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Yet another paper on the external cost of neodymium iron boride magnets.

I recently posted in this space some graphics on the process of isolating neodymium from lanthanide ores (aka "rare earth ores" or REO)

Some life cycle graphics on so called "rare earth elements," i.e. the lanthanides.

The paper I cited was this one: Behind the Scenes of Clean Energy: The Environmental Footprint of Rare Earth Products (Zhao et alACS Sustainable Chem. Eng., 2018, 6 (3), pp 3311–3320)

The word "clean" in this paper's title, given what it discusses, strikes me as a kind of joke, but no matter.

Let's be clear on something, OK? The conversion of mechanical energy to electricity and back again depends on the existence of permanent magnets. This is true for relatively dirty forms of energy, battery driven motors, wind turbines, gas turbines, coal turbines, diesel powered turbines as well as relatively or comparitively clean devices such as nuclear power plants and the slightly less clean hydroelectric plants.

There seems to be good prospects for highly efficient devices to directly convert heat into electricity (as opposed to inefficient devices like those that powered the Voyager, New Horizons, Pioneer, Cassini...etc...space crafts as well some historical cardiac pace makers and similar devices. (There's some exciting stuff going on in thermoelectric materials, I should find time to write about it some day.)

But right now, more than 95% - probably more like 98% - of the electricity generated on the face of this planet is produced by the use of permanent magnetism.

Historically - and I'm sure in many older power plants - many of these magnets were or are "Alnico" or "AlNiCo" magnets, but political instability in the Congo region where cobalt is mined under horrific labor conditions - sometimes actual child slavery - produced a worldwide shortage of cobalt which motivated a search for new materials, and the new material discovered was the "NIB" or neodymium iron boride magnet, which not only replaced AlNiCo but proved to be superior to AlNiCo.

Actually the neodymium iron boride magnet contains a few other elements, often, like neodymium, lanthanides, especially dysprosium and praseodymium.

Europium is used in many phosphors, including energy saving fluorescent bulbs, although these may be replaced ultimately be even more efficient lighting in the form of LED's, which contain not only europium, but also the remarkable and difficult compound gallium nitride, the synthesis of which actually resulted in a Nobel Prize.

Now another paper has come along evaluating the external costs of lanthanides, which goes under the general rubric of "clean" energy although in my opinion it is neither clean, nor sustainable nor actually "renewable." The paper was just published in a journal article that came out this morning: Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of NdFeB Permanent Magnet Production from Different Rare Earth Deposits (Schreiber et al ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng., 2018, 6 (5), pp 5858–5867)

The authors come from Germany, a country with a big demand for lanthanides which is also the country with the second highest cost of electricity in Europe, after Denmark.

European Electricity Prices

We don't need no stinking data!

From the introduction to the paper which is all about "decarbonized" electricity, in spite of the fact that electricity is less decarbonized than it's been at any time in human history; the fraction relying on carbon is rising, not falling.

(If that bothers you, I suggest you call Kelly Conway to have her explain "alternate facts" to you.)

The opening paragraph speaks of this illusive "decarbonized" electricity, to wit:

In 2016, world rare earth mine production was 126 000 t of rare earth oxide (REO) equivalents predominately in China (105 000 t).1 Several rare earth elements (REEs) are used for the transformation of the fossil era into a decarbonized energy sector. REEs are essential for wind and solar energy, electric and hybrid vehicles, and low-energy lighting. Approximately 20% of the REEs are used for magnets in motors and generators.2 Rare earth iron boron magnets (NdFeB) are among the strongest permanent magnets. The basis for the technical properties of magnets is the use of the specific REEs neodymium (Nd), praseodymium (Pr), and dysprosium (Dy). A typical NdFeB magnet used in wind turbines consists of approximately 65% iron, 32% RE metals, 2% cobalt, and 1% boron.

Then the paper gets serious. Looking at the graphics from the earlier post I had on this subject, I kind of felt that as dire as they were, they pulled some punches. This is less true in the second paper cited herein because the process details and the chemistry involved is a little more graphically detailed.

It compares the external costs associated with the processing of ores from three different sources, China (Baotou) which is the world's largest producer of lanthanides, Australia, and the US Mountain Pass facility in California.

First the overview from this paper, which is similar to the earlier paper/post:

The caption:
Figure 1. Production sites of the three supply chains.

Figure 2. Exemplary process chain of the three supply chains for the production of Nd.

Now this is straight up. Flotation - the Mountain Pass and Baotou mines (and probably the Australian) mine are all in water stressed locations, leaching with dilute hydrochloric acid, "sulfiding" which is reacting sulfur to form metal sulfides, "roasting" which is heating the sulfides to give off sulfur dioxide and sulfur trioxide, digesting the resulting oxide in sulfuric acid, reprecipitating with ammonium carbonate (made from natural gas), redissolving in hydrochloric acid and four steps in solvent extraction using chelating agents manufactured from dangerous petroleum in a dangerous petroleum solvent (kerosene or similar), this to separate the 16 different elements, (including scandium and yttrium) or 17 if you count the radioactive thorium always found in lanthanide ores. Finally the extraction solutions are treated with toxic oxalic acid to precipitate the oxalates, and roasted again, to give oxides again which are then electrolytically reduced to the individual elements.


I cannot write a comment here, without hearing some rote and most often extremely silly objection that goes "...but nuclear..."

This sounds exactly to me like "...but her emails..." and represents a Trumpian distortion similar to "but her emails..."

