Energy

This image is having trouble loading!FSI researchers examine the role of energy sources from regulatory, economic and societal angles. The Program on Energy and Sustainable Development (PESD) investigates how the production and consumption of energy affect human welfare and environmental quality. Professors assess natural gas and coal markets, as well as the smart energy grid and how to create effective climate policy in an imperfect world. This includes how state-owned enterprises – like oil companies – affect energy markets around the world. Regulatory barriers are examined for understanding obstacles to lowering carbon in energy services. Realistic cap and trade policies in California are studied, as is the creation of a giant coal market in China.

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Steve Fyffe
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The United States has a growing inventory of spent nuclear fuel from commercial power plants that continues to accumulate at reactor sites around the country.

In addition, the legacy waste from U.S. defense programs remains at Department of Energy sites around the country, mainly at Hanford, WA, Savannah River, SC, and at Idaho National Laboratory.

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But now the U.S. nuclear waste storage program is “frozen in place”, according to Rod Ewing, Frank Stanton professor in nuclear security at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation.

“The processing and handling of waste is slow to stopped and in this environment the pressure has become very great to do something.”

Currently, more than seventy thousand metric tons of spent nuclear fuel from civilian reactors is sitting in temporary aboveground storage facilities spread across 35 states, with many of the reactors that produced it shut down.  And U.S. taxpayers are paying the utilities billions of dollars to keep it there.

Meanwhile, the deep geologic repository where all that waste was supposed to go, in Yucca Mountain Nevada, is now permanently on hold, after strong resistance from Nevada residents and politicians led by U.S. Senator Harry Reid.

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad New Mexico, the world’s first geologic repository for transuranic waste, has been closed for over a year due to a release of radioactivity.

And other parts of the system, such as the vitrification plant at Hanford and the mixed oxide fuel plant at Savannah River , SC, are way behind schedule and over budget.

It’s a growing problem that’s unlikely to change this political season.

“The chances of dealing with it in the current Congress are pretty much nil, in my view,” said former U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM).

“We’re not going to see a solution to this problem this year or next year.”

The issue in Congress is generally divided along political lines, with Republicans wanting to move forward with the original plan to build a repository at Yucca Mountain, while Democrats support the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future to create a new organization to manage nuclear waste in the U.S. and start looking for a new repository location using an inclusive, consent-based process.

“One of the big worries that I have with momentum loss is loss of nuclear competency,” said David Clark, a Fellow at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

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“So we have a whole set of workers who have been trained, and have been working on these programs for a number of years. When you put a program on hold, people go find something else to do.”

Meanwhile, other countries are moving ahead with plans for their own repositories, with Finland and Sweden leading the pack, leaving the U.S. lagging behind.

So Ewing decided to convene a series of high-level conferences, where leading academics and nuclear experts from around the world can discuss the issues in a respectful environment with a diverse range of stakeholders – including former politicians and policy makers, scientists and representatives of Indian tribes and other effected communities.

“For many of these people and many of these constituencies, I’ve seen them argue at length, and it’s usually in a situation where a lot seems to be at stake and it’s very adversarial,” said Ewing.

“So by having the meeting at Stanford, we’ve all taken a deep breath, the program is frozen in place, nothing’s going to go anywhere tomorrow, we have the opportunity to sit and discuss things. And I think that may help.”

Former Senator Bingaman said he hoped the multidisciplinary meetings, known at the “Reset of Nuclear Waste Management Strategy and Policy Series”, would help spur progress on this pressing problem.

“There is a high level of frustration by people who are trying to find a solution to this problem of nuclear waste, and there’s no question that the actions that we’ve taken thus far have not gotten us very far,” Bingaman said.

“I think that’s why this conference that is occurring is a good thing, trying to think through what are the problems that got us into the mess we’re in, and how do we avoid them in the future.”

The latest conference, held earlier this month, considered the question of how to structure a new nuclear waste management organization in the U.S.

Speakers from Sweden, Canada and France brought an international perspective and provided lessons learned from their countries nuclear waste storage programs.

“The other…major programs, France, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Canada, they all reached a crisis point, not too different from our own,” said Ewing.

“And at this crisis point they had to reevaluate how they would go forward. They each chose a slightly different path, but having thought about it, and having selected a new path, one can also observe that their programs are moving forward.”

France has chosen to adopt a closed nuclear cycle to recycle spent fuel and reuse it to generate more electricity.

