View Full Version : Climactic Changes

10-11-2002, 07:17 AM
Seems like the weather in the past 10 years has been erratic, I mean Europe having the worst floods in years, polar icecaps melting. Also forest fires and droughts, is the earth fighting back? Are we screwing with the environment to the point where the earth is changing?

10-11-2002, 02:02 PM
In a word, yes.

The UN sponsored a detailed study of our scientific knowledge of climate change and I find it pretty scary.

http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/index.htm (\"http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/index.htm\")

10-11-2002, 03:38 PM

The UN couldn\'t find their way out of a paper bag.

10-14-2002, 03:29 PM
The UN did bring together some of the best scientific minds to look at the issue. The UN is hard pressed to take effective political action and all too often seems like a Third World make-work program - taking dues from big countries like the US and paying huge salaries to politically connected minor officials from the small, poor ones.

One needs to keep in mind that the UN is not a world government but rather a collection of governments of the world - a meta-government if you would.

Still the scientific analysis presented in the UN report is not conclusive but it is persuasive, IMHO.

10-14-2002, 05:25 PM
Ok, what about this, which is what I comfort myself with and could be complete bull....but when has that ever stopped me ... doesn\'t our planet go through changes on its own, didn\'t it way before us, like, isn\'t it perfectly normal for us to go in and out of ice ages, with varying degrees of climate changes as part of the natural order of things? There are powerful anti-environmentalist lobbies working against any acknowledgement of our role, whatever it may be, in damage to the ozone layer (they swear it\'s a hoax) and saying that these ideas are scare tactics put forth for subversive political reasons, also such things as protesting the US government\'s buying up private property to hold as protected environment, because the government now owns more land than the citizens....see, e.g., www.americanpolicy.org (\"http://www.americanpolicy.org\") (I met this guy once and went out with him a couple of times before I realized he was nuts imo)It\'s hard to know what the truth is.

10-15-2002, 04:07 PM
The climate is formally treated as a \"chaotic\" system - remember the butterfly flapping its wings affecting the winds in Peking? It is unpredictible and subject to swings.

What humans are doing is applying a \"forcing function\" to the natural forces through our releases of greenhouse gases. A good metaphor is a spinning gyroscope - give it a little flick (a forcing function) and it will wobble and right itself. Give it too big or too critical a flick and it can flop over.

The human forcing function is significant in the bigger scheme of things and certainly comparable to Nature\'s surprises.

When we burn fossil fuels we are truly playing with fire - no one will know what will happen but we do know our match is plenty big. All our political concerns about having enough oil is trivial besides the long term problem of humans having access to more oil than the atmosphere can hold when burned.

10-16-2002, 06:46 AM
So then we cut down on fossile fuel usage. So...who is refusing to do that at the moment /ubbthreads/images/icons/smile.gif

10-16-2002, 07:55 AM
So who is refusing to cut down on greenhouse emissions?

China and India have their refusal to live under any constraints codified in the Kyoto Treaty. That\'s why I support Bush\'s refusal to sign it - its an example of bad global governance. As to the environmentalist organizations, until they vocally DEMAND the increased usage of nuclear power, the only solution compatible with our way of life and civilization, I will refuse to believe that are serious about finding a solution. They are just part of the problem.

BTW, I drive a small four cylinder car with a stick shift - not the highest gas milage but pretty darn good.

10-16-2002, 08:05 AM
But surely anything to cut down emisions is a good thing?

Wasnt meaning to ruffle any feathers.

10-16-2002, 09:17 AM
So, Whitehall, you were saying in a post somewhere else that, basically, you were behind Bush\'s war efforts (which I don\'t challenge, I don\'t know enough about it to argue). I\'m wondering what would you think if we took that money we\'re spending/going to spend on war and focused it on alternative energy sources, wouldn\'t we be much better off? Then it wouldn\'t matter so much what\'s going on with the oil countries and we wouldn\'t have to have our noses over there where maybe we don\'t belong.

10-16-2002, 10:14 AM
Global warming is a fact. In Canada and Alaska, forests are sinking into what used to be permafrost. Homes and Inuit villages are being washed into the sea.

There is some so-called controversy over whether or not it’s due to the burning of fossil fuels. But that’s just a bunch of BS from industry hacks. There is some legitimate difference of opinion over the overall rate of warming and what sort of homeostatic systems may mitigate or exacerbate the effects.

The UN appointed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is taken seriously by most scientists. Their “Third Assessment Report” predicts a 30% higher increase in overall temperatures than their 1996 report. The more we learn, the worse it looks. (For example, melting ice and reduction of tree cover is expected to exacerbate the effect of carbon emissions.)

Industrialized countries are by far the most responsible for getting us to this point, but some Third World countries, eager to catch up, are contemplating so-called development plans that will greatly exacerbate the situation. (Imagine China with the same per capita of cars as the US.)

The US, with 5% of the world’s population and 25% of its carbon emissions is the worst offender. The Bush administration justified its decision to blow off the Kyoto Protocol on the pretext that it was unfair to expect higher reductions from the US than say India or China. But he didn’t mention that, per capita, the US produces 11 times more carbon emissions than China and 20 times more than India.

Nuclear power is not a solution because nobody has a serious proposal for getting rid of the waste. The Bush administration’s plan is to ship about 70,000 tons, from about 100 nuclear powerplants, to an “interim” storage site at Yucca Mountain Nevada. This will require about 80,000 truck and 13,000 rail shipments. If a single truck was to spill its load, 42 square miles would be contaminated. To make maters worse, the Department of Transportation and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have come up with a “cost cutting” plan to ship the waste in single-shell casks instead of the sturdier double-shell casks currently required.
(How can Bush expect to be taken seriouxly about Iraq\'s nuclear threat, when he\'s puting us at greater risk than Saddam ever could?)