But since I'm going to hear this kind of delusional bullshit, including remarks about how "dangerous" used nuclear fuel is even though in half a century of storing it, this while burning gas and coal based electricity to whine about it on line, used nuclear fuel hasn't actually killed anyone in this country, this while the de facto "acceptable" dangerous fossil fuel waste (aka air pollution) and dangerous renewable biomass waste (aka air pollution) kills 19,000 people a day, every day.

A comparative risk assessment of burden of disease and injury attributable to 67 risk factors and risk factor clusters in 21 regions, 1990–2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 (Lancet 2012, 380, 2224–60: For air pollution mortality figures see Table 3, page 2238 and the text on page 2240.)

It is true that the Purex process for the separation of nuclear materials from used nuclear fuels - the Purex process being the only commercial nuclear fuel reprocessing process ever employed - is a solvent extraction process, and is similar in many ways to solvent extraction to separate lanthanide. If I were building a modern nuclear fuel reprocessing plant it's not the process I would choose, but historically everyone has chosen Purex, and rather than talk about what could be, let's talk about what is:

It is also true that several of the elements in used nuclear fuels are lanthanides, mostly from lanthanum through europium, and including significant amounts of neodymium. However the difference between nuclear neodymium and mined neodymium is one of scale. To power a single human being operating at 5000 watts of average continuous power, about twice the world wide per capita power demand (but half the American power demand) about 1 gram of plutonium would need to be fissioned per year. Isotopes decaying to neodymium in the fast fission of plutonium (which is what would be the best case) are rather pronounced since the natural element has 5 stable and 2 quasi stable - isotopes that are slightly radioactive but have enormously long half lives and so have survived mostly intact since the formation of the earth - isotopes. None of the other radioactive isotopes besides these two naturally occurring isotopes 144 and 148 have half lives longer than a few days, and thus neodymium removed from nuclear fuel, is essentially the radiologic equivalent of natural neodymium, ready for use without any radiation "problem." Because it has so many stable or quasi stable isotopes neodymium is a prominent fission product. In fast fission of plutonium about 13% result in an isotope that will decay to stable or quasi stable neodymium.

However, the energy to mass density of nuclear fuel is so high - which is the reason for its environmental superiority to all other options - that even if all the energy on the planet generated by humanity were provided by fast nuclear fission of plutonium, the neodymium produced each year would only represent only a tiny fraction of current demand, about 550 tons per year.

Let's return to the paper though:

This figure gives the "equivalents" (note the differing units) of the impact of producing 1 kg of neodymium:

The caption:
Figure 5. Environmental impacts of 1 kg of Nd obtained from Bayan Obo, Mountain Pass, and Mount Weld.

You may wonder about the (small) risk of ionizing radiation that appears in this graphic. This is because all of the lanthanide ores contain (besides the naturally occurring radioisotopes of the lanthanides themselves, including but not limited to neodymium, thorium.

Thorium is an excellent fuel for nuclear reactors, not quite as good as uranium since uranium is significantly soluble in seawater and thorium is not, and therefore uranium is sustainable forever, and thorium only for a few thousand years.

I assure you if these ores were being mined for their thorium content to make nuclear fuels, we'd have shits for brains people carrying endlessly about the "danger" of thorium mining, but since the very same mining is for so called "renewable energy" and not nuclear energy, people couldn't care less. The thorium is just dumped. Since all future generations will need to poke through our waste heaps to live, the thorium left from our quite literally quixotic adventure in wind mill tilting, the REO tailings, will represent one of the best tools left for them, not that we give a shit about them.


A generator in a nuclear plant will require neodymium just as a wind turbine will, this is true. However the external cost for the same amount of mass used in a wind turbine has a higher external cost than that in a nuclear power plant.

How so?

The reason is that a wind turbine might, in a very windy area, have a capacity utilization of 30%-40%, less in other areas. Anyone who has had the misfortune of seeing them blight the sky on a pristine mountain range will notice that some of the time they are still, not moving. Thus a wind turbine is 1/2 of a system that requires 2 units to do what one unit can do, and thus requires twice as much neodymium as a nuclear plant requires, since nuclear plants in this country have the highest capacity utilization (approximately 90% overall) of any form of mechanical to electrical energy conversion devices, including coal, gas, oil, hydroelectricity and (worst among them all) wind power.

A breakdown of the share of each type of environmental impact per process element:

The caption:

Figure 6. Share of single processes on total impacts of 1 kg Nd production.

The caption:
Figure 7. Share of process chain parts on total impacts of 1 kg Nd production.

An excerpt of the concluding remarks:

Eight out of 12 impact categories are dominated by chemical production for all deposits. This particularly applies to roasting, leaching, and solvent extraction, in which the chemicals are added stoichiometrically. Although flotation is the most important process for the production of REO (Figure S7 and S8) due to the large flow of ore, it is not relevant when looking at the overall results. The reason for that is the very low chemical/ore ratio (<1%). The case of Mountain Pass shows the effectiveness of measures such as avoiding chemicals by recycling saline wastewater, cleaner energy production by a natural gas fired combined heat and power plant, or the lack of a roasting process with corresponding emissions. All the same, those measures do not show impact on all environmental effects. For example, the impact category particulate matters formation is clearly controlled by the deposit and cannot be reduced substantially by additional measures such as sprinkling facilities. Also, changes in processing procedures are very unlikely, as they are determined by the mineral type. However, improvement in process efficiencies will have an impact here. Even changes with small specific impacts, such as off-gas treatment of electrolyzers or modern concepts for sludge treatment at all production sites, can add up to a recognizable total improvement…

...…In the end, it has to be kept in mind that data quality in general, but especially for China, is very poor. However, differences between the pathways lay beyond deviations assumed. With all environmental measures and legal restrictions, Mountain Pass provides Nd and Pr with the best environmental performance. Whether announcements of the Chinese government to improve environmental performances have turned into action yet is not known to us. However,It still helps to show benchmarks of technical improvements, though.

