surprised and I guess he put me in a strange new category. I got the feeling I had expanded his horizons.

    I didn’t change his opinon, but on the bright side, while I’m sure red beard has the power to vote, I’m pretty sure he isn’t a member of Parliment or Prime Minister. I don’t even think he’s a shadow minister.

  2. TerjeP, while it is technically possible to build a nuclear power plant to provide peak power, it is not at all economically possible. Electricity from a nuclear plant that operates half the time costs roughly 95% as much as power from a nuclear plant that runs all the time.

    If you are talking about using the molten salt in the primary loop for thermal storage that’s a trick that isn’t limited to nuclear plants. And it should be cheaper outside of a nuclear plant because the precautions required for dealing with a radioactive medium are unnecessary. Gas, coal, biomass and thermal solar could all be used for thermal storage and could potentially be more efficient than nuclear by operating at a higher temperature. Even electricity from wind turbines could be used to heat a medium, although the opportunity cost of using electricity from wind would normally be higher than using heat, unless the wind was blowing hard and demand was low.

  3. Sam, red beard is just a beard I met. I believe there was a person inside it, but I could have been mistaken. That’s not much I can tell you about him that I haven’t mentioned above. He was red and bushy and wanted to execute prisoners.

  4. Do grown-ups (even lorn-order ones) actually reason like that? Very glad that I move in different circles, or so it seems.

  5. I think people who think like that aren’t that rare, Dan. It does seem to be a natural ground state of humanity that requires at least some slightly enlightened self interest to overcome. That’s why people say things to children like, “Think about other people once and a while,” instead of, “Stab the non-believers!”

  6. Jarrah back at #21 Ok, if you say so. Still I think it was a ‘quibble’ but that’s what you lawyer types like to do. 🙂

  7. @Ronald Brak

    TerjeP, while it is technically possible to build a nuclear power plant to provide peak power, it is not at all economically possible. Electricity from a nuclear plant that operates half the time costs roughly 95% as much as power from a nuclear plant that runs all the time.

    So what you’re saying is that provided that running the nuclear power plant at capacity all the time is itself not that expensive for peak power, all we need to do is to find some other valuable use for the surplus power to get it at a marginal cost of about 5%.

    Ok, so maybe off-peak power users aren’t willing to pay 95% of peak price, but there are tasks that could run during the off-peak — recharging electric cars, pumping water, doing desal, and so forth that could keep the plants occupied. The key question is whether the plant is able to sell power for a high enough price during the peak to ignore the losses during the off-peak.

  8. Fran, in answer to your question, can an *ahem* plant sitting mostly idle make enough money supplying peak power to ignore its losses during periods of low demand: No it can’t.

    What you suggest above applies just as well to a coal plant as to an *ahem* plant. They are both high capital, low fuel cost methods of generating electricity. (The marginal cost of coal to a power plant in Australia is often only a few dollars a tonne.) You may have noticed that we try to avoid having coal plants operate at below their normal capacity for any appreciable length of time because it is generally cheaper to use gas and/or hydroelectricity where they are available to provide peak power rather than to build coal plants that lie idle for much of the time.

    So if coal power plants can’t manage it, then much more expensive *ahem* plants can’t.

    (And I’m getting deja vu. I explained exactly this same point to some bald guy ages ago.)

    And it really doesn’t makes sense to consider building an *ahem* plant to meet peak demand now that load following point of use solar is so much cheaper than *ahem*. It is obvious that the generating capacity that is both cheaper and more closely matches demand is the better choice. (And this does’t mean that something else such as natural gas may currently be cheaper still.)

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