There is no solution “compatible with our way of life and civilization”. Our economic model is premised on the possibility of limitless growth and this is simply unrealistic and ultimately suicidal.

There are numerous practical steps every country can take to radically reduce carbon emissions without compromising quality of life (unless you think SUV’s, disposable packaging, and jet planes are a quality of life issue). But there’s no magic bullet that will solve every problem, and most of the solutions will result in huge losses for big corporations.

So we are stuck in a situation where the technical means for survival are readily at hand. But the political barriers are colossal.

10-16-2002, 10:46 AM
\"Nuclear power is not a solution because nobody has a serious proposal for getting rid of the waste.\"

EXCUUUUSE ME!!!! So far the US government has collected $15 billion for the Nuclear Waste Trust Fund and spent $6 billion on research, development, and preliminary design for the Yucca Mountain Project. I\'ve been watching this issue for 25 years with an educated, informed, highly self-interested eye. My assessment is that the government has wasted billions on unnecessary studies and reports - the technical issues are just NOT that difficult. The proposed design makes the phrase \"gold-plated\" seem cheap - they really know how to spend money!

As to your assertions that a transport accident would contaminate \"42 square miles\" - sorry, it just doesn\'t past the reality test. The waste form is solid, heavy, ceramic, and encased internally in small, separate titanium-like tubes.

For more detail, check

http://www.rw.doe.gov/homejava/homejava.htm (\"http://www.rw.doe.gov/homejava/homejava.htm\")

I have some good friends working on Yucca Mountain and I would jump at the chance to join them.

10-16-2002, 11:01 AM
I find it egotistical of the environmentalists who are going to \"save the earth\".
There really is no problem. We will continue to pollute the earth until we poison ourselves. Our species will go extinct. The pollution will stop, the earth will clean itself up, a new species will emerge as \"top dog\" and the earth will go on----without us!


10-16-2002, 11:19 AM

As to the notion of diverting defense moneys to alternative energy supplies, it sure seems sensical, doesn\'t it?

I remember Henry Kissinger\'s analysis of Jimmy Carter\'s plan for synthetic fuels production. Carter wanted to spend billions on plants to take domestic oil shale and convert it to gasoline. Kissinger pointed out that that investment would then be held hostage by the Saudis. All they had to do ruin that idea would be to drop their price to below our cost of production. That would make all that capital a big waste.

A similar notion underlay Japan\'s reluctance to participate in the Gulf War. The price of oil would be what it would be no matter who won. They just wanted to sit back and not get involved and so not piss-off whomever the winner was to be.

If the US allows a hostile country to control the price and availablity of oil, we may be able to supply ourselves with adequate supplies but our domestic supplies would certainly be made more expensive. Since energy is what drives contemperary economies, a difference in energy costs will affect competitive positions.

An advanced country with cheaper oil supplies will be able to out-compete one with more expensive energy. And oil can be the cheapest, most convenient energy source.

Ultimately, our military is useful for securing our own access to cheap oil. Just as important, it helps keep our competitors from securing cheaper oil.

10-16-2002, 11:24 AM
Thanks for the link, Whitehall. It’s always good to hear the official story. Here’s something that was left out. Joan Claybrook’s (President of Public Citizen) testimony to the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce:

http://www.citizen.org/cmep/energy_enviro_nuclear/nuclear_waste/hi-level/yucca/articles.cfm?ID=7434 (\"http://www.citizen.org/cmep/energy_enviro_nuclear/nuclear_waste/hi-level/yucca/articles.cfm?ID=7434\")

Also a long quote concerning the nuclear waste casks:

Furthermore, the NRC s performance requirements for nuclear waste casks (10 CFR 71.73), established in the 1970s, are outdated and dangerously underestimate the conditions of today s worst-case accident scenario:

The drop test requires casks to withstand a fall from 30 feet onto an unyielding surface, which simulates a crash at 30 miles per hour. Yet no regulations are in place to limit to 30 mph the speed at which nuclear waste shipments can travel. This test condition could easily be exceeded, if, for instance, a cask traveling at regular highway speeds (now 65-75 miles per hour) crashed into oncoming traffic or a virtually unyielding structure such as a bridge abutment.

The burn test requires casks to withstand an engulfing fire at 1475 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Other materials routinely transported on our roads and rails could spark a hotter fire (diesel burns at 1850 degrees) and could potentially burn for longer than half an hour. Last summer s fire in Baltimore s Howard Street train tunnel which the DOE has identified as a potential Yucca Mountain shipment route - burned for more than 3 days and likely reached temperatures of at least 1500 degrees. If a nuclear waste cask had been on the train involved in that accident, its containment would have been breached, exposing 345,493 people in the area to radiation and costing at least $13.7 billion dollars to clean up.

The puncture test requires casks to withstand a free-fall from 40 inches onto an 8 inch-long spike. A train derailment or a truck crash on a bridge could result in a fall from much higher than 40 inches and potentially result in puncture damage to the cask s shielding.

The same cask is required to withstand submersion in 3 feet of water, and a separate test requires an undamaged cask to withstand submersion in 200 meters of water (656 feet) for 1 hour. If a crash involving a nuclear waste shipment occurred on a bridge or barge, a damaged cask could be submerged in depths greater than 3 feet. Furthermore, given the weight of nuclear waste transport casks, it is not reasonable to assume that a submerged cask could be rescued within one hour. Licensed truck casks weigh 24-27 tons, loaded, and train casks can weigh upto 125 tons, loaded. In the case of a barge transport accident, if a crane capable of lifting such a massive load out of the ocean were not immediately available, water pressure over longer periods could result in cask failure and radiation release.

10-16-2002, 12:08 PM
I quite agree, Mtnjim.