The remark after the last ellipsis says something by the way, which is relevant to many other consumer items other than so called "renewable energy," but will suffice to be attached here to so called "renewable energy."

Somebody pays for "cheap" so called "renewable energy." Maybe it's not the consumer, or even the producer of the the so called "renewable energy."


...the shutdown of Mountain Pass shows that environmental superiority is not enough to promote RE production outside of China...

Environmental superiority is not enough.

Who pays? The people living in the Baotou region now and every generation that will live thereafter.

So much for "cheap."

Have a nice day tomorrow. I hope you're enjoying your work week as much as I'm enjoying mine.

Looking for advice. Anyone ever traveled to study overseas on an NSF grant?

My kid has been invited to do undergraduate research in France; for which the NSF Grant gives $9000 for everything, flight and food. The University to which he'll be traveling will give him free rooming.

Apparently he has to find his own flight, and if I have this right, he needs to go on a US owned airline (which is more expensive than others.)

I've asked him to check with the staff at his own University about this, but he asked me to help him find a flight.

Anyone here ever done this?

I've always traveled on business to Europe but never on a grant.

Any advice would be appreciated.

Titanium Carbide Nanolayers Investigated for Lithium Ion Batteries.

The paper I will discuss in this post is this one: First-Principle Study of Li-Ion Storage of Functionalized Ti2C Monolayer with Vacancies (Liu et al, ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces, 2018, 10 (7), pp 6369–6377)

Recently in another group here, I expressed my hostility toward the inappropriately admired Tesla car, which I regard as nothing other than more consumer junk for rich people, by noting that one of its key components is a "conflict metal," cobalt: Wow. This is different. CNN actually notices there might be an ethical problem with your Tesla.

Actually problems with cobalt and its mining have been known for a long time, and in fact, was a motivator for the development of a superior magnet to the one time most common magnet, the Alnico magnet, an alloy of aluminum nickel and cobalt. The superior magnet is the neodymium iron boride magnet.

Issues with Neodymium and its environmental impact aside - I certainly think it not only technologically superior to the Alnico magnet but also less morally onerous - the development of the neodymium iron boride magnet did address issues with the political and instability problems that arose in the Congo region in the 1970's (which was then known as "Zaire" ).

The problem of "critical metals" will not go away; it will only get worse, particularly as the best ores for many technologically important metals have been mercilessly exploited by our generation, leaving tailings, landfill and low quality ores for all future generations, barring a thermodynamically viable and logistically comprehensive and tightly organized program of recycling.

Thus when I read about research for things that may become technologically important in the future, I always do so with an eye toward sustainable materials.

The above cited paper refers to a new class of materials, called "MAXenes." The MAXenes, which like the MAX phases from which they are made have been largely discovered and developed by Michel Barsoum of the Materials Science Department of Drexel University, and Arab-American Scientist who I personally believe should probably be a candidate for the Nobel Prize, not that I am competent to decide such things. I've been fascinated by the MAX phases - which combine the best properties of metals with the best properties of ceramics - for many years now because of their refractory, chemical resistant and (in some cases) radiation resistant - even for neutrons in some forms - properties.

Barsoum has written a nice book giving an overview of these materials: MAX Phases: Properties of Machinable Ternary Carbides and Nitrides. I recommend it to scientists who might be interested in this class of materials.

A famous MAX Phase is a ternary alloy of titanium, silicon and carbon, all of which are abundant elements not subject to depletion in the next few centuries, if ever. Another is a ternary alloy of titanium, aluminum, and carbon, also earth abundant elements.

These alloys are highly structured and highly layered. If the discrete aluminum layers of the titanium aluminum carbide are dissolved in HF, what results is monolayers of titanium carbide.

Here, from the cited paper, is a graphic representation of the resulting titanium carbide layered "MAXene" phase:

The authors write:

Two-dimensional (2D) materials have attracted great interest due to their unique physical structures and chemical properties.(1-3) Graphene, as the 2D honeycomb-like material with monolayer carbon atoms, exhibits good electrochemical performances in application for energy storage.(4, 5) Other free-standing 2D materials, such as silicene(6) and MoS2(7) monolayers, have also been proved to be promising anode materials for lithium-ion batteries (LIBs). Recently, a new family of 2D transition metal carbides and/or nitrides (MXene) was synthesized by extracting the “A” element from the MAX phases by hydrofluoric acid (HF) solutions.(8) The MAX phases can be described with a general formula Mn+1AXn, where “M” stands for an early transition metal, “A” represents an A-group (mainly IIIA and IVA) element, “X” denotes C and/or N, and “n” can be 1, 2, or 3.(9) Because MXene is usually etched in HF solution, it has a mixture of O–, F–, and OH– terminations,(8) which are definitely crucial for the distinctive properties.(10, 11) Nonterminated MXenes are yet to be synthesized. For the sake of brevity, this is usually denoted as Mn+1XnTx, where Tx stands for the surface terminations. As reported in the reviews,(12) more than 15 different MXene compositions have subsequently been synthesized, like Ti2CTx, V2CTx, Nb2CTx, Mo2CTx, Ti3C2Tx, Ta4C3Tx, and (Ti0.5Nb0.5)2CTx.(13-15) There are many researches about MXenes with specific terminations (O–, F–, and OH− ) and mixed terminations.(16, 17) Via chemical treatment, thermal annealing, and mechanical exfoliation processes, the carrier transport behavior of MXene can be tuned by modifying the surface groups.(16)

Because of the versatile chemistry of MXene, it is regarded as a potential material in a variety of fields, including reinforcement for composites,(18, 19) water purification,(20-23) and energy storage.(12, 24) Many studies have shown that MXenes are promising anode materials for ion batteries due to their fast ion diffusion and good rate capability.(25-27) Ashton et al.(28) predicted that the most lightweight members of MXene family (M = Sc, Ti, V, or Cr) used in LIBs have gravimetric capacity above 400 mAh g–1, higher than that of graphite. Zhou et al.(29) calculated the theoretical capacity of Mn2C sheet as 879 mAh g–1, which is greater than that of most 2D electrode materials of LIBs...