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“It means that the amount of waste that we have to dispose of is only four percent of the total volume of spent nuclear fuel which comes out of the reactor,” said Christophe Poinssot of the French Atomic and Alternative Energy Commission.

“We also reduce the toxicity because…we are removing the plutonium. And finally, we are conditioning the final waste under the form of nuclear glass, the lifetime of which is very long, in the range of a million years in repository conditions.”

Clark said that Stanford was the perfect place to convene a multidisciplinary group of thought leaders in the field who could have a real impact on the future of nuclear waste storage policy.

“The beauty of a conference like this, and holding it at a place like Stanford University and CISAC, is that all the right people are here,” he said.

“All the people who are here have the ability to influence, through some level of authority and scholarship, and they’ll be able to take the ideas that they’ve heard back to their different offices and different organizations.  I think it will make a difference, and I’m really happy to be part of it.”

Ewing said it was also important to include students in the conversation.

“There’s a next generation of researchers coming online, and I want to save them the time that it took me to realize what the problems are,” Ewing said.

“By mixing students into this meeting, letting them interact with all the parties, including the distinguished scientists and engineers, I’m hoping it speeds up the process.”

Professor Ewing is already planning his next conference, next March, which will focus on the consent-based process that will be used to identify a new location within the U.S. for a repository.

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Seminar Recording

About the Event: In this seminar, energy and natural resources sector policies of the three former communist countries in Asia - Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan - in close geographic proximity to Russia and China will be considered. There are similarities in the nature of transition from communist regime to democratic societies in these three states, although major differences in social and cultural issues exist. The reliance on energy in neighboring countries Russia and China as well as export of raw materials to these markets have major influence on specific policy agenda. Particular attention is given to energy minerals and trade balance and imbalance thereof. 

About the Speaker: Dr. Undraa Agvaanluvsan currently serves as the president of Mitchell Foundation for Arts and Sciences. She is also an Asia21 fellow of the Asia Society and co-chair of Mongolia chapter of the Women Corporate Directors, a global organization of women serving in public and private corporate boards. During 2021-22, she served on the WCD Global Committee on Diversity and Inclusion. Dr. Undraa Agvaanluvsan is a former Member of Parliament of Mongolia and the chair of the Parliamentary subcommittee on Sustainable Development Goals. Prior to being elected as a legislator, she served as an Ambassador-at-large in charge of nuclear security issues at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia, where she worked on nuclear energy and fuel cycle, uranium and rareearth minerals development policy. She is a nuclear physicist by training, obtained her PhD at North Carolina State University, USA and diploma in High Energy Physics at the International Center for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy. She conducted research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, USA and taught energy policy at International Policy Studies Program at Stanford University, where she was a Science fellow and visiting professor at Stanford's Center for International Security and Cooperation. She published more than 90 papers, conference proceedings, and articles on neutron and proton induced nuclear reactions, the nuclear level density and radiative strength functions, quantum chaos and the Random Matrix Theory, including its application to the modeling of electric-grid resilience.

 All CISAC events are scheduled using the Pacific Time Zone.

William J. Perry Conference Room

Undraa Agvaanluvsan
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Trond is a futurist, scholar, podcaster, venture partner, nonresident Fellow at the Atlantic Council, co-founder of Yegii, and Lead Ecosystem evangelist at Tulip. He formerly worked with MIT, WPP, Oracle, and the EU. He’s a co-author (with Natan Linder) of Augmented Lean (Wiley 2022), an author of Health Tech (Routledge 2021), Future Tech (Kogan Page 2021), Pandemic Aftermath (Atmosphere Press 2020), Disruption Games (Atmosphere Press 2020), and Leadership From Below (Lulu Press 2008). In addition, he hosts two podcasts, Augmented and Futurized, and is a Forbes columnist. He holds a Ph.D. on the future of work and artificial intelligence.

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Or (Ori) Rabinowitz, (PhD), a Chevening scholar, is an associate professor at the International Relations Department of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. During the academic year of 2022-2023 she will hold the post of visiting associate professor at Stanford’s CISAC. Her research interests include nuclear proliferation, intelligence studies, and Israeli American relations. Her book, Bargaining on Nuclear Tests was published in April 2014 by Oxford University Press. Her studies were published leading academic journals, including International Security, Journal of Strategic Studies, and International History Review, as well as op-eds and blog posts in the Washington Post, Foreign Policy and Ha’aretz. She holds a PhD degree awarded by the War Studies Department of King’s College London, an MA degree in Security Studies and an LLB degree in Law, both from Tel-Aviv University. She was awarded numerous awards and grants, including two personal research grants by the Israeli Science Foundation and in 2020 was a member of the Young Academic forum of the Israeli Academy for Sciences and Humanities.  

