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Creator of the Gaia Hypothesis Urges Nuclear Power 1185

Posted by Hemos
from the making-those-splitting-decisions dept.
SteamyMobile writes "Professor James Lovelock, creator the Gaia Hypothesis and long-time intellectual leader of the Green movement, says that global warming is a dire threat, more urgent than was previously realized. He compares the threat of global warming with the threat of the Nazis in 1938, and says that in both cases, the Left was not able to grasp the urgency of the situation and see the necessary solution. What is the necessary solution to stop the global warming problem? He says it's nuclear power. Needless to say, the Greens don't agree with him, and he chides them as having irrational phobias of a safer, cleaner energy sources. Even if the "Left" isn't fully aware of the urgency of the world's energy problems, it seems like Slashdot is."
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Creator of the Gaia Hypothesis Urges Nuclear Power

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  • Re:Great (Score:4, Informative)

    by Peden (753161) on Monday May 24, 2004 @06:50AM (#9236066) Homepage
    They are there now! They just need a little more focus from the various governments. Half of my country's (Denmark) power in 2012 is supposed to be coming from winds, and we are close to getting there. Check out www.vestas.com, the world's biggest supplier og windmills. Let's harness the nature's powers instead of raping it's resources.
  • by Eunuchswear (210685) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:04AM (#9236117) Journal
    Come on, we're already up to 75% of our electricity from nukes.

    Oh, you're not in France.

    Get with the act you luddites.

    This message submitted with the help of the friendly atom.
  • by Scarblac (122480) <slashdot@gerlich.nl> on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:04AM (#9236121) Homepage

    Could it be that those more concerned about the risks have taken its release as a good opportunity for sounding their views (since people will be more receptive?)

    YES: This is the movie's website, with the banner "The day after tomorrow, where will you be?": www.thedayaftertomorrow.com [thedayaftertomorrow.com], while this site is setup by Greenpeace, and highlights current issues and politics, under the banner "The day is today, what will you do?": www.thedayaftertomorrow.org [thedayaftertomorrow.org].

    Smart marketing.

  • Re:Great (Score:2, Informative)

    by jlar (584848) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:10AM (#9236143)
    Wind energy is already useful. In Denmark (which is a world leader in wind energy) we have the capacity to cover 20% of our electricity consumption by wind energy in a normal wind year.

    This rate is climbing quickly and by 2030 we will cover 50% of our electricity usage by wind energy.
    It is probably not possible to go much higher due to the fluctuating nature of wind energy - but the technology to produce cheap wind energy is already here. If we combine wind energy with other clean energy sources (like nuclear power for example) it is thus not that hard to imagine a future with clean electricity.

    Of course we will also have to use clean energy sources for heating and transportation. In my opinion the most obvious savings come from reductions in energy usage in these areas for example by imposing mandatory isolation in building regulations (but I might be wrong).
  • by Trurl's Machine (651488) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:15AM (#9236162) Journal
    Please don't replicate the "every SUV must have bad fuel economy" meme. It's just not true. I drive a SUV and it's fuel economy [fueleconomy.gov] is better than that of many ordinary 2WD vehicles (22-27 mpg). This meme is dangerous, because many Americans believe that and therefore American companies see no reason to improve the fuel efficency of their horribly heavy, clunky and obsolete 4x4 behemoths. Japanese car companies do not have this luxury and it shows - Subaru Forester, Mitsubishi Outlander, Honda CR-V or Nissan X-Trail are great family machines and they are as environment-friendly as regular (non-SUV) vehicles. So you don't have to give up anything, if it's really that important for you to have American company badge on your car, buy a Subaru rebadged [geocities.com] as Chevrolet.
  • Re:Some ranting. (Score:5, Informative)

    by sexecutioner (597887) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:21AM (#9236186)

    Synroc [uic.com.au] solves the second "Pain in The Arse" problem.

    But you're right about the "not in my backyard" syndrome. I've studied Synroc and it really is the perfect solution (btw I work upstairs from where it was developed) but who in the world will listen to reason about it?

  • by Des Herriott (6508) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:22AM (#9236191)
    This tower doesn't heat air; it causes hot air at ground level to rise through the tower, driving turbines inside the tower.

    Now, there may be unforeseen climatic consequences of heating the air 1km up (but the energy "stolen" by driving the turbines should result in the air being fairly cool when it exits the tower), but it's not pumping hot air "out into the atmosphere" - where do you think the hot air came from in the first place?
  • Re:Great (Score:3, Informative)

    by deragon (112986) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:25AM (#9236206) Homepage Journal
    There is alot of talk about wind energy in the province of Quebec, Canada. However, I often heard by experts that power from wind cannot be more than 20% or else the fluctuations become problematic. You state 50%. I am curious to know more and if you have any links/info about it (in english, or french please. ;) ), please feel free to post.
  • by advocate_one (662832) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:25AM (#9236207)
    "Call me naive but I hardly think plastering a desert with towers that, by design, pump hot air out into the atmosphere will reduce global warming."

    what else was that solar energy going to do if it wasn't intercepted??? it was going to heat the sand up anyway and eventually the air as well... those solar towers are going to cool the desert, not heat it up...

  • Re:Great (Score:5, Informative)

    by david.gilbert (605443) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:29AM (#9236214)
    That's right, only the communists could mess up something as important as nuclear safety [bbc.co.uk].
  • Re:Great (Score:5, Informative)

    by pfdietz (33112) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:31AM (#9236230)
    Yes, I am sure he knows how much energy goes into mining uranium. Here's a free clue: it's a very small fraction of the energy yielded when that uranium is fissioned (even in a once-through fuel cycle without reprocessing.)
  • Renewables in the UK (Score:2, Informative)

    by tim_retout (716233) * on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:33AM (#9236243) Homepage Journal

    The potential for wind energy (in the UK, at least) is much greater than you think. In fact, it could supply three times the UK's electricity usage [offshorewindfarms.co.uk]. This is just offshore wind farms; it doesn't account for all the various other environmentally-friendly sources.

    While there would always be a need for balance in the energy supply (so solar power and wave/tidal power should also be looked into) is it really necessary to go rushing off to fusion just like that?

  • Re:Great (Score:5, Informative)

    by mikerich (120257) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:35AM (#9236256)
    You forget, you Americans (by that, I do of course mean the Government, and not the quite palatable denizens) use hardly any of the energy available in that Uranium. 98% of the mass put in comes out as waste. Look at Sellafield in the UK, only 2% comes out as waste, as a hell of a lot of reprocessing goes on, I in fact believe that they are the most efficient in the world! If everyone reprocessed their waste a lot, then Yucca mountain would not be necessary to store all the waste, you could in fact use a place at least 20 times smaller, and somewhere a little safer too I might add!