This paper is a computational paper, designed to evaluate the properties of these materials for use in lithium batteries which might eliminate the ethical problems of these batteries, much as neodymium reduced the ethical problem with magnets.

The authors have chosen to evaluate titanium carbide MAXenes because these are the lightest and most sustainable of this class of materials.

They concern themselves with the potential effects of minor impurities and defects, particularly along the edges of layers, stuff like what is pictured here:

The caption:

Figure 1. (a) Top view of the pristine monolayer Ti2C (5 × 5 supercell). (b) The considered adsorption sites on the surface of Ti2C and Ti2CT2 (T = F and OH) monolayers. (c–f) Side views of monolayers Ti2C, Ti2CO2, Ti2CF2, and Ti2C(OH)2, respectively

I don't have a lot of time today, and won't go into the details too much, but I'll simply jump to the authors conclusions:

In summary, using first-principle calculations, we choose functionalized Ti2C monolayer, the lightest material in MXene family, to assess the influence of intrinsic vacancies (carbon vacancy and titanium vacancy) on the Li-ion storage performance of MXene as a promising candidate for LIB electrodes. Our calculations reveal that the carbon vacancies tend to enhance the adsorption of Li in Ti2C monolayer, whereas the titanium vacancies play a similar role in Ti2CT2 when functional groups are present. The presence of vacancies further leads to a change in the diffusion behavior of lithium atoms. On the basis of our calculations of energy barriers for Li on Ti2C and Ti2CT2 monolayers, we propose an idea for mitigating the adverse effects on Li diffusion performance by regulating the surface functional groups. In the presence of VC, the surface of Ti2C monolayer is suggested of being modified with OH– functional groups due to its relatively low diffusion barrier in the range of 0.025–0.037 eV when Li diffuses around VC, whereas in the presence of VTi, the surface of Ti2C monolayer is suggested of removing the functional groups, resulting in a decrease of energy barrier of about 1 eV when Li atom diffuses around VTi. Our study may provide a guideline to improve the rate performance of Ti2C monolayers as electrode materials in LIBs, with the atomic vacancies being taken into account.

There's a long way from a computational paper to an industrially viable approach, but I thought this paper of interest because it offers some hope for solving very difficult issues in such a way as to not spit on all future generations.

It's nice to contemplate what is possible, perhaps not likely, but possible.

As I approach the end of my life, and learn more and more about what is going on, and feeling the pain of what we have done, these things seem very important in assuaging my guilt over living in the times I have lived and the role I played as a participant, albeit a very minor participant, but a participant all the same.

Have a pleasant evening.

Average Lifetime of Danish Wind Turbines, as of February 2018.

Last night, May 4, 2018, in a riff about the Dominion Energy people's plan to go "renewable" by building 8 new gas plants - the waste from which will be dumped directly into the atmosphere without restriction - I accessed the most updated version of Danish Energy Agency's Excel Spreadsheet constituting the "Master Data Register of Wind Turbines".

To directly download the Excel File Yourself Click:
"Master Data Register of Wind Turbines" and then open the file.

Some years back, on another website, in a piece dedicated to showing that the the term "Renewable Energy" as used in current parlance is an oxymoron, I wrote thusly:

The Danes – and we will see that despite all the hoopla that has surrounded their wind program their actual energy production from wind energy is very small, even compared to wind capacity in other countries like the United States, Germany and China – keep an exhaustive and very detailed database of every single wind turbine they built in the period between the 1978 and the present day.[29] If one downloads the Excel file available in the link for reference 29 one can show that the Danes, as of the end of March 2015, have built and operated 8,002 wind turbines of all sizes. Of these, 2727, or 34.1% of them have been decommissioned. Of those that were decommissioned, the mean lifetime was 16.94 years (16 years and 310 days). Twenty-one of the decommissioned wind turbines operated less than two years, two never operated at all, and 103 operated for less than 10 years. Among decommissioned turbines, the one that lasted the longest did so for 34 years and 210 days. Among all 2727 decommissioned wind turbines, 6 lasted more than 30 years.

Of course, over the years when referencing this data I've heard a lot of the kind of wishful thinking that characterizes this front for the gas industry stating that of course wind turbines will become more reliable in the future.

Almost three years have passed since I wrote that piece. Having accessed the database again, I thought to update the "survival time" of the decommissioned wind turbines, which as of last night had reacted 3,232, with 505 more having failed since then, a rate of about 168 per year.

I decided to play with the Excel functions to update the data.

I'm amused to report that the average lifetime of failed wind turbines has in fact, increased. It is now 17 years and 240 days. The longest lived turbine made it to 35 years and 240 days, a 22 kw unit commissioned on January 9 1981 and decommissioned on September 6, 2016.

Of the 3,232 decommissioned turbines, 3 others made it to 35 years, and 14 more than 30 years.

Of course, there are some that never operated at all, and 157 that operated ten or less years.

This data suggests that every 20 years or so, on average, the entire wind industry will need to be replaced. After half a century of cheering for it, wild eyed delusional cheering for it, cheering so loud that the entire planetary atmosphere was bet on it at the expense of all future generations should the bet not come in, the wind industry has yet to produce 10 of the 587 exajoules of energy humanity was consuming each year as of 2016, according to the IEA's World Energy Outlook.

