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Old 04-24-2006, 07:24 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Canada + Oil Sands + Nuclear Power = Good or Bad?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ASU2003
...The US will be in trouble when gas prices get to $10/gal. They've gone up 300% in the last few years, and unless the Canadians can find an environmentally friendly way to extract oil from the oil sands, it seems like every other country that has oil could stop selling it to us for any number of reasons.
Well, I got this post off of the latest "Don't buy gas for a day" thread, and I wanted to chime in:

In Northern Alberta, there is a huge booming economy surrounding the "Tar Sands" in Fort MacMurray (sp? McMurray? Damned Scottish). There is more oil up there than in Saudi Arabia and Iran combined.

Problem is, it is very expensive to extract. It takes the energy of 1/3 of a barrel to get the other 2/3 out. If you were to give me a business proposal like that, I would laugh at you to your face. Unless we are talking about oil, and the price of a barrel is over 60 bucks.

Well, although extracting crude from the oil sands is now economical, it is still not efficient, and prices will stay at 70 bucks a barrel unless we can find a way to make the whole process much more efficient.

Will the big Nuclear Powered monster save the day?

To extract the oil from the sand, you need energy in the form of steam. This steam breaks down the viscosity of the crude oil, and voila! It flows like molasses in June instead of January. (sorry, it is monday morning and my analogies are a little rusty from the weekend). Nuclear power is simply a big steam generator. That steam is usually directed to electric turbines to produce electricity, but there is nothing stopping the steam from being used for other purposes.

Politically, will this possibility be able to turn the tide for Ol' Glowy? If I could promise 40$/bbl oil ad infinitum, and tell the American public that they can finally cut their dependence on international oil, would that help people who are critically opposed to Nuclear Power?

The Candu reactor is safe. There are vast resources of Uranium in Canada. What are we waiting for?

Oh. Right. Nuclear power is a subject that energy strategists ignore when they talk about energy shortages.

I am in favour of it, and think it is not only feasible, but almost inevitable. I would love to hear what my fellow TFP'ers have to say!
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Old 04-24-2006, 07:48 AM   #2 (permalink)
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The problem with exploiting the oils sands is that it is a horrible environmental mess. The process requires vast strip mines to be created to extract the sands from the ground.

Nukes really are the way to go though. Currently they are burning natural gas (a cleaner fuel than oil) to produce oil. CANDU reactors are safe and would likely do the job just fine. We can always bury the spent rods in the strip mines once we are done with them...
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Old 04-24-2006, 09:16 AM   #3 (permalink)
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So what you're saying is.... Canada is next on the US' list of countries to invade?

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Old 04-24-2006, 10:30 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carno
So what you're saying is.... Canada is next on the US' list of countries to invade?

The 51st state of canadia

Like charlatan said, oil sand mining is the biological equivilant of spilling a bottle of bleach over your best friends alveoli.

The real deal is a new form of energy, instead of fossil fuels. If the extraction company paid as much into research as they did into that oil sands facility, we'd be half way to qo'nos by now.
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Old 04-24-2006, 10:36 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Horrible Environmental Damage?

What about the glowing green rods of waste that will be created to produce this horrible damage?

That is kind of where I was going with this. What lengths will people go to produce cheap oil?

And as far as environment is concerned, it looks waaaaaay worse than pumping the oil from an underground cavern. Is it really worse for the environment?

It LOOKS like it, but what is happening to the environment underground in the middle east?
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Old 04-24-2006, 10:52 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Gimme nuclear.

I'd like to see our reliance on the natural gas and electric heating and power reduced, and nuclear can do that.

How it ties in to the oil sands, I'm not current on, but nuclear energy is a great way to go, IMO.
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Old 04-24-2006, 10:57 AM   #7 (permalink)
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We can not allow Canada to have nuclear weapons!

Don't think comparing oil drilling to tar sand extraction really matters, I'm sure they are both equally damaging in their own ways (otherwise, what's the huge stink about drilling in ANWR? )

Building new nuclear power plants in the U.S has obviously been a huge public issue, and even with the promise of safer CANDU reactor designs, I just don't see the "not in my backyard" mentality changing until oil is so expensive it literally kills our economy. And even then, expect controversial issues like reactors going up in poverty stricken areas, etc...

And of course there's that pesky issue of storing all that radioactive waste that needs 10000 years to cool off... I nominate Missouri.

I do believe we have the smarts to find a better alternative then fossil and nuclear energy. . A better solution environmentally anyways, I do think the energy gluttony days of this last century are numbered and we will have to take energy conservation more seriously in the future.
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Old 04-24-2006, 11:44 AM   #8 (permalink)
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(Albertan. Have worked in Fort Mac. Electrophile. Adult Civil Engineering Student. Posting here as a break from studying for my geotechnical engineering final tomorrow)
The facts as I understand them.