    The economics of reprocessing don't make sense. Sellafield could not exist without the British government imposing a levy on all energy sales AND bailing BNFL out on a regular basis.

    Furthermore, reprocessing produces enormous amounts of high-level liquid waste which must be treated and stored as well as biblical quantities of low-level waste. Even if you don't have to fill up Yucca Mountain, you still need huge nuclear dumps. Reprocessing *increases* the volume of nuclear waste compared to spent fuel elements.

    It is significant that Britain has yet to find a long-term solution for the reprocessing waste generated at Sellafield - which is much more dangerous than spent fuel. We are now told that we might have one in 50 years, in the meantime, the high-level waste is being kept liquid, above ground in 30 year-old tanks. I'm glad I don't live in Cumbria.

    All the time, Sellafield has been pouring actinides down the pipe into the Irish Sea - which are now detectable across large areas of the Irish, Scottish and Norwegian coasts.

    Sellafield's last big hope was Mixed Oxide Fuel, so far its only customer, the Japanese, have refused to accept MOX after it was found that BNFL was faking safety data. The MOX plant at Sellafield is still not working reliably, MOX is far more expensive than new fuel *and* there are concerns that MOX may shorten the lifespan of Pressurised Water Reactors.

    Sellafield is a bad joke and should be closed down.

    Its sole reason for existance after the development of the British Bomb was to provide plutonium for Britain's Fast Breeder Reactor programme. Well that was abandoned long ago, FBRs are an engineering boondoggle and have never worked reliably. So we sit on 40 tonnes of plutonium with no end use.

    Uranium is cheaper now than in 1970, there is no sign of reserves running out, so there is no need to worry about supplies in the foreseeable future.

    Using fuel once then putting it into dry store above ground is better economically and environmentally than reprocessing.

    Best wishes,
    Mike.

  • by AlecC (512609) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:44AM (#9236305)
    The sun? We've been harnesting the sun for thousands of years for our energy, why not keep going?

    Lovelock's answer to this is that there isn't time. Yes, the long term solution is solar power, directly or indirecly. But he says that Global Warming is so large and so imminent a problem that we mhave to reactivate nuclear as a stop-gap until we can ramp up solar.
  • by BlackHawk-666 (560896) <ivan.hawkes@gmail.com> on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:45AM (#9236310) Homepage
    Actually, digging a little further revealed that you could also get a Toyota Prius (Hybrid) that does 60 mpg in the city or a Honda Insight that does 60-66, that's three times the milage of your SUV.
  • Re:Reactor safety (Score:5, Informative)

    by mikerich (120257) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:48AM (#9236325)
    I don't know very much about three mile island, but as I recall, the Soviet reactor designs were all quite unreliable. At the time, I guess what the Soviet Government really cared about was the electricity plutonium that the reactor produced.

    The RMBK reactor was designed to generate power and plutonium. It was unusual in that it allowed on-line refuelling. Bomb-grade plutonium is almost pure Pu239 which is made by U238 capturing a neutron. If Pu239 is left in the core for longer, it can capture another neutron or two to make Pu240 or Pu241 which dramatically affect reliability of the weapon.

    The RMBK used a robot crane to extract fuel elements after a short period of time, consequently the lid of the reactor was pieced by hundreds of fuel channels through which fuel was added and removed. This is unlike the Pressurised Water Reactor in which the lid is sealed for months at a time.

    When the reactor failed, the fuel channels proved a fatal weakness, so the lid was blown off and allowed radiation into the environment. The RMBK design was fairly elderly at this time and no more were planned by the Soviet Union. However, Chernobyl was a new reactor with relatively good safety equipment and excellent reliability. It was just misused.

    It would have been better had Chernobyl had a true containment facility like PWRs, but none of the RMBKs were so fitted.

    The Soviet Union was in the process of changing over to its own PWRs - called VVRs which did have proper containment. There had been a number of technical issues with their development.

    The UK looked at a Chernobylesque design in the 1960s, but concluded that it presented an unacceptable risk in the event of a minor problem.

    And finally, Three Mile Island turned out to be an economic disaster for the operators, but its environmental impact was essentially zero. The PWR is a good reactor design, it showed its relience at TMI, and it has been improved since.

    Best wishes,
    Mike.

  • Re:Nazis? (Score:4, Informative)

    by I confirm I'm not a (720413) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:57AM (#9236377) Journal

    I really fail to see why Nazis are considered to be right-wing.

    Mainly because they butchered the real Socialists (SPD), the Trade Unionists and Communists (KPD), failed to nationalize companies (instead permitting Corporatism - that which Mussoline regarded as "Fascism"), failed to institute profit-sharing, etc.

    Socialism tends to be regarded - by most Socialists - as an Internationalist creed. Fascism - and Nazism - pretty much rejects Internationalism except maybe as a source of short-term alliances.

    The Nazis also enjoyed the support of the more conservative sections of Weimar society - the Junkers class, for example, and many industrialists.

  • by Half-pint HAL (718102) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:59AM (#9236394)
    Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I present you with exhibit A: Windscale, a powerplant so disastrous and badly designed that they spared no expense in making it safe -- they changed its name to Sellafield.

    Still leaking radiation, still poisoning the Irish Sea, but now we needn't associate it with the near-fatal meltdown or the hole linking the nuclear-waste chute with the chimney!

    Now, if your honour will allow, I present exhibit B: the waste facility at Douneray.

    A large shaft was dug during construction to allow the pumping of seawater to the construction site. After construction finished, the sea end was plugged, and permission given to use it for the disposal of remaining building rubble.

    This shaft, half full of water and of rubble, was then used for low level waste, both radioactive and non radioactive. Until one day there was a fire in it and the solid concrete lid was blown several yards away (who puts magnesium in a pit filled with water?)

    Subsequent safety checks determined that the heat generated by the amount of radioactive materials was breaking up the pit and the sea cliff and would result in an environmental disaster as all this material leaked.

    They had to empty the pit that they should never have been using in the first place.

    Expertise? I think not. The prosecution rests, your honour.

    HAL.

  • by Guanix (16477) on Monday May 24, 2004 @08:00AM (#9236401) Homepage

    I'm not aware of any "normal" 2WD vehicle on sale in the UK which would get 22mpg, even given the 1US gallon = 0.8 UK gallons conversion.

    I don't know a lot about cars sold in the UK (I live in Denmark), but I went to Toyota's British website and picked out a random car (Avensis Hatchback 5 door) [toyota.co.uk]. They range from 5.8 l/100 km to 9.5 l/100 km. According to Google Calculator that corresponds to a range of 25 mpg to 40 mpg. I'm sure that there are other cars in the UK, even "normal" ones, with better fuel economy than that.

