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Bill Gates and Warren Buffett want to build a new kind of nuclear reactor to generate electricity. Why? Because the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. They intend to plunk their new toy down in the state of Wyoming on the former site of a coal-fired generating plant.

“This is our fastest and clearest course to becoming carbon negative,” says Wyoming’s governor Mark Gordon. “Nuclear power is clearly a part of my all-of-the-above strategy for energy.” Wyoming is the top coal producing state in America.

According to The Guardian, the new facility will be a joint venture between TerraPower, founded by Gates 15 years ago, and PacifiCorp, a Berkshire Hathaway-owned utility that serves customers in Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, California, Oregon, and Washington.

Small advanced reactors, which run on different fuels than traditional reactors, are regarded by some as a critical carbon-free technology that can supplement intermittent power sources like wind and solar as states strive to cut emissions that cause climate change. “We think Natrium will be a game-changer for the energy industry,” Gates told a media conference in Cheyenne, Wyoming this week.

PacifiCorp service area. Image credit: SEC

345 Megawatts

The Guardian says the new generating station will produce 345 megawatts of electricity, but the output can be boosted by a molten salt energy storage component to 500 megawatts. The primary feature of the so-called Natrium technology is that it uses sodium to cool the reactor instead of water. Natrium is the Latin word for sodium, which is why its symbol on the periodic table of elements is Na.

Chris Levesque, TerraPower CEO, told the press this week the demonstration plant will cost about $1 billion and will take about seven years to build. “We need this kind of clean energy on the grid in the 2030s,” he told reporters. Actually, Chris, we need clean energy on the grid now, not 7+ years from now. A billion dollars would buy more than 500 MW of power and have it online, together with grid storage batteries, in a lot less time. Why wait?

Natrium Technology

I am not a nuclear engineer nor am I a rocket scientist, so I have to rely on Wikipedia to inform me about some things (I contribute $5 a month to support Wikipedia and encourage you to do the same).

Here is what I found out:

Image credit: Wikimedia/Public Domain

Advantages

The primary advantage of liquid metal coolants, such as liquid sodium, is that metal atoms are weak neutron moderators. Water is a much stronger neutron moderator because the hydrogen atoms found in water are much lighter than metal atoms, and therefore neutrons lose more energy in collisions with hydrogen atoms.

This makes it difficult to use water as a coolant for a fast reactor because the water tends to slow (moderate) the fast neutrons into thermal neutrons (though concepts for reduced moderation water reactors exist).

Another advantage of liquid sodium coolant is that sodium melts at 371K and boils / vaporizes at 1156K, a total temperature range of 785K between solid / frozen and gas / vapor states. By comparison, the liquid temperature range of water (between ice and gas) is just 100K at normal, sea-level atmospheric pressure conditions. Despite sodium’s low specific heat (as compared to water), this enables the absorption of significant heat in the liquid phase, even allowing for safety margins. Moreover, the high thermal conductivity of sodium effectively creates a reservoir of heat capacity which provides thermal inertia against overheating.

Sodium also need not be pressurized since its boiling point is much higher than the reactor’s operating temperature, and sodium does not corrode steel reactor parts.[2] The high temperatures reached by the coolant (the Phénix reactor outlet temperature was 560° C) permit a higher thermodynamic efficiency than in water-cooled reactors. The molten sodium, being electrically conductive, can also be pumped by electromagnetic pumps.

Disadvantages

A disadvantage of sodium is its chemical reactivity, which requires special precautions to prevent and suppress fires. If sodium comes into contact with water it reacts to produce sodium hydroxide and hydrogen, and the hydrogen burns when in contact with air.

This was the case at the Monju Nuclear Power Plant in a 1995 accident. In addition, neutron capture causes it to become radioactive; however, activated sodium has a half-life of only 15 hours. Another problem is sodium leaks which are regarded by a critic of fast reactors, M.V. Ramana, as “pretty much impossible to prevent.”

Fuel Used

Wikipedia adds that a natrium facility that generates less than 500 MW of electricity uses “uranium-plutonium-minor-actinide-zirconium metal alloy fuel, which is supported by a fuel cycle based on pyrometallurgical reprocessing in facilities integrated with the reactor.” I don’t know about you, but the words “uranium” and “plutonium” don’t sound like “different fuels compared to traditional nuclear reactors.”