I think we\'re a plague on the face of the planet. We just keep breeding and multiplying, swarming over every last bit of green and paving it over, stringing it up with lights -- you can\'t even see the stars anymore. We\'ve imposed so much on the planet\'s hospitality and on our fellow creatures that she\'ll shake us off one way or another, if we don\'t manage to poison ourselves before she does. And the beat will go on. It\'s not like humans are the be-all and the end-all.

Wonder if dinosaurs thought they were, when it was their time to be?

10-16-2002, 12:34 PM
I watched parts of Claybrook\'s testimony live on C-Span. All I can say is that some people are never happy - especially when they made a career of complaining, as Ms. Claybrook has.

On a more concrete plain, the complete set of test conditions are very impressive to most observers - watch the video of the actual tests. Of course, someone can always say they want more.

So what is your response to this 42 square mile contamination claim? Tell me how this is supposed to happen - I can\'t imagine a plausible scenario. What exactly do you mean by \"contaminated\"? Instantly lethal? Measurable? Big difference.

California has 7 nuclear spent fuel pools - I\'ve contributed engineering and management expertise to 3 of them. I\'ve also been the responsible lead nuclear engineer on three pools currently under construction in Asia. I know the limitations of the temporary, at-plant storage facilities - they most certainly DO have some weaknesses! The transportation and storage of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain is far safer then the continued long-term paralysis that keeps spent fuel at the plants.

The whole issue really requires judgment - one can pick apart any detail and offer criticism - I know, I do it for a living. What we have to do is weigh and balance risks to achieve a better human condition. Frankly, the massive building of more coal plants in China is a far greater hazard to Americans than the operation of nuclear power plants in this country and the transport and disposal of their spent fuel at Yucca Mountain.

Until \"Environmentalists\" acknowledge that, I will continue to dismiss their ilrelevant posturings.

(Sorry, AKA, you\'ve got me spun up!)

10-16-2002, 12:50 PM
Thats the beauty of the UK, most places you can still see the stars. Apart from maybe London.

10-16-2002, 12:51 PM
Orion\'s belt is faint in the night sky I look at, which amazes me, to barely be able to see it.

10-16-2002, 01:30 PM
That\'s the nice thing about living in the mountains of Cailfornia. The night sky is white with stars, an hour\'s drive I\'m at the beach. (San Diego, CA-but please don\'t move here, it\'s getting crowded-Ave home price 250K)

10-16-2002, 03:14 PM
No need to apologize. I enjoy being challenged by someone that knows what they’re talking about. (Even if they have already dismissed my arguments as categorically irrelevant.)

The bit about 42 sq. miles being contaminated comes from the NRC’s “Spent Nuclear Fuel Transportation Package Performance Issues Report”. You can download a PDF at:

http://ttd.sandia.gov/nrc/docs/draft.pdf (\"http://ttd.sandia.gov/nrc/docs/draft.pdf\")

No doubt you know more about the scientific side of this debate than I do. But it doesn’t take a nuclear physicist to see that Yucca Mountain was chosen on the basis of political expediency vs. scientific rigor.
Does science explain why proposed sites in Texas and Washington were eliminated, or could it have something to do with Speaker of the House Jim Wright being from Texas and the House Majority Leader Tom Foley being from Washington? Can science explain why containment standards already on the books have been lowered for the Yucca Mountain site? Is there some scientific reason we can’t have a risk assessment of terrorist attacks on the shipments?

Maybe I’m not qualified to decide which is worse: leaving the waste on site or transporting it to Yucca Mountain for the next 40,000 years. Neither scenario seems reasonably safe, and that just highlights my original point. Nuclear power is not a solution.

Of course if I had to chose between nuclear and coal, I’d chose nuclear. This way the problems could be deferred to your grand-children. But why put future generations at risk in the interest of corporate profits and consumer lifestyles?

In any case, I could argue that your side of this debate is at least as irrelevant as mine, because the Bush administration is projecting increases in BOTH fossil fuel and nuclear energy consumption. So it’s not as if we’re being given a choice.

10-16-2002, 03:28 PM
Yep, politics played a role. Nevada has one of the smallest, and at the time of the original decisions, one of the weakest Congressional delegations. You want a technocrat to make that decision?

But then face this question: is there a perfect site? ANSWER: No such thing. Unless you\'re a NIMBY.

Is not Yucca Mountain an acceptable site? Given the dryness, isolation, rock type, sure looks darn good to me (and most other technical types.) Note that Yucca Mountain overlooks Yucca Flats, site of 1,000 nuclear weapons explosions, largely uncontained.

The original standards have been adjusted - take a little off there, add a bunch there. It is an advancing field of knowledge and part of the design process. The ultimate goal - 10,000 years isolation was pulled from a hat anyway - as a political decision.

As to transportation - the stuff has to be moved someday - that can NOT be in question by any responsible commentator. I\'m printing out the report you linked me to and I\'ll comment tomorrow.

Let me guess - you\'re a staffer for Senator Reid?

10-17-2002, 05:56 AM
I believe the point is that nuclear fission is not the answer.

10-17-2002, 07:51 AM
When you flip that light switch, you expect the lights to go on. If you show up at work, and the power is off, your boss sends you home without pay. When your mother goes to the hospital, all those life-saving machines work on electricity. Electricity is vital.

The question is really, if not nuclear, then what? A decision has to be made and someone has to answer for it. If you rule out nuclear, then the responsibility is on you to propose some replacement.

But be careful! If you can criticize nuclear, I can criticize your proposals. Gas, oil, coal, solar, wind, conservation, geothermal, etc all have problems when one gets down to the nitty-gritty of making real electricity to serve real customers.

When you come down from the clouds and get serious about making real juice, I think any serious person will see that nuclear is the best option in our imperfect world. It\'s not perfect but no option is.

10-17-2002, 09:09 AM
No I cant agree with you there.

There are undoubtedly other forms of CLEAN and RENEWABLE fuel, more cach needs to be pumped into research. I for one am not satisfied with the options currently available. Nuclear is non-renewable aswell dont forget. Properly handled, yes it can be a suitable source of power, but I\'m sure there are better ways.