  • Whistles and points to recent slashdot article [slashdot.org] where Prius gets only 35 mpg & Honda gets 31.4 mpg average.
  • You pay a fraction of what everyone else pays for fuel. Here in the UK we're now paying 0.82/L which is roughly $5.2 a US gallon. Now if that were the price of gas in the US THEN you would start to see a reduction in SUV usage.
  • by turgid (580780) on Monday May 24, 2004 @08:18AM (#9236514) Journal
    Bull-effing-shit

    Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I present you with exhibit A: Windscale, a powerplant so disastrous and badly designed that they spared no expense in making it safe -- they changed its name to Sellafield.50 or so years ago, they were in a hurry to build something that could produce plutonium from natural uranium for the Britsh nuclear weapons programme. The Cold War was on. People were very scared, so they build the two windscale piles - a very poor and primitive design - in a hurry. Hindisght is always perfect. Windscale wasn't. Luckily they fitted iodine filters to the exhaust stacks which saved Western Europe when they set the core alight annealing out Wigner energy from the core (a practice illegal since then).

    The whole dodgyness of the Windscale design is an article in itself. You can read about it. Open gas circuit (i.e. natural air exhaused to atmosphere for core cooling) and aluminium fuel cans...A lack of sufficient core instrumentation. Poor operating procedure (annealing Wigner energy).

    The next two sites, Calder Hall and Chapel Cross, had carbon dioxide cooling in clode gas circuits, better core instrumentaion, automatic safety circuits and NO ANNEALING OF WIGNER ENERGY allowed.

    Still leaking radiation, still poisoning the Irish Sea, but now we needn't associate it with the near-fatal meltdown or the hole linking the nuclear-waste chute with the chimney!

    Absolute nonsense. Rubbish. Not even half true. The Windscale site is still there, on the Sellafield site. It's not "leaking radiation" and it's not poisoning the Irish Sea. Most of the poisoning was on land anyway, 50 years ago. The residual radioactivity of the Windscale chimneys was low enough several years ago that men were able to work on them, to begin dismantling. You can read about this on the BNFL web site.

    Sellafield does a lot of reprocessing. If you ignorant fools weren't so stupid, we'd be using spent Magnox and AGR fuel again in AGRs in the form of MOX. Sellafield does discharge some effluent into the Irish sea, It's realtively small and harmless. You can check out the facts with HM NII if you like, and the NRPB. You wouldn't want to drink it, but then I wouldn't want to drink sea water...

    If you ignorant, self-styled experts would stop scaremongering and telling lies, those of us with a clue could get on and deal with things properly.

    The activities at Dounreay were somewhat ammateurish.

    Expertise? I think not. The prosecution rests, your honour.

    So, you're going to damn the entire industry on two unrelated incidents from many years ago? Have you heard of progress? What rock have you been living under? Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth?

  • by Bob(TM) (104510) on Monday May 24, 2004 @08:19AM (#9236520)
    IANACE (Chemical Engineer) but I believe "cracking" oil refers to a refining process where longer hydrocarbon molecules are broken into shorter molecules. As the carbon chains shorten, they become more able to be used effectively as fuels for internal combustion engines.
  • This Article [eu.org] shows the temperature and CO2 concentration changes for the last 400,000 years taken from the Ice core in Antartica... Anyone else see a pattern? Anyone else think that the rise in temp in the last 20,000 years is actually less than previous changes? If you look at the length of time mankind has been having an effect on the planet, it's a tiny blip on and otherwise large and spiky graph. a
  • by cdn-programmer (468978) <terrNO@SPAMterralogic.net> on Monday May 24, 2004 @08:22AM (#9236540)

    You can find it on the BP [bp.com] website and specifically look here: BP reports [bp.com]

    While there is a LOT of energy falling on planet earth and alternate energy forms can yeild a significant source, it is unlikly that these sources combined with reduced wastage can make the kind of difference we need.

    The BP reports show 2002 oil ouput in ALL middle eastern countries has been in decline since 2000 and that Norway and North Sea have been in a rather serious decline since 1999.

    The 2004 report showing 2003 production is expected shortly. What I hope this report shows is an increase in production in certain countries like Saudi Arabia. I suspect it will not show this. This will put us more than 3 years past the peak.

    If within the next couple years we do not see an increase in world oil ouput then I supect we can conclude that looking through the rear veiw mirror we have seen the Peak of World Oil Production. THere is a lot of information to be found at the Hubbert Peak Website [hubbertpeak.com]

    If one assumes a 5% reduction per year and this might be generous, then consider how much the world consumption is cut back within say 10 years or 20...

    I am sure slashdotters can do this math and can add the number of years to their age. The bottom line is they may be growing old in world without oil.

    However you slice it, do not expect Alberta to be able to pick up much slack with Tar Sands, even though we have about 1.8 trillion barrels in resources. The trouble is our tar sands reserves are only about 300 billion barrels and our TOTAL natural gas supplies (which are needed to supply hydrogen so the bitumin can be chemically lightened) are not even sufficient for 10% and North America is already in a Natural Gas crisis.

    WE NEED nuclear plants (CANDU, not enriched, because CANDU burns natural uranium unlike the stoopid USA enriched reactors which I think were designed that way to justify enrichment facilities so bombs could be made)

    Not only this, we needed to start building them 10 years ago. We are going to have some major power problems over the next few years.

  • by catherder_finleyd (322974) on Monday May 24, 2004 @08:24AM (#9236551)
    >> Will U.S. invade Africa to take control of the Uranium mines ?

    No need. The USA has more than sufficient Uranium in the USA.
  • by henrygb (668225) on Monday May 24, 2004 @08:26AM (#9236571)
    In much of Australia, the sun shines a lot and much of the electricity demand is for cooling. With very low population densities solar can make sense.

    Solar is not so competitive in cold clouded places. In Finland or the north of Scotland, hydro power is cheap, in Iceland geothermal enegy makes sense. Wind can be less expensive in some places. In big cities, waste combustion is economic. Each to their own.

  • Re:Great (Score:2, Informative)

    by Weh (219305) on Monday May 24, 2004 @08:31AM (#9236606)
    In tropical countries you will often find old colonial buildings (without a/c) that are quite comfortable even when it is very hot outside. They make use of special design features such as high ceilings, ventilation in the right places, stone floors etc. to keep the climate inside comfortable.
  • by sql*kitten (1359) * on Monday May 24, 2004 @08:32AM (#9236612)
    'crack' the oil (dont ask me what that means, cos I dont know either!)