The Guardian points out that nuclear power experts have warned that advanced reactors could have higher risks than conventional ones. Fuel for many advanced reactors would have to be enriched at a much higher rate than conventional fuel, meaning the fuel supply chain could be an attractive target for militants looking to create a crude nuclear weapon. And don’t even be concerned about Russian hackers. We know those malefactors only like to interrupt gasoline pipelines and beef processing plants. Pooty Poot and his henchmen would never stoop so low as to hack a nuclear power plant…would they?

People always rush to criticize Tesla for selling emissions credits, but no one wants to talk about the $80 million the US Department of Energy has already invested in TerraPower with millions more coming in the future. No one would expect Bill Gates and Warren Buffett — two of the richest white men in history — to foot the bill for their boondoggles all by themselves, would they?

All Of The Above

The key to understanding this story is found in Governor Gordon’s use of the words “all of the above.” That’s free market speak for “We’re happy to have a piddly little 350 MW facility of over here, just so long as we can continue supporting coal- and gas-powered generating plants that churn out hundreds of gigawatts over there.” In other words, it’s a smokescreen designed to allow fossil fuel interests to kick the can down the road a little further and add some greenwashing to their corporate portfolios at the same time.

Being rich does not necessarily make a person all that smart. America needs more nuclear power like a fish needs a bicycle. People in Wyoming may be fooled by this blather, but CleanTechnica readers aren’t taking the bait. Natrium was probably selected as the name of thus new nuclear technology because it sounds a little like “nature” or “natural.” That’s a great marketing ploy, but we’re not buying it. Frankly, the Bill and Warren show is more than a little disappointing.


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This guy built a six-seater electric bike for $150, and it absolutely rips

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This guy built a six-seater electric bike for 0, and it absolutely rips

I’ve always enjoyed multi-seater electric bikes, which bring passenger-carrying utility to small-format, easy-to-produce vehicles. But I never thought I’d see the concept taken this far. At least not until I stumbled upon a six-seater electric bike that has me all kinds of jealous.

It’s no surprise where this custom e-bike originated. If you want to see the most creative and ingenious transportation solutions in the world, you have to head over to Asia.

The Chinese often get a lot of credit for some of the more wacky vehicles popping up on Alibaba, but India usually takes the cake with some of the coolest auto and motorcycle innovation on the planet. And that’s exactly where this impressive six-seater bike comes from, where it was hand-built by Ashhad Abdullah from Lohra in eastern India.

Abdullah seems to have caught my recent Awesomely Weird Alibaba Electric Vehicle of the Week entry for a three-seater electric bike and said “Hold my lassi.”

Flip-flops and no helmets, but at least he’s wearing a mask!

Instead of a three-seater, Abdullah doubled the capacity to six seats. His stretch-limousine electric bike looks like it wears a scooter fork on front complete with drum brake, off-road lighting kit, and even a motorcycle horn. The rear seems to hold a hub motor wheel in a swingarm supported by dual coilover shocks. There’s a battery box mounted just in front of the swingarm, though how much capacity he’s rocking seems to be a mystery.

Bridging the two ends of the bike is a bespoke ladder frame with six seats, six handlebars, and six pairs of foot pegs.

There’s no word on the turning radius, but we’d wager it’s somewhere around the width of the state of Bihar.

Abdullah created the custom-designed bike after climbing fuel prices made petrol-powered motorcycles less appealing. In total, he says the bike cost him around 12,000 INR (US $150) to build.

It gets a range of around 150 km (93 miles) and costs around 10 INR (US $0.12) to recharge.

I’m not sure if this is technically an e-bike, at least by electric bicycle standards. It certainly looks like a tandem-style bicycle setup with bicycle seats, but the lack of pedals means it would be classified more like an electric scooter or motorcycle.

But whatever you call it, the six-seater bike has received a warm reception around the world.

The novel creation went viral on Twitter after a video of it in action was reposted by Anand Mahindra, the chairman of Mahindra Group, one of the largest automakers in India (and similar in size to GM).

It’s unlikely we’d see an awesome ride like this in the West, where safety regulations and an unhealthy aversion to two wheels would likely make this six-seater dead on arrival.

I’ll admit that it’s hard for me to argue with the safety concerns, especially when seeing six helmet-less heads and a few bare feet as well.

There are some good alternatives available in the US, at least if you’re alright with just two-seater e-bikes. But with options like a $999 Lectric XP 3.0 or a $1,499 RadRunner helping put more riders on smaller electric vehicles, the chances for sharing the fun on e-bikes are growing, even in laggard countries like the US.