Cold fusion anyone? Yes I know a fairy tale, but thats the kind of tilt people should be looking into.

10-17-2002, 09:34 AM
\"Undoubtedly\"?????? Sorry, the more I read about \"alternative energy\" the MORE I doubt.

The strongest case FOR nuclear comes from the physics of energy. If it\'s energy you want, it\'s gotta go through physics - if physics don\'t know it, then it probably doesn\'t exist. Of course, physics might have to change if you discover something new, but current physics can\'t tell you how to get there.

You have completed avoid my main point - we as a society can\'t just dream or hope - it has to be REAL. Politicians have promised us alternatives for decades. Why? Because 1) they won\'t have to deliver during their term in office and 2) that promise allows them to avoid the hard decisions. Politicians are happy to throw your money down a rat hole if it makes you happy.

As to nuclear being \"non-renewable\" - there is plenty of uranium - it\'s more plentiful in the Earth\'s crust than lead. For all intents and purposes, nuclear is unlimited. In fact, uranium is a force of nature. What causes earthquakes and volcanos? - Uranium. The Earth emits to the sky 104% of the solar energy falling upon it. The difference comes from the radioactive decay of uranium.

Our current plants are crude - I know that all too well. We should be pouring money into design better nuclear plants and processes - THAT would be money well spent.

10-17-2002, 11:00 AM
Ok a fair compromise is to further develop currrent plants, and yes I do see your points and think they are entirely valid. We will always need power, and we will always need solutions in the here and now. Thats what is currently happening, people burning fuels and so forth. Nuclear is leagues better, cleaner, and if delt with properly, safer. But you cant escape that point that a lot of current policy regarding fuels IS only thinking about the now.

You could NEVER convince me that further R & D wont reap any rewards, the idea in itself is just plain stupid. Your point about the physics of the problem is only partially valid, you also avoided my point. Physics has HUGE possibilities yet to be explored (or that may have been, but are being held tightly under wraps), even current physics. My example of cold fusion isnt completely rediculous, but things like that need time and research. You\'re right that various governments need a kick up the arse regarding their policies, but how can you seriously say that other solutions are not worth the time or money?

Ok my point about uranium being a fintie resourse was a bit of a dud. But even with these unlimited supplies, what do you do when the waste piles up? I nuclear is the long term solution, how do increasing populations and extra space needed for waste disposal exist in harmony?

10-17-2002, 11:58 AM
Why must it be cold fussion? There have been experiments for years regarding fussion and magnetic containment. There have also been tremendous advances made in anti-matter. There is speculation about tapping the energy intrinsic to matter itself. There is much to explore!

Despite the opinions espoused earlier, global warming, the ozone hole or man\'s fault in any of these are not proven. The research has been very biased and the media information has been over-sensationalized. Why is it that no attention whatsoever is given to the climatic data showing that the ice caps have increased in thickness in some areas? (AP-Wire story about six months ago) How about the evidence that the globe should be heading towards another ice age? (geologic/archeological surveys and climatic data reports) There is no discussion about the increased growth of trees in Europe which consume increased amounts of carbon dioxide or the potential for equalibrium. (Studies done in Norway and Germany) I only scanned most of the precious pages but saw little discussion of the scientific evidence related to those issues.

I do not work for big industry, I own a small business. This panic mongering in the media reminds me of the old government made, big industry sponsered movie \"Reefer Madness\'. Despoiling our land is always a dumb idea, but jumping to conclussions because the media or some special interest group promotes it is just as dumb.

I\'ll get off my soap box now.

10-17-2002, 12:00 PM
Break apart \"R&D\" - \"R\" is for research, \"D\" is for development.

More money for physics research is great but I don\'t see a lot of physics ideas out there worth pouring more money on for a potential of an energy supply impact. Maybe for pure science - yes, of course - but if you\'re looking for a payback, keep looking. \"Cold fusion\" might be an exception but there the engineering got ahead of the physicists - one of those surprises I mentioned. If you have any other ideas, let us know.

Development is another story. Spending more money on windmill blades or solar cell fabrication is a waste, in my opinion. The physics of energy just doesn\'t justify it since these are low energy concentration sources trying to make high concentration electricity - just pushing energy uphill at a horribly low efficiency.

That\'s why nuclear has such potential - it is so much more concentrated than any other source of energy known to science - 10E7 or 10E8 times -200,000,000 electron volts for fission vs 3 electron volts for burning carbon. Right now, we\'re just boiling water with it - it\'s embaressingly primitive!

Like asking the bank robber why he robbed banks - \"Because that\'s where the money is.\" We need to look to the nucleus because that\'s where the energy is.

BTW - Oscar Wilde defined a \"fanatic\" as \"someone who will neither chage his mind nor the subject.\" With that thought I\'ll not post any more on this subject since I\'m sounding like a bit of a fanatic to myself. You can PM me if you want to discuss more.

10-17-2002, 12:16 PM
I agree with you completely on the short term and about solar and wind power. The efficiancies are just not there and the maintenance is a nightmare for both. At best they can be used to reduce (passive solar) individual consumpion.

However, basic research is what brought us nuclear energy and will help us to tap infinitely greater power sources in the future. Cold fussion? Don\'t get your hopes up! But tapping the energy source that powers our sun? Now there is some potential. Especially since the bi-products are much cleaner.

We need to look to both the immediate future and the long range. We cannot allow our technology to stagnate.

Regarding fossil fuels: have you heard of mono-hydrodynamic generation? The old Soviet Union was looking into that at one time with some pretty impressive results. High efficiency and low emmissions.

10-17-2002, 02:08 PM
This has turned into a really interesting thread!