    Cracking is the (usually catalytic) process by which long-chain hydrocarbons, which are difficult to burn efficiently, are broken down into short-chain hydrocarbons, which are volatile and easy to burn. Long-chain hydrocarbons have the advantage of a higher energy density but the engines that can use them are huge and complex (think, power station or large ship). Short chains are harder to handle (for example, they can explode) but they burn much more cleanly, much less free carbon in the exhaust, it's locked up in C02 (which of course has its own set of problems).

    You can get a handfull of large solar panels , chuck it on the roof, stick it thru a 240w inverter and blammo

    There are much better techniques for mass conversion of solar energy than photovoltaic cells. I'm not talking about enough energy to run a house but enough to make serious industry viable. My preferred technique would be the "black obelisk". It requires a large, open space, which you fill with mirrors on motorized bearings, and in the middle you build a huge black obelisk, filled with pipes. The mirrors rotate througout the day focussing the sun's energy on the obelisk, superheating water that is pumped into it, the steam coming out the other end is used to run the kind of turbine that exists in an ordinary coal or oil fired station. It's very efficient, and reuses existing technology, existing power stations in suitable climates could simply be converted in-place. In fact, a power station could use this technique by day and coal by night to ease the transition (it's all the same to the turbine), eventually it would store power generated by day for use at night.
  • supply and demand, just like anyone else ...

    Right. Mob mentality. Utterly.

    The moment someone makes it cool for mobs to be green, then we'll see the Mob turned against this problem ... but right now, nobody seems to care, everyone just wants to profit from the crowd, or be in the crowd, or seems to think that just because they are part of the crowd, other crowds can't exist economically, etc.

    the predictions of disaster are greatly overblown

    Are they, though? Or is it perhaps more relevant that the attention given to guaging just how accurate these predictions are, is itself an overblown process, rife with mob view ... one can only wonder, and wait and see ...

    In the meantime, I'm preparing for another stinking hot summer in Europe. What a game.
  • Pebble Reactor (Score:5, Informative)

    by Foobar_Zen (774905) on Monday May 24, 2004 @08:35AM (#9236637) Journal
    Lets not forget about the pebble reactor's [fact-index.com] when talking about nuclear technology. They are supposed to be a lot safer and a lot more efficent than most of the reactors used today.
  • by jsebrech (525647) on Monday May 24, 2004 @08:45AM (#9236720)
    Yeah, that's because your tiny cars are half the size of your average car sold in the US. Heck, we can't even buy cars as small as what you have over there.

    No, there is no punishment for inefficient engines in the US. Europe has vehicle taxes based on engine size, in addition to extremely strict emissions regulations, so manufacturers are encouraged to provide hi-tech engines with smaller volumes but higher performance. A one liter engine can drive a regular car just fine, a 2 liter engine can drive an suv. The US tax system however encourages heavier cars and bigger engines, as a result US cars are woefully inefficient.

    That doesn't even get into the whole point that the US tax system actually encourages manufacturers to make their cars bigger and heavier.
  • Re:Damn Straight (Score:5, Informative)

    by dargaud (518470) <slashdot2@gdargau d . n et> on Monday May 24, 2004 @09:09AM (#9236873) Homepage
    I followed those experiments somewhat, but what has actually been teleported is the information on the quantum state of the particle, not its energy. In other words, you take the original electron/photon/particle, measure its quantum state (destroying it in the process) and apply it to another remote particle which indeed becomes the original since it now possesses the same quantum state.

    No transfer of energy here, move along. But IANAQP

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 24, 2004 @09:11AM (#9236885)
    The article you referenced was about 5 years old and an excellent example of modern journalistic shortcomings. It contained nothng more than an anecdotal hash with the primary ingredient being "global warming." However, there was zero data and absolutely no justification given for the emphasis on "global warming" as a primary culprit for the allegedly abnormal reef decline over, for instance, water pollution. The article did cite one source who claimed the reef die-off was more or less normal and that bleached reefs would recover. It has been five years - what happened?
  • by Vellmont (569020) on Monday May 24, 2004 @09:18AM (#9236933)
    I can't speak for the UK, but since gas prices have gone up in the US for the past few months, SUV sales have dropped considerably. [startribune.com] I also just heard a story about how the price of the criminally large and gas guzzling Hummer dropped recently because of low sales.

    With gas prices so high in the UK I could see how increased prices wouldn't affect the very wealthy. In the US, however it's the middle class that own these evil, gas guzzling, more-likely-to-kill-people vehicles.
  • Re:Reactor safety (Score:5, Informative)

    by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Monday May 24, 2004 @09:22AM (#9236982)
    I think Chernobyl melted down around 82? In the 80s I think. I'm only 14, so I don't remember the Soviets, but being towards the end of the Cold War, the Soviet economic situation would have been quite poor, and they could not have afforded maintenence, etc. as well as we can now.

    Chernobyl is interesting. The design was inherently less safe than it could have been, but one must remember when it was built. At that time, the design looked quite good. However, that wasn't actually the problem.

    Chernobyl melted down as a result of a test by the Soviet version of the NRC. Someone wanted to find out how much power could be extracted from a reactor that was melting down. This information would allow them to better plan for dealing with a reactor meltdown. So....

    The Soviet NRC guys came out, disabled all the safety interlocks in place, and tried to "simulate" a reactor meltdown. Worked like a charm! The "simulation" was so realistic they couldn't hardly believe it (that last was sarcasm, if it wasn't obvious).

    With the exception of possible undocumented losses of nuclear submarines by the Soviets, there have been four or five nuclear problems serious enough to ruin a reactor (not all of them were serious enough to escape into the environment). That's not a terribly bad safety record, especially since none of them have been technical issues - in all cases, the problems were induced by human stupidity. Of which, I admit, we have an abundant supply.

  • Check the units (Score:3, Informative)

    by the_twisted_pair (741815) on Monday May 24, 2004 @09:22AM (#9236984)
    American gallon = 3.8litres
    Imperial Gallon = 4.54litres

    Therefore 22-27mpg(US) = 26.4- 32.4mpg (UK), not quite as bad as it appears - though hardly 'economical' in European terms..

  • by reality-bytes (119275) on Monday May 24, 2004 @09:29AM (#9237036) Homepage
    You know, it seems very true this year that the sun is never seen over the UK.

    I've got several solar mini-projects on the go this year and unfortunately it is dense-overcast too often to get any good charging hours in the day.