IEA 2017 World Energy Outlook, Table 2.2 page 79 (I have converted MTOE in the original table to the SI unit exajoules in this text.)

This means however that the mean lifetime of wind turbines in Denmark has grown by 295 days in just 3 years, or 98 days per year on average.

This is wonderful.

The Surry nuclear station to which I referred to in my post last night, went on line in 1972 after being constructed in 4 years at a cost of $2.2 billion 2018 US dollars. The data showed that it is operating after 46 years at full capacity.

This suggests that at a constant improvement rate of 98 days per year for the lifetime of Danish wind turbines, that the mean lifetime of wind turbines will match the lifetime of the Surry Nuclear Station in 104 years, or "by 2122."

Our generation loves that "by 'such and such as date'" rhetoric when discussing so called "renewable energy." I personally regard it as contempt for future generations, a glib claim that they will do what we have been incompetent to do ourselves.

Of course, today our generation, with its well known selfishness and contempt for science and engineering cannot build reactors like the generation of the 1960s and 1970s did. We are clearly incompetent to do so, even though we have infinitely more computing power than they did. It's almost certain that the Surry reactor was built by engineers many of whom used slide rules.

But unlike them, we don't give a shit about future generations, do we?

Not only will our wind turbines be trash in 20-25 years and useless to them, but they will be required to clean up the mess.

Tonight I'll be heading out to listen to a performance of Benjamin Britten's "War Requiem," a requiem for a generation nearly destroyed by stupidity, the generation that lived through the first World War.

Young people will sing there. Someone should sing a requiem for them, for surely they will be destroyed not by themselves, but by their parent's generation.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Dominion Energy Going "Renewable" and Therefore Is Building 8 New Gas Plants.

This comes from the Electricity Trade Publication Power: More Gas, Renewables in Dominion’s Future

Dominion Energy plans to build eight new natural gas-fired power plants and speed the pace of its renewable energy efforts, according to the utility’s integrated resource plan (IRP) filed with Virginia regulators on May 1.

The company also said its future plans focus on regulations on carbon emissions in part because Virginia is considering joining the cap-and-trade Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which currently includes nine states in the Northeast. Dominion in a statement Tuesday said new carbon emissions rules are “virtually assured in the future” and laid out what it thinks joining the RGGI would cost customers in its service territory.

“Dominion Energy Virginia remains committed to its longstanding goal of responsible operations; a diverse, balanced generation fleet that avoids over-reliance on a single fuel type or technology; and providing reliable and affordable energy to its customers,” said Paul Koonce, CEO of Dominion Energy Power Generation Group, in a May 1 news release. “These goals guided development of the 2018 Plan and will guide the company in the future.” The IRP represents the company’s forecast of power generation to meet customer demand, and comply with expected regulations, in the next 15 years.

Dominion said its four nuclear units will remain in service even as it adds more gas-fired and renewable power generation. Though the utility’s IRP said its solar fleet “could expand by at least 4,720 megawatts of capacity in the next 15 years,” environmental groups quickly criticized the plan, particularly the addition of new gas plants.

Now, there are zero competent electrical engineers who don't know that 4,720 "megawatts" of "capacity" of solar energy is the equivalent of a continuously operating plant operating at less than 500 MW, since at best, the capacity utilization of the solar crap is lucky if its at 10% in Virginia, unless climate change changes the region into a desert, in which case the solar capacity might reach 20%.

Hence the gas plants.

However, as is the case all over the world with this kind of marketing the gas industry with "lipstick on the pig" rhetoric, I'm sure the MBAs in Dominion want to represent they are going "green."

Both the gas industry and its marketing arm, the so called "renewable energy" industry, benefit from the unchallenged right to dump 100% of the external costs on all future generations, in the gas case, the radioactive and chemical laced flowback water from the Marcellus Shale gas plants, and for the solar case, the toxic metals when the stuff is transformed in 20 to 30 years into highly toxic electronic waste.

At least Dominion is keeping its 4 nuclear reactors operating.

The Surry Nuclear Station, owned by Dominion, containing two nuclear reactors was built in four years, between 1968 and 1972 for a cost of 1.8 billion dollars (2007 currency). In 2018 currency, this transforms into about 2.2 billion dollars. Each reactor is rated to produce 800 MW.

The EIA reports on the output of every operating nuclear reactor in the United States and one can click on the provisional data for 2018, which is current up to February of this year. By use of simple arithmetic, accounting for 86,400 seconds in a day, 3600 seconds in an hour, 31 days in January and 28 in February, that the two reactors at Surry were operating respectively for unit 1 and unit two at 110% capacity for unit 1 (877 MW) and 108% (867 MW) capacity for unit two. The total is 1,743 MW.

The number of people killed by the plants in operation since the 1970's is zero, which is considerably different than the number of people killed by air pollution, which now stands at about 7 million people per year, about half from "renewable" biomass combustion and the other half from dangerous fossil fuel combustion.

The Danes maintain a database, the "Master Register of Wind Turbines" of every single wind turbine they have ever built, including the 6,138 that still are operating, and the 3,232 that have been decommissioned and are now rotting somewhere.

These tables also include the energy output of each operating turbine, with the data for January and February of 2018 included, as well as March 2018 which we cannot compare to the nuclear reactors at Surry.

Again using the fact that the Danish Database reports kWh for each turbine, and using the fact, again, of their being 59 days in February and January combined and 86,400 seconds in a day, we see that the total output of more than 6,000 wind turbines in Denmark was 1,785 MW. Thus it took 6,138 turbines scattered over an entire nation to produce 42 MW more than the Surry nuclear station produced in two buildings.