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Congratulations to the 2022 Great Immigrants honorees!

Every Fourth of July, Carnegie Corporation of New York celebrates the exemplary contributions of immigrants to American life. In 2022, the Corporation honors 34 naturalized citizens whose contributions and actions have enriched and strengthened our society and our democracy.

The Class of 2022 is comprised of individuals from 32 countries and a wide range of backgrounds. This year, the Corporation is highlighting the work of immigrants who have been leaders in their local communities through their work in education, the arts, law enforcement, public service, health care, and small business ownership, as well as for their contributions as advocates for education equity, climate change, food security, and the homeless.

Read more at carnegie.org.

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Carnegie Corporation of New York announced its annual list of Great Immigrants today, honoring 34 naturalized citizens whose influence and actions have strengthened our society and our democracy.

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Jody Berger
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A vast array of critical new technologies rely on rare earth metals, a group of elements that are difficult to mine because they are so well dispersed in the earth and often contain radioactive elements such as thorium and uranium.

Over the last 20 years, demand for these elements in the U.S. has increased while domestic supply and production have fallen off. And globally, the supply chain is tightly controlled by just a few countries.

To explore the significant challenges created by this imbalanced supply chain, Gorakh Pawar, a visiting scholar at CISAC, and CISAC Co-Director Rod Ewing edited “Rare Earth Elements in Material Science,” a special theme issue of the MRS Bulletin, a journal of the Materials Research Society.

“With China's rapid rise and the reemergence of Russia as a major power, the global stage is set for multipolar competition to secure the critical materials supply chains and control the rare earth elements (REE) derived high-end products and relevant technologies,” Ewing and Pawar write in the introduction to the issue.

The issue includes six articles that delve into the material science aspects of the rare earth elements supply chain. Researchers from Australia, Germany, Korea and the US contributed articles on mineralogy, separation and extraction, mining economics and the environmental impact of rare earth element mining.

“REE recycling is no longer just a choice, but it has become necessary in a world where resources are constrained,” Pawar and Ewing write.

The MRS Bulletin includes recommendations that the US and other countries can follow to reduce dependence on China for rare earth elements.

The March issue of the MRS Bulletin can be found here

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A vast array of critical new technologies rely on rare earth metals, a group of elements that are difficult to mine because they are so well dispersed in the earth and often contain radioactive elements such as thorium and uranium.

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Siegfried S. Hecker
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North Korean officials, including Kim Jong Un, have made several statements in recent months that begin to bring clarity to the country’s evolving nuclear doctrine. Within those statements, there has been a notable emphasis on the role of tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (or, North Korea’s) larger nuclear strategy and the potential for early nuclear use should conflict break out on the Korean Peninsula.

38 North Director Jenny Town recently met with Dr. Siegfried Hecker, Senior Fellow (emeritus) at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, to discuss these developments and what they could mean for future North Korean nuclear activities, and potential new security challenges.

Read the rest at 38 North

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North Korean officials, including Kim Jong Un, have made several statements in recent months that begin to bring clarity to the country’s evolving nuclear doctrine. Within those statements, there has been a notable emphasis on the role of tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (or, North Korea’s) larger nuclear strategy and the potential for early nuclear use should conflict break out on the Korean Peninsula.

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For spring quarter 2022, CISAC will be hosting hybrid events. Many events will offer limited-capacity in-person attendance for Stanford faculty, staff, fellows, visiting scholars, and students in accordance with Stanford’s health and safety guidelines, and be open to the public online via Zoom. All CISAC events are scheduled using the Pacific Time Zone. 

SEMINAR RECORDING

Virtual to Public. Only those with an active Stanford ID with access to William J Perry Conference Room in Encina Hall may attend in person. 

Gorakh Pawar
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Depend on your smart phone? Enjoy a flat screen tv? How about an electric vehicle, do you drive one? These technologies—and other clean energy, information, and defense applications— all rely on rare-earth elements that could be mined in most parts of the world but are primarily processed and refined only in a limited number of countries, like China.

“Right now, the U.S. doesn’t have enough supply to fulfill the objective of the steady clean energy transition, ensure national security, and achieve long-term economic goals” said Gorakh Pawar, a staff scientist at the Idaho National Laboratory who is a visiting scholar at the Center for International Security and Cooperation.  The importance of rare earths mining is highlighted in the series of reports recently issued by the U.S.  Department of Energy in response to President Biden’s Executive Order "America's Supply Chains" signed in 2021.