    I've already got a large 7ftx7ft panel which 'in theory' should have been able to charge my deep-cycle bank enough to keep a low-current webserver running overnight. This summer makes it look like I'm going to need a panel twice the size.
  • by HarveyBirdman (627248) on Monday May 24, 2004 @09:39AM (#9237103) Journal
    Can be built now. Done corrrectly, they produce very little waste, and what residue remains has a half life measured in decades. We could start decoupling our power grid from Mideast oil tomorrow, but there's too many people who got all their knowledge of nuclear power from The Simpsons.

    And there's many new design concepts on drawing boards around the world. All it takes, as Col. Kurtz said, is the will to do it.

  • by wingbat (88117) on Monday May 24, 2004 @09:39AM (#9237104)
    If we were to shift over to nuclear, we'd run out of *it* in less than 50 years. We really, really need to develop alternate energy sources!

    An aside -- Did you know that it's possible (with a process involving very high temperatures) to de-radiate nuclear waste? If we were to do so, however, we'd soon run out of radioactive material, which is actually quite useful stuff.
  • by HarveyBirdman (627248) on Monday May 24, 2004 @09:44AM (#9237152) Journal
    If we were to shift over to nuclear, we'd run out of *it* in less than 50 years.

    Absolute 100% malarkey. Using efficient reactors we could power the world for *thousands* of years using only known supplies. Plenty of time to develop, say, some sort of hyperefficient photovoltaics or whatever the alternative energy wonks dream about.

  • by TheSync (5291) on Monday May 24, 2004 @09:44AM (#9237155) Journal
    Breeder reactors have not caught on because uranium remains fairly cheap, especially compared with the high cost of reformed breeded fuel. Uranium is cheap because there have been few nuclear reactors built since 1970.

    If enough non-breeding nuclear reactors are built, the price of uranium will probably increase, which will make breeders become economically feasible.
  • by HarveyBirdman (627248) on Monday May 24, 2004 @09:46AM (#9237173) Journal
    Well, one nice thing is that the breeders could probably operate on the wastes of the less efficient thermal based nuke plants, so there's an option to have both kinds.

    The only problem I have heard with breeders is that they tended to have leaks, but that's just an engineering issue. It's a *solvable* problem, as opposed to "how do we create more oil out of thin air."

  • by crawling_chaos (23007) on Monday May 24, 2004 @09:57AM (#9237282) Homepage
    US domestic petroleum consumption ~= 20.0 Million Barrels/Day in 2003 rising from 19.8 MMBD in 2002. 2003 domestic production ~= 7.9 MMBD. The average estimate for ANWR production = 1.0 to 1.35 MMBD. All numbers from the hippies in Bush's Energy Department [doe.gov]. By the way, the same study shows a steady decline in domestic proven reserves, even taking in to account unexploited oil fields.

    Do the math. Even if there are a few other unexploited areas in the US that are as rich as the ANWR, domestic demand far outstrips any realistic estimation of domestic production. Even if we put a marginal well in everyone's backyard, we can't keep up with current consumption trends. More drilling might be part of a short term answer, but if our goal is to eliminate our dependency on foreign petroleum then we must find ways to reduce our overall consumption without wrecking the economy at the same time. That's hard.

  • by fdavis99 (782491) on Monday May 24, 2004 @10:14AM (#9237438) Homepage
    Why do you say Finland has cheap hydro? It is very flat here, so they recently voted to build a 5th nuclear plant. And the cities have big coal-fired plants.
  • Re:Great (Score:3, Informative)

    by mikerich (120257) on Monday May 24, 2004 @10:18AM (#9237491)
    Sounds like you know what you're talking about,

    Oh dear - and on Slashdot???

    so let me ask you this - what is the most environmentally safe way to use Nuclear Fission? Costs aside, and you have to get a decent usable energy surplus. Just out of interest..

    There are a group of technologies called safe reactors - where safe is a relative term of course.

    The most well-known of them is an American design called the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor in which uranium is encapsulated within graphite pellets (pebbles). These fill the reactor vessel and chain react - the graphite acting as a moderator. Helium is pumped over the pebbles as coolant and that drives a steam generator. Spent pebbles are removed from the bottom of the reactor, new pebbles added at the top. It's a lovely design, the fuel is encapsulated - so no fission products escape, the coolant is chemically neutral and does not get contaminated AND the reactor can be made much smaller than conventional units.

    Another is the PIUS reactor which sits in a deep pool of borated water. The reactor vessel is open at the bottom, in normal operating, pure water circulates around the reactor core and drives a heat exchanger. As the reaction increases, borated water is drawn into the bottom of the reactor. Boron has the effect of absorbing neutrons - the reaction slows, the reactor generates less power, the borated water leaves the reactor vessel - it is self-moderating.

    But those are still experimental. In the 1990s, the UK was looking for a family of next-generation reactors to replace our Magnox stations. They looked at all designs, experimental and in operation and concluded the Pressurised Water Reactor is hard to beat - it has had almost 50 years of operation around the World and has been subject to almost continuous improvement.

    The worst-case scenario, that of Three Mile Island - where the operators inadvertantly sabotaged the reactor's safety system was an economic disaster - but the environment was not harmed. Westinghouse now has an improved PWR which has been sold to Korea.

    The biggest weakness of the PWR is a loss of coolant - a leak in the system which sends hot water and steam into the containment facility. As TMI showed, this is a serious problem - although not necessarily catastrophic.

    So if you don't like the thought of enriched uranium being diverted to bomb production, or you don't want to put all your isotopic eggs in one pressure vessel - I have to give the award to the Canadians. Their CANDU reactor has three levels of containment. First of all, fuel elements are jacketed with tubes containing high pressure heavy water coolant, around that is the moderator - a tank of low pressure heavy water, which is contained within a pressure vessel.

    In a CANDU reactor, if the fuel ruptures, it only contaminates the coolant - and does not threaten the environment. If a jacket ruptures, pressurised coolant spills into the moderator and not the containment vessel. The reactor can be brought to a halt easily without any risk of damage to the entire core.

    And best of all - they are available right now.

    Best wishes,
    Mike.