The Surry nuclear station is licensed up until 2053, but stupid people are sure to shut it down well before then, thus killing people because nuclear power plants save lives, not that the shit for brains types give a shit about human lives, because in their morally twisted universe, the nuclear power plants are "too dangerous," even though they have a spectacular record for saving human lives.

I encountered such a shit for brains recently, at what was billed as the "New Jersey March for Science" which proved to be the "New Jersey March for So Called 'Renewable Energy.'" This asshole, who clearly has no scientific training whatsoever and therefore muttered all during a presentation there about "Navajo" (Dine) miners who were "killed" by uranium mining in the 1950s.

As it turns out, elsewhere, I appealed to a 2009 paper which evaluated the health of all of the 779 "non-white" uranium miners who apparently the only human beings he cares about who have died as a result of energy technology: Radon Exposure and Mortality Among White and American Indian Uranium Miners: An Update of the Colorado Plateau Cohort. (Schubauer-Berigan, Am J Epidemiol 2009 ;169 18–730)

Quoth I then:

...Of the 779 “non-white” we are told that 99% of them were “American Indians,” i.e. Native Americans. We may also read that the median year of birth for these miners, white and Native American, was 1922, meaning that a miner born in the median year would have been 83 years old in 2005, the year to which the follow up was conducted. (The oldest miner in the data set was born in 1913; the youngest was born in 1931.) Of the miners who were evaluated, 2,428 of them had died at the time the study was conducted, 826 of whom died after 1990, when the median subject would have been 68 years old.

Let’s ignore the “white” people; they are irrelevant in these accounts.

Of the Native American miners, 536 died before 1990, and 280 died in the period between 1991 and 2005, meaning that in 2005, only 13 survived. Of course, if none of the Native Americans had ever been in a mine of any kind, never mind uranium mines, this would have not rendered them immortal. (Let’s be clear no one writes pathos inspiring books about the Native American miners in the Kayenta or Black Mesa coal mines, both of which were operated on Native American reservations in the same general area as the uranium mines.) Thirty-two of the Native American uranium miners died in car crashes, 8 were murdered, 8 committed suicide, and 10 died from things like falling into a hole, or collision with an “object.” Fifty-four of the Native American uranium miners died from cancers that were not lung cancer. The “Standard Mortality Ratio,” or SMR for this number of cancer deaths that were not lung cancer was 0.85, with the 95% confidence level extending from 0.64 to 1.11. The “Standard Mortality Ratio” is the ratio, of course, the ratio between the number of deaths observed in the study population (in this case Native American Uranium Miners) to the number of deaths that would have been expected in a control population. At an SMR of 0.85, thus 54 deaths is (54/.085) – 54 = -10. Ten fewer Native American uranium miners died from “cancers other than lung cancer” than would have been expected in a population of that size. At the lower 95% confidence limit SMR, 0.64, the number would be 31 fewer deaths from “cancers other than lung cancer,” whereas at the higher limit SMR, 1.11, 5 additional deaths would have been recorded, compared with the general population.

Lung cancer, of course, tells a very different story. Ninety-two Native American uranium miners died of lung cancer. Sixty-three of these died before 1990; twenty-nine died after 1990. The SMR for the population that died in the former case was 3.18, for the former 3.27. This means the expected number of deaths would have been expected in the former case was 20, in the latter case, 9. Thus the excess lung cancer deaths among Native American uranium miners was 92 – (20 +9) = 63.

By the way, in the period between 1950 and the present day, according to statistics from the US Department of Labor, 10,914 coal miners died.

One of the big industrial uses for coal - and one which has nothing to do with power plants - is to make steel. According to a commentary published in Nature Geoscience solar and wind facilities require 15 times more concrete, 90 times more aluminum, and 50 times more iron, copper and glass than equivalent scale nuclear or dangerous fossil fuel facilities.

Every ton of concrete manufactured is responsible for the release of 0.9 tons of carbon dioxide; aluminum production consumes about 3% of the world's electricity, and iron is reduced by coal, not that 10,000 coal deaths would matter as much as 63 "Navajo" (Dine) uranium miners from the 1950's.

Of course, you can get lots of shit for brains types who will come here to announce that what took place over a four year period between 1968 to 1972 is now impossible.

Therefore we must now pour concrete on the continental shelf and send dangerous fossil fuel powered ships carrying coal based steel and God knows what else out to destroyed benthic ecosystems to serve the wind God, with the real purpose being nothing more than to make the gas industry continue until the last molecule of methane is crunched out of the earth, burned and converted into atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Nuclear power plants are "too expensive." We are too stupid, too ignorant, too - well, I wish I knew - something or other to build nuclear plants at the same cost with which we built more than 100 of them in this country while providing the cheapest electricity in the world. We are dead sure that what has already happened is impossible.

I once heard from an ignoramus here who called up one of my old posts to note that a tunnel collapsed at the Hanford nuclear reservation and thus proved, at least to his tiny mind, that nuclear power is "unsafe."

I used to confront ignorance like that. No more. I'm too old to waste time on ignorance and stupidity.

I suspect the real reason that nuclear power plants are "too expensive" is this kind of thinking, the thinking that is perfectly OK to kill any number of tens of thousands, tens of millions people because someone somewhere might die from something involving a nuclear power plant.

Maybe its thinking like that, the thinking that 63 uranium related lung cancer deaths among miners - many of whom actually lived to be old men anyway - matters more than 70 million air pollution deaths every decade, 10,000 coal mining deaths - and that a collapsed tunnel at an old weapons plant "proves" something.