“This means that the U.S. depends on other countries and therefore, the U.S. needs a strategic approach to resolve the major rare earth elements supply chain issues urgently,” Pawar added. 

Mountain Pass Rare Earth Mine and Processing Facility
Mountain Pass Rare Earth Mine and Processing Facility, Mountain Pass, San Bernardino Co., California (Image credit: MP materials.com)

Rare-earth elements “are moderately abundant in the earth’s crust, but they need to be concentrated to be economically viable,” said Sulgiye Park, a Fellow at CISAC. “What we want is concentrated rare-earth reserves because we are going to spend a lot of money mining and processing it.”

Important deposits of rare earths exist in the U.S. and previously the U.S. was self-reliant in domestically produced rare-earth elements, but mining operations have declined over the last several decades, allowing China to command roughly 90 percent of the global market. Now, however, there are signs that domestic production is making a comeback, and CISAC scholars are both studying and providing support to accelerate this resurgence.

Pawar, Park and CISAC co-director Rod Ewing toured the Mountain Pass Rare Earth Mine and Processing Facility in southern California to learn more about its operation and to determine how their research could help support this important industry.

“We were provided with critical insights into MP Materials' strategy for securing the domestic rare earth supply chain that would significantly reduce U.S. economic dependence on foreign REE,” Ewing said.

“The substantial challenges include developing domestic supply chains for mill equipment and capacity to process rare earths, such as neodymium-praseodymium magnets,” Ewing added.

Pawar, Park and Ewing toured the mine for three hours to see the facilities, ask and answer questions. They wanted to understand the facts on the ground, supply chain issues and industry challenges in a more complete way to enhance their own research.

Open pit mine
Open pit mine (Sulphide Queen deposit) at Mountain Pass. The open pit is ~600 m wide. A massive carbonatite forms the core of Mountain Pass that hosts REE mineral resources, including bastnäsite. (Image credit: Gorakh Pawar)

Before the trip, Pawar and Park relied on academic literature, open source information, news stories and press releases about rare-earth elements, like this recent White House release titled “Securing a Made in America Supply Chain for Critical Minerals,” which announced a Department of Defense grant to MP Materials, who operate the Mountain Pass mine.

“Open source is great,” Park said. “But if you have a chance to visit the site, you can learn from the people on the ground who provide a whole new perspective. “

The tour also fortified connections so that the Pawar, Park and Ewing could share their own knowledge and policy-relevant research, as well as their network of colleagues who have different areas of expertise.

CISAC was created in 1983 with the goal of bringing together experts in science and technology with experts in policy. The mission statement has always been “to generate new knowledge for a better world.” And this trip to Southern California was another opportunity to fulfill this mission.

About Idaho National Laboratory
Battelle Energy Alliance manages INL for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy. INL is the nation’s center for nuclear energy research and development, and also performs research in each of DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and the environment.

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A three-person team from CISAC toured the only domestic mine producing rare earths, which are critical for the modern economy.

Authors
Gorakh Pawar
Chengcheng Fang
Bingyu Lu
Minghao Zhang
Diyi Cheng
Shuru Chen
Miguel Ceja
Jean-Marie Doux
Henry Musrock
Mei Cai
Boryann Liaw
Ying Shirley Meng
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Abstract

Unregulated lithium (Li) growth is the major cause of low Coulombic efficiency, short cycle life and safety hazards for rechargeable Li metal batteries. Strategies that aim to achieve large granular Li deposits have been extensively explored, and yet it remains a challenge to achieve the ideal Li deposits, which consist of large Li particles that are seamlessly packed on the electrode and can be reversibly deposited and stripped. Here we report a dense Li deposition (99.49% electrode density) with an ideal columnar structure that is achieved by controlling the uniaxial stack pressure during battery operation. Using multiscale characterization and simulation, we elucidate the critical role of stack pressure on Li nucleation, growth and dissolution processes and propose a Li-reservoir-testing protocol to maintain the ideal Li morphology during extended cycling. The precise manipulation of Li deposition and dissolution is a critical step to enable fast charging and a low-temperature operation for Li metal batteries.

Read the rest at  Nature Energy

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Unregulated lithium (Li) growth is the major cause of low Coulombic efficiency, short cycle life and safety hazards for rechargeable Li metal batteries. Strategies that aim to achieve large granular Li deposits have been extensively explored, and yet it remains a challenge to achieve the ideal Li deposits.

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