  • by raygundan (16760) on Monday May 24, 2004 @10:36AM (#9237671) Homepage
    Whistles and points to the same article, where if you look past the sensationalist headline, you will discover that the EPA ratings for ALL cars are waaaay too high. They test fuel economy by measuring *emissions*. That's like measuring how tall someone is by weighing them-- of COURSE it's always wrong.
  • by nelsonal (549144) on Monday May 24, 2004 @10:41AM (#9237718) Journal
    Rule of thumb is 1kw strikes each square meter of the earth's surface. My estimate for home size in the US is 2000 sq ft (~200 m^2) which could generate 200 kw of power (at 100% efficency) at current effeciencies it's more like 40-60 kw. This is usually enough to cover a home's needs (~600kWhrs per day) but you have to have a good method of storage and either convert your electrical equipment to run of DC power or use a lossy inverter. However designing homes with some thought to air currents and fans (rather than air conditioning) and using suplimental solar heat to preheat your water heater would put a dent in our energy usage. That's not really the problem though (we have plenty of coal) it's finding a good fuel that can be burned in small engines and safely carried in quateties small enough to allow individual transportation (which gas is really good at but other fuels are much more expensive or not as good at).
  • by homer_ca (144738) on Monday May 24, 2004 @10:43AM (#9237737)
    The main reason for the higher efficiency of diesels is the higher compression ratio, over twice the C/R of a gasoline engine. The theoretical Carnot efficiency of a heat engine is directly proportional to the compression ratio (actually the expansion ratio) and the difference between combustion and exhaust temperatures. More diesels would definitely go a long way in conserving oil. The Dodge Sprinter is a full size van that gets 30MPG.
  • Toyota plans a hybrid version of the Highlander for next year. Thing is, it won't be all that great - still less than 30mpg on the highway. The thing is, they're designing it to have V8 power with a 3.3L V6 and big-ass electric motor. Will be interesting to see if that sells - but they ought to make another hybrid model with the 4-cylinder for those of us who want to save gas, not tow boats.
  • by fluffy666 (582573) on Monday May 24, 2004 @10:52AM (#9237803)

    Firstly, it is highly questionable if the "Left" failed to stop Nazism, or even logically could have, as Nazism was an outgrowth of socialism combined with nationalism.

    Then why was the left of the day going off to fight in Spain against the Fascists, who were supported by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy? Both of these were more corpratist/nationalist than socialist - indeed, the socalist elements in the Nazi party discovered just how sincere their leadership was about socalism on the night of the long knives. The Nazi party was funded by the largest german cooporations with the express intention of repressing the german communist party. I strongly suggest that you read your history books without ideological filters on next time.

    As far as global warming goes.. you are completely wrong to say that we are 'just coming out of an ice age'. Temperatures peaked around 6000 years ago and had been slowly declining since then. Man made global warming is accepted by the vast majority of scientists, whatever you wish to assert; it is the magnitude that is up for debate.

  • by ForestGrump (644805) on Monday May 24, 2004 @11:20AM (#9238060) Homepage Journal
    Also, a diesel engine burns "lean"
    meaning, it doesn't use up all the o2 in the air intake. This leade to higher mileage, but also higher nitrate (smog/acid rain) emissions.

    Diesel engines also don't have throttle plates, fixing the "partial throttle' losses. where there is efficiency lost when the engine isn't at full throttle.

    For a gas engine, it doesn't make sense to always drive at full throttle because of the inability to fully atomize fuel and achieve a clean combustion

    -Grump

    sorry, i'm not the most coherent right now. stayed up all night.
  • Re:Reactor safety (Score:5, Informative)

    by Maxwell'sSilverLART (596756) on Monday May 24, 2004 @11:35AM (#9238209) Homepage

    Bomb-grade plutonium is almost pure Pu239 which is made by U238 capturing a neutron.

    Essentially correct; you didn't mention the double beta decay, but that's essentially a given, considering the instability of Uranium 239 and Neptunium 239.

    However, Chernobyl was a new reactor with relatively good safety equipment and excellent reliability. It was just misused.

    Enh...not so much. Yes, Chernobyl was a new facility; that said, it didn't have a good safety record. RMBK 1000 reactors all over the Soviet Union had problems, but the KGB clamped down on that information; it is only recently that such information has come to light. In fact, Chernobyl 1 had problems to the now-famous Chernobyl 4, but not so severe; the KGB moved in and hushed things up so quickly and efficiently that even the other Chernobyl reactor operators didn't know about the problem. With such a closed, secretive attitude toward reactor safety, it was inevitable that mistakes would be repeated, and, indeed, they were. The only reason Chernobyl 4 became well-known is that the radiation cloud moved into western Europe, where people started raising questions. In any case, the safety issues with the RMBK-1000 reactors were serious, and known (if only to some) even at Chernobyl.

  • by Mattsson (105422) on Monday May 24, 2004 @11:41AM (#9238259) Homepage Journal
    I haven't read this entire thread, but since it seems to touch the subject of fuel-grade vegetable-oil...

    A few years ago I talked to a farmer here in sweden who produced just that.
    Apparently, it takes 2 liters of diesel to produce 1 liter of vegetable-fuel.
    Much of the equipment used in the process is driven by diesel-fuel, but the price of vegetable-fuel makes it profitable nontheless.
    But this was a few years ago. Maybe the situation has become more sane today. =/
  • by rrkap (634128) on Monday May 24, 2004 @12:04PM (#9238571) Homepage

    Europe has vehicle taxes based on engine size, in addition to extremely strict emissions regulations, so manufacturers are encouraged to provide hi-tech engines with smaller volumes but higher performance.

    You're right about the first part, but entirely wrong about the second. European emissions regulations are VERY week. In fact many cars that are allowed everywhere in europe are illegal anywhere in the U.S. The difference is that European regulations emphasize fuel economy and U.S. regulations emphasize human health. Its a trade off. Europe went for efficient pollutionmobiles (especially in terms of smog forming emissions and particulates) and the U.S. went for fairly clean cars that burn alot of gas, but are good about everything except CO2.

  • by localman (111171) on Monday May 24, 2004 @12:04PM (#9238573) Homepage
    you could probably get 70 MPG in a Prius, but good luck achieving that.

    It depends on how small of a time slice you look at. I have averaged over 100 MPG (the highest the Prius meter goes) for ten minutes on occasion, and 10MPG on other occasions. My lifetime average (15K miles over 7 months) is 45MPG. The EPA highway test is, I believe, 10 minutes at 48 MPH on a dynomometer. Yeah -- that's going to be accurate.

    I drive my Prius normally most all the time (meaning I accelerate faster than I really need to). When I drive to save, I can usually push my one tank average to 48MPG. The lowest tank average I've had was 42MPG.

    Anyways, the EPA tests are lousy for all cars. If you're trying to get an idea of how useful hybrid engines are, don't compare real-world hybrid numbers to EPA gas numbers -- something a lot of people feel comfortable doing. And don't compare a comfy mid-size sedan like the 2004 Prius to some tiny econo box. If you compare the Prius to the Camry, similar interior space and comfort, the real world numbers show the Prius with a little more than double the milage.
  • by acey72 (716552) on Monday May 24, 2004 @12:05PM (#9238594)

    You seem to be missing the point - it's not whether we have sufficient oil or not, it's that the consequences of burning this oil (be it in powergen or transport) are the problem. Specifically CO2 production - which is a major greenhouse gas. It's the global warming caused by the greenhouse gases which is the issue.

