A discussion at Futurepundit which wound its way around to hydrocarbons produced with nuclear energy produced this comment, which really merits its own post...
I went over the Green Freedom overview again. It's not specific about power and efficiency, but the figures given are no cause for optimism: $4.60/gallon at the pump (page 8). The investment of $9.6 billion for 18,400 bbl/day of gasoline is a cost of more than $500k/bbl/day, compared to $100k/bbl/day for tar sands [correction: ~60k/bbl/day for tar sands, $100k for coal-to-liquids].
The hypothetical plant produces 5000 tonne/day of MeOH and reforms it to gasoline. The HHV of 5000 tonnes of MeOH is about 114 TJ, while the LHV of 18.4 kbbl of gasoline is about 94 TJ (I am not sure such a high efficiency is realistic). The daily generation of a 1.3 GWe nuclear plant is about 112 TJ, so the author's numbers appear to be off by a substantial fraction; they must be missing something, like the energy required for CO2 capture or losses in electrolysis and methanol synthesis. The electrical figures they claim on page 6 are 55 kJ/mole just for CO2 recovery (after the credit for the co-produced hydrogen). The overall electric energy demand is 410 kJ/mol CO2, so the power consumption for just that segment is 790 MW. Each mole of CO2 requires 3 moles of H2 (CO2 + 3 H2 -> CH3OH + H2O) of which only 1 mole is co-produced, so working backwards from their 355 kJ/mol credit an additional 710 kJe/mol CO2 is required for another 1.37 GW. The total electric power required is 2.16 GW, or roughly 1.5-2 Gen III nuclear reactors, not one.
It makes a heck of a lot of sense to compare the energy requirements and capital expense against alternatives, such as PHEVs. 18,400 bbl/day (773,000 gal) at 35 MPG is 27 million miles per day. Putting 2.16 GW into PHEVs at 250 Wh/mi is about 210 million miles per day.
Suppose for a moment that we need to build and power a fleet of 10 million vehicles which drive 40 miles per day each. These can either be Chevy Volts at 250 Wh/mi or next-gen Chevy Aveos at 35 MPG. Fueling the Aveos would require 11.4 million gallons/day or 14.8 "Green Freedom" plants at $9.6 billion apiece, total capital cost $142 billion/year. Charging the Volts would require 4.17 GWe or perhaps 4 AP-1000's at maybe $3.5 billion apiece, total $14 billion. Building the Volts might cost an extra $8000 per vehicle (which will come down) or $80 billion/year, total cost $94 billion/year at the beginning and falling to perhaps half that over time. Residual value of batteries is an unknown, residual value of the vehicles might be a lot higher due to the long life of electrical systems.
That's the comparison against other ways of making vehicle fuel. How does it compare against other ways of reducing carbon emissions? Using nuclear power to replace coal and NG so that NG can displace petroleum (a nuclear Pickens plan) is just as effective for GHG reduction.
4.17 GWe of nuclear power displacing coal at 346 g/kWh is 34.6 thousand fewer tonnes of CO2 per day; if it displaces NG instead at 206 g/kWh, it reduces emissions by 20.6 thousand tonnes/day. 5000 tonnes of MeOH contains 1875 tonnes of carbon, which would form 6900 tonnes of CO2. Even on what should be its best point, "Green Freedom" falls short by a factor of 3 against diverting fuel to NGVs.
"Green Freedom" appears to be aimed at perpetuating the market for petroleum. It isn't competitive until oil is around $150/bbl and the entire downstream infrastructure would still be built around hydrocarbons. If you want to make the USA free of oil imports, nuclear-electric is much cheaper than nuclear-hydrocarbon.
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