-energy needs are just going to go up, despite increase efficecy. Also, despite technologies, solar and wind and thermocycle generation can not meet demands. Land space aside, it simply isn't possilbe. We need very much superior green energy technology, but in the mean time we will use coal and oil and generate uncountable billions of tonnes of CO2.

-like it or not, oil will be used until it is mostly gone. That is in the future, but in north america, true alternative fuel use isn't going to happen for some time.

-The vast remainer of the oil sands reserves are not, and will not be for some time, accesseable in feasable means for strip mining. They need to be extracted in situ, which currently requires steam and is the focus of most R&D. Strip mines are old school. There are some still being developed, as a small % of all future developments, but most the payload is too deep or otherwise non-strip-mineable.

-Oil Sands current actions and future plans for reclaimation are the best in the world. Brilliant compared to, say, mountain coal mining in the US south reclaimation or anything china's coal plants are doing.

-Fort Mac is a nasty, dirty, and expensive town that I don't recommend to anyone. The oil sands are also nasty and dirty, even within brand new plants. But, environmentally speaking, oil sands extraction isn't actually that bad. This isn't the opinion of an endoctrined Albertan, but a relative measurment against the rest of the world.

-Nuclear plant for steam, with cogeneration, can also be used to crack and refine. It has been talked about since the 50s, while trying to determine the best way to exploit the oilsands before oil prices became high enough.

-Candu reactors use natural (non enriched) uranium, which we have a pile of. I think we are the worlds biggest exporter. Problem is that they are also breeder reactors, which some people object to.

-Also, the need for heavy water is pretty significant, but considering the 8 billion currently invested into oil sands infastructure, it is not a problem. Especially considering the massive water reservers in the area and I think next generation Candus need less heavy water anyway.

-Candu nuclear waste is not nearly as bad (still bad, mind you) as previous designs. Still toxic, still has rediculously long half-lives, but are not really a terrorist concern (as current nuclear waste is) and are being generated in a very unpopulated area.

-I realize it would make many enviromentalists cringe, but since the tundra is not very populated and not usable for agriculture, it is an ideal nuclear waste dumping ground.
Of course, all that CO2 from coal plants globally will contribute to global warming, so the permafrost might melt at some point.

-I started this post with a point and don't know if I made it.

Nuclear plants at the oil sands = good.
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Old 04-24-2006, 12:48 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bossnass
Of course, all that CO2 from coal plants globally will contribute to global warming, so the permafrost might melt at some point.
*mental scene*

"well, check the area again, i'm sure we left that reactor around here somewhere...actually, screw it, we'll just pretend we never built one, save on cleanup"
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Old 04-24-2006, 01:06 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I don't think it's evil. I just think we'd be better off trying a different solution, global-warming-wise.

I was watching a CNN documentary on global warming, and they said that Brazil will very quickly be energy self-sufficient. They pump some oil, but they also use a great deal of ethanol in their cars, and all cars made there now are flex-fuel. During the oil crisis of the '70s, the military gov't in power said, "We're going all out for ethanol, and that's that." Tyrannical bastards? Sure, but it was the right decision for Brazil, and by the time they were thrown out, everybody else realized it.

I don't claim that ethanol's the total answer, but what Brazil took 20-odd years to do, I'll bet we could do in a lot less. With some real leadership. Any enlightened dictators wandering around? (I said _enlightened_ :-) ).
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Old 04-24-2006, 02:51 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Rodney, I saw part of the same doc. The thing I took away was, the world's largest country did it successfully. Why can't the US (and Canada)?
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Old 04-24-2006, 07:34 PM   #12 (permalink)
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BigBen, I'm not really sure where you're going with this.

Are you proposing building a dedicated CANDU reactor specifically for extracting oil from the oil sands? I suppose that could be feasible.. and you're the pro when it comes to economics, but it seems to me that any advantage gained in extracting oil more efficiently would be offset by the cost of the reactor itself. Those things aint cheap.

CANDU reactors are safe and efficient. Myself and several million other Canadians are staking their lives on the safety of those reactors daily. Hell, I live between a pair of them (Darlington to the east, Pickering to the west), I better hope they're alright.

The downside, as has been mentioned, is the NIMBY value. Safe or no, a lot of people don't like the idea of living next to one of those suckers. People hear about those things being built, they think Chernobyl.

But let's assume, for the sake of argument, that some crazy venture capitalist with a fortune to rival Bill Gates invests in this idea and that we do find a site for it. Then what? Developing an infrastructure for this reactor would likely be a nightmare in and of itself. Were we to do so, I can't imagine it would take the form you seem to be envisioning; if all we did with the plant was extract oil from sand, we'd be wasting thousands of megawatts (and potentially billions of dollars) in energy potential.

So, if what you mean to be implying in a roundabout way is that we should start examining nuclear energy as a valid alternative to fossil fuels, you'll get no argument here. I happen to trust in human greed; as it becomes less economically viable to depend on fossil fuels, other options will come to increasing prominence. But how you're relating this to the oil sands is something I'm not sure I understand.
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Old 04-24-2006, 07:57 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Even a Candu reactor isn't expensive compared to the other capital investments in the oil sands. The pipeline production and installation and dedicated land already exist (between sites, plants, and headed south), and such could be twinned for high pressure steam.