If we're going to calculate costs so assiduously we might include the cost of deaths from lung cancer and heart disease caused by air pollution. In this country, every year we spend 80 billion dollars on cancer alone, never mind COPD and heart disease, to both of which air pollution is a also contributor. And let's be clear on something, OK, the number of people who have died from cancers related to air pollution outstrips the number of people who have died from radiation related cancers by many orders of magnitude. It's not even close.

Someone though, somewhere, should look into the question of why what has already happened - the citizens of 1968-1972 provided life saving infrastructure that is still operating at peak performance in 2018 - is now impossible. Why are nuclear power plants "too expensive" now when it was possible to build more than 100 in this country in 25 years while providing the lowest cost electricity in the world?

When the gas runs out - and it will - and all that's left is the chemicals and toxic materials leached from the abandoned gas fields, our generation will not be forgiven by history, nor should it be. And when that gas runs out, and it will, we are going to find out what it's like to live in those parts of the world where the power gets turned on - if your lucky - two or three hours a day. That's our "gift" to future generations, very much unlike the gift given to our generation by the people who built the Surrey nuclear plant.

Have a great weekend.

ERCOT hoping the wind blows this summer in Texas to prevent rolling power outages.

This comes from Power, a trade publication for the electric power industry.

Power Magazine 4/30/18 ERCOT Summer Rotating Outages In Texas Still a Possibility.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) on April 30 updated its summer 2018 planning reserve margin to 11% based on resource updates, but it warned that the regional grid serving most of Texas could still suffer rotating outages under extreme conditions.

In its final Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy (SARA) report for the upcoming summer season, which spans June to September, the grid entity said it expects to have sufficient generation—78,184 MW—to meet a summer peak load forecast of 72,756 MW based on “normal weather conditions.” That forecast, it noted however, is expected to soar 1,600 MW higher than the all-time peak demand record set in August 2016.

The projected reserve margin is below ERCOT’s target of 13.75%. Still, the report presents a more optimistic assessment of ERCOT’s total generation resources than it predicted in its preliminary summer seasonal assessment of resource adequacy (SARA) report released in March. The preliminary report projected a higher summer peak load forecast of 72,974 MW, which ERCOT anticipated it would barely meet with a total resource capacity of 77,658 MW...

...The SARA outlines five potential risk scenarios. The first is modeled on extreme weather conditions based on a long heat wave and devastating drought during the summer of 2011, an event that forced the grid operator to cut power to large industrial users to avoid rolling blackouts. An extreme summer forecast could boost summer demand to 75,958 MW, outstripping available generation resources. The other scenarios anticipate maintenance outages, forced outages, and low wind output.

“Since we do have more resources, that risk is probably reduced a little bit. But again, really, the focus for ERCOT is to make sure that we can quickly respond to those situations—and appropriately—to any type of change in system condition,” Warnken said.

ERCOT has been preparing for tight operating reserves owing to a spate of recent plant retirements—including of major coal baseload generators—and delays in some planned resources.

The bold, of course, is mine.

Don't worry; be happy. Unbearably hot days with stagnant air are surely unknown in Texas.

Wind power is cheap, at least if you don't have to pay for replacing all your food because your refrigerator goes down because of a rolling blackout because, um, the wind isn't blowing on a 100F afternoon.

That of course, won't happen, because, well, because it won't.

Analysis of Failure Modes in Kesterite Solar Cells.

The paper with the title above in the primary scientific literature comes from a new journal, ACS Applied Energy Materials and it appears in the "Editor's Choice" section on the ACS Publications page, which means that it is open sourced. I came across it while I was on my way to something else.

The full paper may be accessed here. Analysis of Failure Modes in Kesterite Solar Cells (Grenet et al ACS Applied Energy Materials ASAP, May 5, 2018)

I'm not big on reading solar "breakthrough" papers - after having sat through expositions of tens of thousands of them over half a century, half a century in which the solar industry has proved entirely useless at addressing serious environmental problems relating to dangerous fossil fuels. Mostly I poke into them with the limited interest of understanding exactly how toxic and unsustainable they are, popular "wisdom" notwithstanding.

The solar industry has not worked, is not working, and will not work to arrest the use of dangerous fossil fuels.

Not so long ago, a dumb guy, responding to my continual references to the "problem" of indium supply piped in to inform me that he had called up the web page of the Geological Survey to disprove my contention that the solar industry is not sustainable because the metals used in it are decidedly not, "renewable."

One never knows how to react to these sorts of people.

The toxic cheerleading consisted entirely of him spending 15 seconds googling "Indium" to get to the Geological Survey page that told him everything is fine, and anyway "'We'll' just recycle it" where, as usual, the "we'll" in question is not him but rather some third world person who's job it is to clean up our "green" stuff.

We don't give a shit about poor people, especially the people who will be later subjects for discussion in medical journals like this one:

Serial evaluations at an indium‐tin oxide production facility (Cummings et al Am. J. Ind. Med. 56:300–307, 2013):

Indium lung disease is a newly described disorderaffecting workers involved in the production, use, or reclamation of indium-tin oxide (ITO) [Omae et al., 2011]. Occurring as early as 1 year after first exposure, indium lung disease is marked by cough and dyspnea without a work-related pattern and abnormalities on pulmonary function tests and chest CT [Cummings et al., 2012]. Available evidence suggests that the disease begins with pulmonary alveolar proteinosis (PAP), progresses to include fibrosis and emphysema, and can cause premature death [Cummings et al., 2012]. Cross-sectional epidemiologic investigations have demonstrated an excess of lung abnormalities in workplaces where cases of indium lung disease occurred, indicating the presence of subclinical or undiagnosed disease [Chonan et al., 2007; Hamaguchi et al., 2008; Nakano et al., 2009]. A serum indium concentration of 3 mg/l or greater has been associated with adverse health effects [Nakano et al., 2009]. However, in
previous studies, exposure assessments have been lacking, and the role of serial medical testing in disease detection and prevention has not been evaluated.