We may never get six bodies on one bike, but even two would be a good start!

via: TimesNowNews

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Tesla launches in Thailand, opens Model 3 and Y orders at competitive prices

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Tesla launches in Thailand, opens Model 3 and Y orders at competitive prices

Tesla has officially launched in Thailand and opened orders for Model 3 and Model Y at competitive prices.

It has been a little while since Tesla has expanded into a brand-new market. The company was trying hard to enter the Indian market for years, but the effort was put on hold earlier this year after negotiations with the government stalled.

A few weeks later, we learned that Tesla’s new market team turned its attention to Southeast Asia, and more specifically Thailand.

The automaker filed to register its product for sale in the country. That was the first indication that Tesla planned to enter the market.

In September, we reported that Tesla started to hire in Thailand – indicating that a launch was imminent.

Today, Tesla has officially launched its Model 3 and Model Y vehicles in Thailand with a small event in a luxury mall in central Bangkok.

The automaker has started taking orders through a new Thai configurator for those two models. Tesla is offering all variants of the Model 3 and Model Y for sale in Thailand:

The Model 3 starts at ฿1,759,000 in Thailand, which is the equivalent of about $50,000 USD and fairly competitive compared to other luxury EVs in the market.

The Model Y starts ฿1,959,000, or about $58,000 USD.

Interestingly, while Tesla is starting to take orders through the new configurator, the automaker doesn’t list expected delivery windows in the country.

While we don’t know when official deliveries from Tesla will start in Thailand, there are already a decent number of Tesla electric vehicles in the country.

They have been imported privately by the owners – and that’s a factor that Tesla takes into account when considering entering a new market. If many people are willing to go through the trouble of importing the vehicle, there’s a good chance that there’s a market for its vehicles in the country.

We even reported on the Thai police buying a fleet of Tesla Model 3 vehicles for police patrol back in 2020, pictured above.

The Thai auto market is more significant than most people would think. More than 750,000 cars were sold in the market last year, and it is expected to ramp up to 800K–900K this year. However, most of those vehicles are not in the same price range as Tesla vehicles.

Thailand is also a vehicle assembly hub with up to 2 million vehicles produced locally per year.

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U.S. pledges to ramp up supplies of natural gas to Britain as Biden and Sunak seek to cut off Russia

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U.S. pledges to ramp up supplies of natural gas to Britain as Biden and Sunak seek to cut off Russia

Rishi Sunak and Joe Biden photographed on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Indonesia on Nov. 16, 2022.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON — The U.K. and U.S. are forming a new energy partnership focused on boosting energy security and reducing prices.

In a statement Wednesday, the U.K. government said the new partnership would “drive work to reduce global dependence on Russian energy exports, stabilise energy markets and step up collaboration on energy efficiency, nuclear and renewables.”

The U.K.-U.S. Energy Security and Affordability Partnership, as it’s known, will be directed by a U.K.-U.S. Joint Action Group headed up by officials from both the White House and U.K. government.

Among other things, the group will undertake efforts to make sure the market ramps up supplies of liquefied natural gas from the U.S. to the U.K.

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“As part of this, the US will strive to export at least 9-10 billion cubic metres of LNG over the next year via UK terminals, more than doubling the level exported in 2021 and capitalising on the UK’s leading import infrastructure,” Wednesday’s announcement said.

“The group will also work to reduce global reliance on Russian energy by driving efforts to increase energy efficiency and supporting the transition to clean energy, expediting the development of clean hydrogen globally and promoting civil nuclear as a secure use of energy,” it added.

Commenting on the plans, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “We have the natural resources, industry and innovative thinking we need to create a better, freer system and accelerate the clean energy transition.”

“This partnership will bring down prices for British consumers and help end Europe’s dependence on Russian energy once and for all.”

The news comes at a time of huge disruption within global energy markets following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Read more about electric vehicles from CNBC Pro

The Kremlin was the biggest supplier of both natural gas and petroleum oils to the EU in 2021, according to Eurostat, but gas exports from Russia to the European Union have been signifciantly reduced this year. The U.K. left the EU on Jan. 31, 2020.

Major European economies have been trying to reduce their own consumption and shore up supplies from alternative sources for the colder months ahead — and beyond.

Top CEOs from the power industry have forecast that turbulence in energy markets is likely to persist for some time. “Things are extremely turbulent, as they have been the whole year, I would say,” Francesco Starace, the CEO of Italy’s Enel, told CNBC last month.

“The turbulence we’re going to have will remain — it might change a little bit, the pattern, but we’re looking at one or two years of extreme volatility in the energy markets,” Starace added.

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