All of the existing refining/cracking plants need to co-generate electricity as well.

And if your backyard is a giant greasy sand box (which, granted, is getting nicer every day), with dozens of industrial crude plants churning non stop 50 km north, a Candu isn't that much of a problem.

This is a very real and feasable idea. The initial costs of the reactor would be large, but considering the savings in synthcrude per barrell cost of current extration, plus the increased extraction made possible by the nuclear plant, plus the energy demand for the plants and the growing population, it would probably be the most viable nuclear reactor(s) in history.
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Old 04-25-2006, 12:04 AM   #14 (permalink)
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I personally have lived in Fort McMurray my whole life. It is insane watching the amount of jobs that are open up here just to keep the oilsands running. This town is so based around the rigs it's incredible. The highschools even have a program where kids can pretty much leave school to go work at the plants (still making an easy 15 bucks an hour for a 16 year old kid) and get credits for it.
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Old 04-25-2006, 03:57 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charlatan
Rodney, I saw part of the same doc. The thing I took away was, the world's largest country did it successfully. Why can't the US (and Canada)?
China converted to ethanol???
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Old 04-25-2006, 04:16 AM   #16 (permalink)
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I was just quoting the guy... Everyone knows it's Russia, Canada, US then China...

I am sure he meant, the largest country in South America.
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Old 04-25-2006, 05:55 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charlatan
I was just quoting the guy... Everyone knows it's Russia, Canada, US then China...

I am sure he meant, the largest country in South America.
In size; China is largest population wise, which I thought was more relevant.

(/End smartass mode).

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Old 04-25-2006, 07:16 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Yeah, I was talking about a dedicated reactor to capture the energy margin currently needed to produce a barrel of oil from the tarsands.

How much does a CANDU cost? 5 billion? 10?

Considering the life-cycle of the tarsands project in Fort Mac (and elsewhere), I think it would be a good idea.

As an Economist, I can rest assured knowing that when the idea becomes profitable, the market will open.
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Old 04-25-2006, 09:44 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Although I can't find my source, about a year ago I was told that a CANDU in Fort Mac would be between 9 - 11 billion*. But for residential rates, it would output over 1.2 billion worth of juice if it was generating alone, and higher returns expected from previously discussed advantages.

Darlington, in Ontario, should be considered. It was a 15 billion dollar snafu 15 years ago. But further considering the project management skills currently in the area and the dollars involved, I think it would come in on budget.


*which is a high number because of the Ft.Mac Factor. The same CANDU, built near Calgary would cost 7-9 billion.

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Old 04-25-2006, 08:40 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carno
So what you're saying is.... Canada is next on the US' list of countries to invade?

Make your choice now. West France of North North Dakota.
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Old 05-10-2006, 03:13 PM   #21 (permalink)
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i was born and raised in fort mcmurray, just like 99.9% of the people who've been here as long as i, i can not wait to leave.
it is just too easy to get caught up in the fast money here, and most people spend their entire lives out at site [the oil sands plants] making ridiculous amounts of money they really don't know what to do with. this is especially true for all the kids just out of highschool, and 20-somethings who come here looking to make alot of money really fast. most of them are here with no family, and once they make all of this money... they have nothing to do with it!
i doubt many will be surprised to know that cocaine is so common up here that alot of highschool kids [in grade 9 and 10 even] are using.
living and growing here, i've seen how negatively all of this money we have effects people. it's so sad to see the buses coming in from site, so the workers [who are god knows how far away from their family] can buy a few odds and ends. the cost to live here is phenomenaly ridiculous; a duplex across the street from where i live sold for $300,000. families whose incomes would give them a happy, healthy life elsewhere only gives them the bare minimum here.
it's like we're in our own little world up here in nothern alberta, and it is so easy to get trapped for life.

i can't say for sure which would be better, to switch from the oilsands to nuclear power. it would be a bittersweet ending for the people here, but i'm sure this would happen [again] to another city with a surplus of uranium [Uranium City was a huge, booming city... and is now deserted from such an ordeal]. then again, the oil will run out here soon enough especially if fort mcmurray becomes an even more important source for the world entire.
it's a tough call...
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Old 05-10-2006, 05:34 PM   #22 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigBen
Horrible Environmental Damage?

What about the glowing green rods of waste that will be created to produce this horrible damage?

Those glowing rods are nice and warm and toasty. This is a cold country. I see a synergy developing here...
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Old 05-11-2006, 02:01 AM   #23 (permalink)
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Quote:
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Those glowing rods are nice and warm and toasty. This is a cold country. I see a synergy developing here...
All you need is an ADS Thorium reactor. Impossible to have a meltdown and can use radioactive waste as fuel. There's more thorium than uranium around, enough to last until mankind is uber enough for a dyson sphere or three.
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