Don't worry. Be happy. Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS) solar cells are "green," because, um, we live in the first world, and anyway, even if these people can't breathe because of indium, I can't live without my ITO (Indium tin oxide) cell phone.

I can't live without it. I can't.

Dumb guys aside who launch into tirades about my repeated claim that the neither the solar nor the wind nor any of the other industries called by the oxymoron "renewable energy" will ever be as safe or as sustainable or as clean as the nuclear industry, the paper cited above shows that even if the general public can't catch its breath from cheering for solar and cursing nuclear, scientists have been questioning whether the solar industry is, in fact, green.

I'll take the luxury of citing the opening paragraph of the title paper even though its open sourced and you can read it yourself:

1.1. Kesterite Solar Cells
Among the thin-film solar cell technologies, Cu(In,Ga)(S,Se)2 (CIGS) and CdTe have already demonstrated power conversion efficiency (PCE) values above 22% at laboratory scale and above 15% for large modules.(1) Industrialization of these technologies is already ongoing, with cumulative production over 4 GWp in 2016.(2) However, both of these technologies contain elements that have been listed by the European Commission as Critical Raw Materials (CRM) for the energy sector,(3,4) namely gallium, indium, and tellurium because of their scarcity in the Earth’s crust(5) and their use in other markets. Additionally, progressive implementation worldwide of regulations similar to Restriction on the Use of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) will limit or prevent the use of cadmium in these technologies,(6) both in the absorber layer (CdTe) and in the buffer layer (CdS).

Kesterite semiconductors Cu2ZnSn(S,Se)4 (CZTSSe) have been identified as promising candidates for thin-film photovoltaic (PV) applications due to their similarities to CIGS materials without containing CRM. To date, a record efficiency of 12.7% has been obtained for a CZTSSe solar cell with a CdS/In2S3 buffer layer(7) and 9.0% for a Cd and CRM-free (i.e., without Cd, In, or any CRM) kesterite solar cell.(8)

I hope it's obvious the bold is mine.

The "4GWp" expands to "4 gigawatts peak" which - given that the capacity utilization of solar cells even in deserts seldom rises above 10 - 15% - means that the entire installed solar industry in 2016, in terms of average continuous power output is the equivalent of building one 400 MW gas plant on the entire planet in 2016. (The power conversion efficiency is not the same as capacity utilization; the former refers to the percent recovery of the energy of incident light.)

Don't worry; be happy. A dumb guy can probably put their minds to rest about "CRM's" by googling his way to the USGS website on "Indium."

Returning to the paper, despite reference to "cadmium free" there's a lot of reference to Kesterite on a cadmium selenide layer, since kesterite on cadmium selenide works better than pure kesterite solar cells:

The caption:

Figure 1. Fraction of the Shockley–Queisser limit (% of SQ limit) achieved by the PV properties of the record CIGSSe, CZTSSe, CZTGSSe, Cd and CRM-free CZTSSe solar cells as a function of their bandgap. Tabulated values of the SQ limit for all parameters from ref (12). PV data and related bandgaps from refs (17−35). Bandgaps are extracted from EQE spectra.

Note that all the best performing cells using the Schockley-Queisser efficiency limit all contain cadmium.

The Schockley-Queisser limit refers to the theoretical limit of power conversion efficiency and was discovered by the famously racist Nobel Laureate William Schockley who, when he wasn't studying semiconductors claimed expertise in racist genetic theories even though he knew as little about genetics as Helen Caldicott, MD, knows about nuclear power, or as much as Albert_Olszewski MD, who is running for the Republican Senate nomination in Montana knows about climate change, even though (as noted in another post here):

Olszewski cited his scientific training and said he did not believe a human-climate link has been proven.

I don't know about you, but when I was a kid, I was very susceptible to Appeal to Authority arguments.

...as an old man, not so much.

Anyway it appears that there are lots of ways for kesterite cells to fail, and the authors give us a nice chart to show us the ways:

Oh, and in case you're laboring under the illusion that only kesterite solar cells have failure modes, I assure you that you are wrong. Every damn solar cell on this planet, pretty much, will be transformed into electronic waste within the next thirty years, especially in hot deserts.

But don't worry; be happy. Probably someone else will have to clean it up, not you, especially if you're "green."

Have a pleasant evening.

Wow. This is different. CNN actually notices there might be an ethical problem with your Tesla.

Is there such a thing as an ethical electric car?

Dirty Energy

As long as we're all "green" in the United States - our electric cars, our solar cells, our wind turbines - well - as long as we're "green" who gives a rat's ass about poor people, child slavery, any of that unpleasant stuff?

We're "green..."

Or maybe not. Despite all of us who have broken our arms patting ourselves on the back for being "green," last week we were at 411.68 ppm of the dangerous fossil fuel waste CO2 in the atmosphere, as opposed to 387.45 ten years ago.

I wonder how much of the two trillion bucks we just spent in the last ten years on "green" wind turbines and "green" solar cells went to educate the third world children who work our metal mines.

A lot, ya think?

I'm sure Elon Musk is all over it, since he's a goddamned hero, as I hear every time is holy name is mentioned.

We may be amused about public lying by the orange nightmare, but we're less interested in how we lie to ourselves. And that my friends, is a problem.

Have a nice "hump day" tomorrow.
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