I wouldn\'t worry about looking fanatical Whitehall, I have have nothing but admiration for you (or is that contempt... /ubbthreads/images/icons/laugh.gif joking). If thats what you want so be it, but I think others are interested.

Regular fission IS currently the (definately having the potential to become more so) most efficient form of power, and other current \"alternatives\" are pathetic in comparison. But we should never rule out the future.

I was never really sayomg cold fusion was real or anything, just a suggestion. And also proving the point that new things are in the pipeline (or could be).

Hydrogen fusion (if possible in a controlled environments) holds great potential.

Who knows, maybe one day we will be \"farming\" the solar wind aswell.

10-17-2002, 03:09 PM
OK, so long as I\'m not boring anyone!

I guess a lot depends on your time frame. On one hand, the utility guys have to worry about tomorrow afternoon - the next peak load on the electric grid. We should all be worrying about this winter because many are predicting a huge price spike in natural gas and hence electricity. The big problem under debate now is the structure of the electric markets - deregulation has been a huge bust in many respects yet the feds are still pushing it on the many states that don\'t want it or wish they could turn back the clock.

We\'re still building new coal plants in the US - that ought to be stopped - now - even if we don\'t want to sign on to Kyoto. What I\'d like to see is for the US to decide to shut down the worst 20% of our existing coal plants and replace them with new nuclear plants. Nuclear plants take years to build and the equipment suppliers are not eager to stay in the business, such as it is.

Worst, the liberal politicians only want to talk about alternatives and conservation - especially here in California. I really admire Bush and Cheney for putting forth a serious energy plan even if I disagree with big chunks of it. The plant to require ethanol in motor fuel is the worst kind of political pork too. The North Slope (ANWR) is really pretty trivial and looks to be more of a bargaining chip.

On the long horizon, most current alternatives just don\'t have the potential. I would love someone to propose some new ideas but we\'ve pretty well exhausted the possibilities based on our current science.

What I really like to see is direct energy conversion from fission or fusion. There is such a huge potential to make fission work smarter. Even pebble bed reactors need some sort of boost and they\'re not that new or innovative - although a big step forward from our current nuke plants.

\"Cold fusion\" is interesting. Some people I respect - serious people - have shown that its a real pheomenon. But its a case of the real world getting ahead of the scientific establishment. The government\'s panel of physicists took one look and noticed that 1) it was easy to do and 2) it lacked the negative side effects expected - and declared that it just couldn\'t be. Time will tell.

10-17-2002, 10:46 PM
Why is requiring ethanol in motor fuel a stupid idea?

Isn\'t it true, at least for cars, that there have LONG been engine designs for cars that don\'t emit pollutants, but they\'re not being made? It seems the expense of retooling all our factories and all our equipment is prohibitive as far as implementing the things we already know, so since we don\'t have the money (or have but don\'t want to spend it on that) for massive change, we chip away at certain things but never accomplish much.

10-18-2002, 07:02 AM
It is pretty appaling that we still rely on steam to produce all of our power, almost 200 years of the stuff and its still used in bleeding edge power generation technology. Pretty silly.

<blockquote><font class=\"small\">In reply to:</font><hr>

On the long horizon, most current alternatives just don\'t have the potential. I would love someone to propose some new ideas but we\'ve pretty well exhausted the possibilities based on our current science.

What I really like to see is direct energy conversion from fission or fusion. There is such a huge potential to make fission work smarter. Even pebble bed reactors need some sort of boost and they\'re not that new or innovative - although a big step forward from our current nuke plants.

That makes a lot of sense, current alternative simply just dont give great enough yields. I agree nuclear IS the short term solution, but as you say there are improvements that need to be make to the current technology.

What are pebble bed reactors? I\'ve heard of them, but only in passing.

When science descovers the cause of \"cold fusion\", then maybe we could make some big progress.

I\'m sure there are big things happening in the area of plasma, and I remember some anti-matter research in the US that was making SOME progress.

10-18-2002, 07:38 AM
Why is ethanol for cars a bad idea? The problem is really in the government mandate and the net energy.

So how do you make ethanol on an industrial scale? You take a field, you plow it, you disc it, you plant the seeds, you cultivate, fertilize, and surpress the weeds. You then harvest it, dry the corn, transport it to the processing plant, grind it, ferment it, then distill out the ethanol for shipment to the oil refiners where it is blended with petroleum. All those steps are energy-intensive themselves so that if you do an net energy balance, you find that you\'re putting IN as much or more energy than you\'re getting out. THe sunlight that falls on the corn to make it grow is trivial in the bigger scheme of things. So where\'s the savings?

This is one big boondoogle to buy votes in farm states and to please Archer-Daniel-Mildland (ADM) a political super-heavy weight. Other problems include a lack of distribution here in the western states so that fuel shortages are a concern. There is a general issue in that ethanol is an \"oxygenated\" fuel. That\'s supposed to surpress NOX formation but it also lowers fuel economy and hence increases operating costs. Oyxgenated fuels are really just \"pre-burned\" since the combustion process also oyxgenates the fuel. It\'s like using wet wood in a fire.

This is government at its worst.

Actually, automobile engines are miraculously clean now - a hundred or a thousand fold cleaner than in the \'60s. I don\'t see much room for improvement.

10-18-2002, 07:50 AM
Here\'s a link to the pebble bed reactor:

http://www.pbmr.com/ (\"http://www.pbmr.com/\")

Steam has a glorious history as a foundation of the power technologies going back to James Watt and the start of the Industrial Revolution. It does have some things going for it: we know it well and it has great thermodynamics as a working fluid. It\'s non-toxic too. When you\'re spending billions of dollars on a plant, you get very conservative and you\'re willing to trade a slight performance advantage for the surety and confidence in a proven technology.

Still, one would think that something better would have come along by now. The Pebble Bed reactor uses helium and gas turbines which have several advantages. Current nukes are about 32% efficient while a pebble bed might hit 40 or 42%. But since uranium is so cheap compared to its energy content, the savings are more in capital costs from a physically smaller plant.