    Unfortunately even cracking the oil to lighter hydrocarbons such as short-chain alkanes and alkenes (meth-, eth-. but-, prop- ane and ene) doesn't really help. Sure they produce around half (still far too much) the CO2 when burnt efficiently than heavy oils, but the alkanes and alkenes are around 25 times more potent greenhouse gases than CO2, so even a small amount of leakage could undo the benefit. Of course, there's also a significant energy input required to crack the feed-stock, whether you're using thermal or catalytic processes.

    'Alternative' energy sources such as solar (either thermal or PV), wind and tidal are all interesting and in the correct environments beneficial, but they are no real solution unless we all cut our energy demands hugely - and that means losing home aircon for a start, turning-off all unused electrical equipment (all the TV/VCRs on standby here in the UK require a mid-sized power station to power!).

    Ultimately we are too reliant on energy as a society for the current state of the art in alternative energy solutions to provide. Fission, and in the longer term (possibly) fusion are the only real solutions - and today, tomorrow, next year, next decade, it's fission power which can stop the problem worsening. Even if we cut CO2 emissions to virtually zero today, we still have a big problem which will take many centuries for the environment to return to equilibrium.

    In the scheme of things having to deal with increased nuclear waste is a small price to pay. As far as reactor safety is concerned there are many tools and techniques to reduce the risk of a serious accident to an insignificant level. For a start using intrinsically safe reactor designs such as the Canadian CANDU units.

    Forget SUVs, forget the Kyoto protocols, this is a serious issue in need of serious solutions!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 24, 2004 @12:08PM (#9238635)
    "Nuculer... it's pronounced new-cue-ler..."

    It's only pronounced that way by people who are either too ingorant or too bullheaded to pronounce it correctly. nü-klE-&r.
  • Re:Reality check (Score:3, Informative)

    by spectecjr (31235) on Monday May 24, 2004 @12:26PM (#9238819) Homepage
    You can put up a Wind turbine in 2 years, including 1 year to determine the area's potential. Add planning and siting for a nuclear plant, and you're looking at least 5 years. ... and the community downwind has to worry about the noise caused by it for decades.

    There was a community in Washington State being deafened by the low frequency noise from the wind farm 15 miles away, just because of the beat frequencies and acoustic interference pattern downwind from the turbines.
  • by Blitzenn (554788) on Monday May 24, 2004 @12:51PM (#9239092) Homepage Journal
    It's about time that 'environmentalists' started to understand that Nuclear Power is not as evil as the pictures that seem to have been painted for it over the past few decades. I will agree that it is not a perfect solution and that it has it's own set of hazards. If one looks at all of the facts though, it is extremely difficult, (if not impossible), to argue that Nuclear Power is the lesser of two evils. I have no intention of rehashing all of those arguements here, whereas they have all been publicized in many forums, over and over throughout our nuclear history. As a former engineer in the nuclear field, I do understand the facts and am hopeful that others can take a new look at this option under a fresh light. We don't have the time to wait for a new technology to become industrially sound enough to refit our power demands with it. In my humble opinion, the decades that would take will prove to be our end if we travel that road. We should never stop striving to that end, but we should also grasp the opportunities afforded us in the present, to provide our children with a cleaner, better, livable future.
  • by 241comp (535228) on Monday May 24, 2004 @12:52PM (#9239098) Homepage
    Ok, 1,367 watts per square meter (W/m2) is the average intensity of solar radiation reaching the upper atmosphere. Assuming that on average 30% of that is blocked by the atmosphere, about 1KW reaches each square meter. To avoid all the lengthy calculations, we are going to accept this premise from the department of energy (http://www.eere.energy.gov/consumerinfo/factsheet s/v138.html):

    For example, a flat, horizontal surface facing true south in Topeka, Kansas (at 39 degrees North latitude), with total exposure to the sun all day throughout the year, will receive an annual average of 4.3 kilowatt-hours (kWh), or 12,969 Btu, per square meter (10.76 square feet) per day.

    According to this (http://www.eere.energy.gov/consumerinfo/factsheet s/cb5.html), 1000 cubic feet of natural gas has about 1,025,000BTU. That means that 1 square meter receives about the equivalent energy of 4600 cubic feet of natural gas over the course of a year. That's enough to heat the average house for an entire month.

    Even at 25% efficiency that is ~3250 BTU/day. That's enough energy to boil ~40 cups of water or power a 150 watt lightbulb for ~20 hours. Per square meter. Per day.
  • Re:Reactor safety (Score:3, Informative)

    by bloosqr (33593) on Monday May 24, 2004 @01:14PM (#9239306) Homepage
    The funny thing about chernobyl was it was actually caused deliberately. Basically they were testing to see if the water pumps could be powered by the reactor in an emergency. The details [pbs.org]
    are here. This is a frontline pbs article about it, the reactor is fundementally not as safe as the american designs but the real cause was human error. I actually seem to recall that the experiment was actually cooperative and had british or european monitors monitoring real time but i can't find a source for that anywhere so perhaps it was a purely russian accident.

  • by Ewan (5533) <ewanNO@SPAMlongwords.org> on Monday May 24, 2004 @01:34PM (#9239501) Homepage Journal
    That just shows how shocking the USA fuel consumption is, the Citroen C3 (a smallish 4 seater) gets 67.3mpg (UK so 55ish US) in its combined cycle, 76.6 maximum. And it's certainly not the most efficient car out there, I've read the VW Lupo can do about 80mpg.

    So, no it's not a miracle car, just a normal one.

    Ewan
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 24, 2004 @02:39PM (#9240059)
    VW Lupo 3L

    combined:
    2.99 l/100km = 78 US MPG (94 Imperial MPG)
    highway:
    2.7 l/100km = 87 US MPG (104 Imperial MPG)
  • by mikerich (120257) on Monday May 24, 2004 @02:44PM (#9240125)
    We're digging all this nuclear fuel up from somewhere in the ground already. It's already radioactive there, right?

    Why don't we take the still-radioactive waste products of using that fuel, throw them back where the fuel came from and bury them again?

    If it was only so simple, nuclear waste is a grab-bag of stuff, ranging from used protective clothing through to spent fuel. It is usually graded into low, medium and high level waste depending on its radioactivity. So pretty much anything that comes into contact with radioactive materials has to be classified as nuclear waste.

    Low-level waste is usually buried in lined trenches and does not present much of a problem. Fortunately it constitutes about 90% of all waste.