10-18-2002, 10:10 AM
Global warming is real and carbon emissions are the cause, anybody that doesn’t want to believe the world’s leading climatologists on this should visit a library and draw their own conclusions. There are a number of books that explain the process in terms that anybody with a high school education should be able to grasp.

I’ll strive to keep my head out of the clouds if my detractors strive to keep their heads out of the sand.

Before industrialization, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide were about 280 parts per million. At the turn of the 21st century they were 360ppm. Stabilizing at current levels would require a 70% reduction in current emissions. This is the main reason policy makers want to run away from this issue. No mater what kind of science you throw at this problem, there’s no escaping the need for conservation = a massive restructuring of our economic system.

I think I can see Whitehall’s criticism of liberal politicians vs. Bush/Chaney. Back in 1998 Clinton proposed that the US could reduce emissions by 20% simply though energy efficiency and conservation. During his administration there was no strides made in energy efficiency, no conservation programs, and consequently emissions increased.
At least the Bush administration is honest enough to admit that it plans to INCREASE carbon emissions over the next 25 years. Sure this is suicidal, ecocidal, historically irresponsible and a whole lot of other bad things, but that’s what it’s going to take to keep US corporations competitive in the 21st century. If we want GNP to go up atmospheric integrity must go down.

Whitehall is also correct about modern cars being much cleaner than 1960 models. There have been a couple of hydrogen fueled prototypes and GM has already thrown $1 billion towards a plant that will produce them on a mass scale. So I could argue that it is possible to produce even cleaner cars. But that’s beside the point because what kind of energy is going to be used in the production process and how clean will it be? (I believe GM is considering natural gas for its plant.)

The bigger issue is that roughly 8% of the world owns a car while roughly 89% of the US owns one. Our consumption has gotten out of control and we have to reign it in. But that’s not what the big auto makers want to see. The capitalist system is “grow or die”. Capture a bigger market share or be eaten up by the competition. That’s why I say the biggest bottleneck is political rather than technical.

One example is food. The average US meal travels 1,000 to 1,500 miles to get to our table. This means energy for transportation, energy for refrigeration, energy for storage, energy for packaging... All of which could be conserved if agriculture was geared towards local markets rather than export.

Another example is transportation. The city of Curitiba, Brazil has reduced fuel consumption by 30% simply by introducing public transport. San Francisco had a relatively good system, but now it needs more. Other cities are way behind the times and there’s lots of room for improvement.

I don’t buy the argument that the burden of proof is on anybody that questions nuclear power. Everybody knows that nuclear fuel is hazardous and after 40 years of lies from the nuclear industry, I would say that the burden of proof is on them. Even if Yucca Mountain is ideal ( never mind that it’s situated between two active earthquake faults and on top of a major Western aquifer), even if there is no risk in transporting the stuff (never mind all the terrorists looking for an easy target) this will only account for about 75% of the waste. And it doesn’t account for the fact that some of this waste has a half-life into the millions of years. (But I’m no scientist, so maybe Whitehall can recommend a good storage device that will survive the half-life of Uranium 236 or 238.)

Regarding solar power... No you can’t immediately shut down the coal plants and light up Southern California with solar panels. I don’t know of any environmentalist organization that has proposed such a thing, so I can’t figure out who Whitehall’s contempt is directed at. On the other hand a British study has found that a typical house fitted with solar panels saves an average of 2.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year. And in Kenya more rural houses get their energy from solar power than from the national grid. The physics is there and the technology is advancing ( Japan is now producing super thin cells at 1/10 the cost of the US’s bulkier models.) Nuclear and hydroelectric have already had a chance to prove themselves as alternative sources, why isn’t solar being given a chance? $100 million is considered too expensive for a solar powered plant, whereas $4,000 million is acceptable for an oil rig. Is this due to a lack of scientific knowledge or an overabundance of corporate lobbyists?

I also disagree that wind power is inefficient. Once the turbines are set up, operating costs are cheeper than any other energy source. Holland has given its farmers economic incentives to set up wind turbines and not only are they able to meet their own needs, they are producing a surplus of energy that they sell back to the national grid.

Pardon me if I’ve gone off on anybody or said disturbing things. It’s just that I can’t stand the responsibility of belonging to the generation that is destroying nature at such an unprecedented rate. Call me egotistical, but I haven’t made my peace with the armageddon. I don’t accept the inevitability of any kind of future. But if this is really the end, I want to know that I’ve done everything in my power to stop it.

10-18-2002, 11:16 AM
Yes, you did say one disturbing thing...

\"...after 40 years of lies from the nuclear industry, I would say that the burden of proof is on them\"

Having been a part, a small part but a part, of the nuclear industry since 1973, I know that the US civilian nuclear power industry has pretty much told it like it is over that period. We\'re held to a high standard and our basic assertions are verifiable and consistent. There has been a few bad actors in that period but they get removed pretty quickly. The lies have been with the opponents of nuclear power who exagerate, distort, and fanaticize statements against nuclear power to satisfy their internal emotional needs for political power and self-glorification. I, for one, welcome constructive criticism, but most of the opponents of nuclear power are indulging in demogogary pure and simple.

Sir, Do not call me a liar.

When I say the burden of proof lies with others, I\'m saying that any idealist can take pot shots at the work of practical people for not living up to some Utopian standard. If you have a better practical proposal for energy supply, please present it in detail. I\'m open to new ideas but every alternative now on the table to increased use of nuclear power suffers under scrutiny. You can\'t just say \"I demand a perfect system.\" Wind, solar, conservation et al only look good from a distance and with rose-colored glasses. If you can criticize nuclear, I can criticize your fave too.

Take wind. I used to work for a large west coast electric utility that operated one of the largest wind power installations in the world, the Altamont Pass. Besides killing over 600 eagles, hawks, and other large birds a year, the wind farm only produced at about 20% of design capacity. The worst part was that it produced when we least needed it. When we had our peaks loads was when the Central Valley of California was hot and there was no cooling fog rushing into the Valley from San Francisco Bay. Altamont Pass only made juice when the fog was blowing and hence system demand was down. Wind power did displace some fossil fuel use - largely natural gas - but the system still had to build the plants for those hot days when the fog wasn\'t blowing and the wind mills weren\'t turning. Economically, they weren\'t worth building - ie couldn\'t repay their capital cost without price and tax subsidies.

Solar electric has similar performance characteristics although there is usually a better match between output and demand but it\'s still not perfect. Solar peaks between 10 and 2 on a normal sunny day while demand peaks about 6 - at least for the typical summer-peaking system. Of course, get up before dawn in Minneapolis some winter day and solar power is absolutely useless. Even then, production of solar panels is not innocuous and has surprising environmental and energy costs of their own. Frankly, they seldom net-out.

I helped a leading Silicon Valley firm with a very advanced solar cell design consider building a solar power plant during our California energy crisis two years ago. The numbers just wouldn\'t work - even at 25 cents per kilowatt-hour they still couldn\'t commit to a practical plant. Nuclear electricity goes for 2.8 cents a kW-hr out here.

Yucca Mountain is a more than adequate site for a nuclear waste repository. So what do earthquakes do 1,000 feet underground in hard rock? Answer - just about nothing. You do need to avoid placing waste packages directly in the fault zones but that\'s easy. As to taking responsiblity for uranium-238, I can only point out that this stuff is surprisingly common. In fact nuclear power REDUCES the Earth\'s radioactivity from uranium by spliting it - the fragments have a much shorter half-life with the net result that, in a blink of the geological eye, there is LESS radioactive energy. But that\'s not a practical issue. What is pertinent is that in 500 to 1,000 years Yucca Mountain will be less toxic than the original ore bodies that we mined for nuclear power.

Listen, AKA, I feel much the same way as you do - humans are headed for ecological collapse. I decided on a career in nuclear power at age 20 after helping to clean up an oil spill on my favorite beach in Florida. I\'m known as a tough internal critic of nuclear power inside my business but nuclear is still the way to go. It won\'t really save the world but it will help and it is something that I can contribute to.

My greatest worry is that some day my grown grandchildren will look to me and ask \"Grandfather, how come you didn\'t build MORE nuclear plants while you had the chance?\"

10-18-2002, 04:10 PM
Well people heres what I understand about the subject...

The reason we have an atomosphere (you know the air we need to breath) is because Earth is massive enough to hold it here. You see all the gas particles in the atmosphere are moving at certain speeds (most important is the avgerage speed of these particles) call this speed v. Now for something to escape the gravitional pull of the earth, it needs to attain a speed called escape velocity (i forgot the number). Now Earth has a atmosphere because v &lt; escape velocity ie Earth has enough mass such that Escape velocity is pretty high. But when heat (just a form of energy) builds, as is the case with the burning of fossils fuels, heat from living creatures, hell even cigs, this heat causes the atomosphere molecules to move faster, therefore increasing their avg. velocity and that is why we are losing the ozone. The ozone is the outer layer of atmosphere and there more prone to escaping. The activities of an post-idustrial world are speeding this up..So yeah the planet is probably trying to fight back to acheieve some type of blance.

10-19-2002, 08:39 AM
Do also be aware that there is a perfectly natural swing in the Earths climate. It can be very extreme, take a look at the various ice ages.

10-21-2002, 08:38 AM
No, global warming is not a proven fact, nor is ozone depletion or man\'s complicity in either. Each is a theory. Much of what is touted as fact is based on research that is poorly documented and done by researchers who have a stake in the outcome. That alone makes the research suspect.

I am not saying it is right to continue despoiling our world either. In my opinion, only an idiot craps in their own kitchen. However, we all have to accept the fact that we are not going to turn back the clock, consumption is going to continue to increase. People are not going to give up their air conditioning and computers and personal vehicles or the hundreds of other modern devices we rely on. We need to use our best technology now while we look for more, cleaner power sources.

Coal burning plants are dirty, that\'s real. A number of years ago there was research into mono-hydrodynamic power generation. It produced temperatures so high that all by-products were reduced to their basic elements. Pollution was reduced to virtually nothing. The old USSR did a lot of work on that, allegedly had a 500 mega-watt unit on line. Has anybody heard anything about that?

10-21-2002, 09:19 AM
That was magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) power conversion. The idea was shot a stream of ionized gas (plasma) through a magnetic field and you create an electrical current which is tapped for electrical power. The energy source is whatever makes the gas so hot and pressurized - like a jet engine exhaust. The juice came out as direct current and required conversion to alternating current, the kind we get from our wall plug.

It wasn\'t really a new energy source - just new conversion method. It did work - sorta. Since the temperatures were limited for materials concerns, one has to spike the plasma stream with an alkali metal like metallic sodium or cesium that is hard to handle and expensive. The Soviets did make some field units for their military and built one or two demonstration central station plants.

One would expect the units to run on fossil fuels like natural gas and to have a major problem with NOX emissions.

A still-born technology with little current impetus for development, so far as I know.

10-22-2002, 05:30 AM
Yeah, I hadn\'t heard anything in many years and being no longer in the energy industry, I don\'t have as many resources for information as in the past. Thanks for the input.

I saw an article (Maybe in Science magazine) a few months back detailing the advances in producing larger quantities of anti-matter. Any information on that?

10-22-2002, 07:52 AM
Anti-matter is surprisingly commonplace - at least in the form of positrons (positively charged electrons). For example a PET scan uses positrons. What you were reading about is recent advances in making a complete atom of anti-hydrogen with an anti-proton and a positron. It\'s an interesting scientific experiment but offers little economic opportunity for the energy business since it takes huge quantities of regular energy to make anti-matter.