    Medium and high level waste is actually more radioactive than materials found in nature. It is stuff like spent fuel, reprocessing waste and contaminated coolant. In the UK this is mainly liquid waste which is currently kept in cooled tanks at Sellafield. It can't be disposed of directly as it will either seep into the environment, or contaminate groundwater. The aim is to eventually combine it with glass at high temperatures - so called vitrifaction to produce an inert ceramic which can be buried.

    However, the UK has singularly failed to find a site for the long-term storage of waste. Generally speaking, you are looking for dry, stable rocks that present a relatively low risk of releasing any contamination. The UK actually has plenty of space for a dump - the central part of the country is underlain by thick deposits of salt, gypsum and anhydrite. This stuff has been dry for hundreds of millions of years, there are no earthquakes worthy of the name and we are volcano free.

    Indeed such sites were put forward in the 1980s for burying some waste - they just happened to all be under Conservative-held constituencies - the plan but not the waste was buried.

    The Conservative government then proposed burying the waste near Sellafield in Cumbria. They were within months of starting drilling a test laboratory, when common-sense kicked in, and they concluded that the rocks in the area were saturated with water and shot through with faults.

    At the present, there are absolutely no plans for the long-term storage of waste in this country. It is becoming increasingly likely that reprocessing will come to an end when the economics finally catch up, which would mean that spent fuel will be stored at the power stations where it can be monitored for deterioration.

    Best wishes,
    Mike.

  • by rbrander (73222) on Monday May 24, 2004 @03:36PM (#9240599) Homepage
    I'm astonished that none of the hi-modded posters have mentioned the import of increasing power networking - increasing the amount and distance of power shared between generation facilities over the grid.

    What frustrates pro-Nuke types (and yes, I'm one, but that's not my topic here) about renewable rants is that renewables are not useful for generating the "base load", the minimum level of power needed 7x24. Your wind and solar plants can't provide it when the sun isn't shining or the wind not blowing.

    Buckminster Fuller pointed out nearly 50 years ago that the cost (in both $ and "lost energy" terms) of sharing power across great distances was rapidly dropping because it's a function of the voltage you can push the power up to. If you can transform it up to a million volts, you can share power across, say, 10,000km (all North America) with only a percent or so lost in transmission. This much is now becoming common today. BC and Alberta made out like bandits selling power to California during it's artificial "crisis" the other year.

    Fuller proposed another order of magnitude: *global* sharing, and elaborated on it at a lecture at the U. of Calgary I was privileged to attend in 1980 (one of his last). He talked about running lines clear across the Bering Strait so that US power plants not needed when that side of the Earth was in sunlight could run the streetlights in China, Japan & Russia - and vice-versa. He told us that Russian engineers looked at the costs of the transformers and the big power lines in the 70's, ran the numbers on payback, and came back with "practicable and afforable - it's just a political problem". It still is.

    Would a global grid cost trillions? Oh, yes; but big power towers and cables last a long time and the global banking system would be happy to hand you a 35-year mortgage on it.

    It applies both to making renewables and nuclear more practicable.

    For on thing, with long transmission distances, you can put the nuke plants where the uranium is and have NO transportation - just put the waste back in the mined-out drifts of the original uranium mine.

    (Here's a wild thought: get a globe. Run a rough line from the major US power consumption area in the northeast, the Boston-Washington corridor, up to the Bering Straight, on the way to Asia. Notice it runs right through northern Saskatchewan? Where about 10% of the uranium on earth, most of the north American supply, just happens to sit. Good place for a cluster of plants, no? And if there's an accident, it's one of the emptiest places in the world.)

    For another thing, the sun may not always shine, nor the wind always blow - in one place. But SOME solar/wind farms would always be generating.

    With global thinking, you can put your solar where the reliability rate is high - across the great "world desert" that covers most of North Africa, through through Saudi, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan and parts of China. Then there's much of central Australia (60 degrees away); and another 90 degrees along, the western US and northern Mexico. If you can draw on all three of those places, you can get reliable solar 7x24.

    Wind is chancier and more localized but the principle's the same - enough windfarms in enough places add up to a baseload.

    If people really hated Nukes enough to pay triple the cost for renewable plants, then double AGAIN because they aren't always working and you have to build 2X as many all over the place to keep the global "grid" full - well, then we could get by with renewables ALONE.

    With a big enough grid.

    (Me, I'd just build about a quarter that costly a grid, do the base load with nukes and about 30% of the load with hydro and renewables for diversity. Then spend the ~~$300B/year difference on doing good works for both humans and the environment, but if you want to be a renewables fanatic, there's how you can make it work.)
  • Re:Wow (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 24, 2004 @03:44PM (#9240694)
    The earth as a whole will adapt to global warming just fine, just as it's adapted to various asteroid strikes and supervolcano eruptions. Whether any given species adapt to such changes is another matter. Nobody thinks global warming will wipe out life on earth, but it may well have drastic consequences for our civilization.
  • by Lotharjade (750874) on Monday May 24, 2004 @04:10PM (#9240971) Homepage Journal
    Look into the reasearch into Pebble Bed Nuclear reactors. They are a safer replacement to traditional nuclear. NOT perfect but much safer. Of note I believe there are two types. One which the pebbles have a special coating and others which are a mix of special material all the way through. The latter is safer I believe.

    That combined with Fuel Cells, Solar, and Micro Turbines could move us a step forward to meeting energy needs.
  • by sloth jr (88200) on Monday May 24, 2004 @04:17PM (#9241074)
    That list is a parrot of the U.S. EPA tests There are many vehicles that are not sold in the U.S. that presumably do not receive EPA testing.

    That being said, I don't know if these vehicles receive the significantly higher mileage numbers being touted about. I suspect we're losing something here in metric->imperial conversion...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 24, 2004 @04:33PM (#9241308)
    The UK uses mpg also. The rest of Europe uses not kmpl but the inverse : Litres per 100km. My current car burns around 6,5 litres/100km.
    It allows easy calculation of how much gas is needed for a trip. On the other hand it's probably because it's familiar to me that I like it :-)
  • ... afford ...

    What does afford mean to you?

    The point of this slashdot article is that nobody can afford to drive SUV's, not even the rich who can right now, because it is destroying the earth.

  • Re:Pebble Reactor (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 24, 2004 @08:50PM (#9243354)
    That article seems to miss a lot of the reason why pebble bed reactors are so great. Best to read the wikipedia article instead. Pebble bed reactors should allow fast changes of power output, and are almost impervious to meltdowns. Even without coolant, they are thermally throttled, so as they heat up, the pebbles expand and move further away from each other, thus reducing the power output. It will then level off at a high, but manageable temperature that won't melt the surrounding structure. It would take some really high class idiots to break one in such a way that a meltdown is possible.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pebble_bed_reactor

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