Anti-matter will annihilate upon contact with matter releasing huge amounts of energy (remember E=mc2?) But where do you find anti-matter that hasn\'t already annihilated itself?

I do have a design for an anti-matter battery I\'ve been working on but it\'s mostly a PR device.

10-22-2002, 08:55 AM
My God, Captain! Where do you get the dilithium crystals??

10-22-2002, 11:02 AM
Actually, it would use diamond. The anti-matter version is not really practical since it would emit 0.511 MeV gamma rays - a rather hard radiation with a high biohazard.

The real version would use a very soft beta particle or maybe an alpha particle that would be completely contained within the diamond matrix. These would be great as power sources for implanted medical devices - the radioactivity would be very well contained within the diamond - barring cremation.

10-22-2002, 03:39 PM
What aboud cold-fusion. Is it possible to use heavy water as a fuel type that is clean and efficent.
How far have advances come in this area. Is it just science fiction or something more.
What we need to do is to develop better technologies that are cleaner and more efficent in all areas of human technological usage.

http://www.chez.com/kristalisator/ (\"http://www.chez.com/kristalisator/\")

We can probably do a decent job discussing thigns on this forum for starters, hey this is a good thread, what about wearing a constant OD into research labs, making everyone more competitive raising research efforts and producing a better outcome through everyones increased sexual driven motivation behaviour.
Hey ive done this in the past when i was in a medical facility and to be honest when i was around local advances and more effective measures for everything seem to happen overnight. Im wondering if my exposure to lots of people drove them to do things better through motivation (competition in a co-operative envirnoment.)

Im apply social behaviour and higher principles of human behaviour as a model here, but they seem to fit.

On another front the eventual outcome of competiting thought systems.

Ie what would fit into place a

B,C,D or E and found that it is best to be the theroy or idea with the highest support or the third hightest support as 2nd place loses in the end 94% of the time.

http://www.chez.com/kristalisator/ (\"http://www.chez.com/kristalisator/\")

10-23-2002, 07:45 AM
\"Cold Fusion\" is an interesting story about the limitations of establishment science.

The first reports came from a couple of guys working at a provincial college (Utah) in a minor branch of chemistry - not physics. They thought that they really were on to something but they didn\'t have a solid explanation as to the theory behind it. Their first success came when they walked into their lab one Monday morning and found a hole in the floor from a cell they had left working over the weekend.

Establishment science rushed to check. Most other scientists could not replicate the power output of the original cold fusion cells. The theorists met and agreed that 1) it wasn\'t hot and 2) there was no radioactive contamination and 3) they counldn\'t explain it - they concluded that it could NOT be fusion and therefore it never happened. Frankly, they seemed over-enthusiastic in their absolute denounciations.

Others did find ways to make the cells produce excess energies. Turns out that there is a lot of art involved and no one understands the underlying theory so we\'re all flying blind. One of those teams was from Texas A&amp;M and was funded by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) - I used to sit on an industry research committee there for a while. EPRI is a profoundly conservative entity, funded by the electric utility business.

Work continues but in an underground way. There are HUGE financial and social interests at risk as well as the potential for a tremendous paradigm shift in basic science. The original discoverers were whisked away to a special \"lab\" in the South of France funded by a Japanese firm and have not been heard from in years.

So far, no one has brought to market an application of \"cold fusion\" and no one has provided a theoritical basis for how it might work. Maybe there is a big conspiracy to cover it up or maybe in was all a mistake - I don\'t know. I\'m keeping an eye out for it though.

10-23-2002, 05:03 PM
<blockquote><font class=\"small\">In reply to:</font><hr>

Others did find ways to make the cells produce excess energies. Turns out that there is a lot of art involved and no one understands the underlying theory so we\'re all flying blind...Work continues but in an underground way...So far, no one has brought to market an application of \"cold fusion\" and no one has provided a theoritical basis for how it might work. Maybe there is a big conspiracy to cover it up or maybe in was all a mistake - I don\'t know. I\'m keeping an eye out for it though.


Cold fusion - a lot like pheromones.

10-23-2002, 06:49 PM
This lab in the south of france wouldnt be CERT would it, only those with a conscipisory theroy background would understand what im talking about anyone else got area 51 in mind.

The social and scince impact would be huge but the economic structure would adapt, however it may open the way for new types of propolusion systems - Mssions to mars etc down the track once developed. However like pheromones top secret or just harassed so much by the media that it will never take off in a mainstream public focus type of way.

12-05-2002, 05:13 PM
Ok figured id put this back up seeing as though here in sydney australia in recent years bushfires have been more widespread and the average temperatures are up also. This country is in its worst drought in over 100 years and yet we hear conflicting stories on wether global warming is the results of solar flares and solar activities interacting with the earths atmosphere altering global weather patterns .

Or if its us humans and all our carbon dioxide and excess waste heat. Im sure the hydrogen economy will pick up in the next 20 years as coal and oil become more scarse and problems in middle eastern countries continue. The USA could specifically reduce realiance upon these middle eastern countries and leave the whole region alone if it didnt depend upon oil to drive its economy and then the fundalmentalists muslim religious nuts could run that region as they see fit.

12-05-2002, 07:05 PM
i think that would really mess up those middle eastern countries. if it wasn\'t for their oil they would have no major exports.

And yeah i think the weater is changing. Here in south florida every summer seems to get hotter (and more humid then the last -- and if you have ever been to south florida on a sunny july day you would think that it isn\'t possible to get more humid).

12-06-2002, 06:14 AM
The debate about whether the globe is warming or not should be settled soon. NASA launched two satilites last week with the expressed purpose of measuring climate changes and sea levels. It will take some time to correlate the data but the results should be interesting.