Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Biotech Science Technology

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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Creator of the Gaia Hypothesis Urges Nuclear Power

Comments Filter:
  • by drizst 'n drat (725458) on Monday May 24, 2004 @05:47AM (#9236050)
    FOr the most part nuclear engery is not a bad solution to the ever growing problem of increased fossil fuel prices and declining stocks of oil reserves. Burning coal -- no way. Sure, nuclear power got a bad deal when 3 Mile Island and Chernoybal had their problems, but then those designs were old to begin with. There are reactor designs that are safer and more efficient. I think it's time to start bringing back nuclear power plants again. You need energy to power your computers ... what's the problem.
  • by osewa77 (603622) <naijasms@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Monday May 24, 2004 @05:49AM (#9236056) Homepage
    The recent movie The Day After Tommorrow [afriguru.com] makes global warning seem like a more imminent threat than it probably is. 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?)
  • by Rolo Tomasi (538414) on Monday May 24, 2004 @05:50AM (#9236059) Homepage Journal
    What about solar towers, like this one [nsw.gov.au]. What keeps us from plastering earth's deserts with these things?
  • Well.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by manavendra (688020) on Monday May 24, 2004 @05:50AM (#9236065) Homepage Journal
    While the analogy of threat of global warming to threat of Hitler can be argued, if nothing else, non-conventional means of energy shall soon be required since there aren't that many natural resources available anymore.

    Maybe it is urban legend, but we all keep hearing about the number of years after which gasoline would be unavailable. No matter how inaccurate that claim is, the current gas prices do seem an indicator of that :-

    Nuclear energy has always been safe and a lot less polluting than the conventional means. Coupled with the almost limitless harvestation of it and the relative safefy with which it can be produced, I think it is time the world woke up to it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 24, 2004 @05:55AM (#9236077)
    While it's true that nuclear power is one of the best int the short term but I think in the long term renewables are preferable.

    With renewables:

    - You don't have to mine

    - You don't have to pay except initial investment and maintainance

    - You don't have to take care of waste.

    - It's distributable. Everybody can have it in their houses.

    - Recent breaktrhoughts in solar cells will make them efficient and cheap.

  • It's About Time (Score:3, Interesting)

    by turgid (580780) on Monday May 24, 2004 @06:00AM (#9236101) Journal
    I'm glad that he's come out and said this (and it's amazing that it wasn't treated in a more negative way by the Independent - a notoriously hysterically anti-nuclear newspaper).

    The Environmental Movement needs to be kicked into reality, and this sort of announcement might get things moving.

    Unfortunately for us in the UK, the "environmentalists" coupled with weak-willed and short-sighted politicians have squandered away our nuclear exeprtise and brought about the decline of the civillian nuclear industry, much to my personal dismay and that of former colleagues and friends.

    As with many things, the UK once lead the world in nuclear power technology. Now we mearly run our stations into the ground, defuel them, and tidy up. We're burning gas hell for leather, and peppering the countryside with ugly, intusive and pretty feeble wind turbines.

    I made the decision to leave the nuclear industry 5 years ago, and I'm glad I did. They were talking of building new capacity maybe in 50 years' time. What good is that?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 24, 2004 @06:02AM (#9236106)

    we can barely cope with it now resorting to hiding it in caves (Yucca mountains in USA) which is the equivalent of sweeping it under the carpet, a potential timebomb for 10,000 years

    so if we suddenly convert everything to nuke power we really are going to have to think of something better than hiding it while we create massive quantities of radioactive sludge

  • by Epistax (544591) <epistax AT gmail DOT com> on Monday May 24, 2004 @06:06AM (#9236128) Journal
    I am a full supporter of nuclear power. To start off with there is no doubt that it's the best thing we have--when nothing goes wrong. When things *do* go wrong, we need to be ready. Meltdowns can be made physically impossible at nearer plants and miniaturization allows us to have quadruple redundancy (or more) on all vital control systems.

    To me there are only two real threats caused by nuclear power. The first is gradual degradation of components at a plant may not be properly noticed. There is a very good chance of this happening but as long as we activity examine all potential radioactivity releasers we won't have a problem. The second is waste disposal. Our current technique is to truck across the country. The public belief is when you do this often enough, eventually something has to go wrong. I would wonder if it's possible to build the disposal system into the plant. The actual size of the waste increases by at least one order of magnitude when we prepare it for cross-country freight.

    What happens if we find out fusion cannot make a sustainable energy source? Oil won't last a hundred years and coal might be extremely destructive to our planet. Our technology isn't good in solar power yet but there is hope there. As far as I can tell, the only real world solution is nuclear power.
  • Re:Great (Score:2, Interesting)

    by AgentSmit (764269) on Monday May 24, 2004 @06:08AM (#9236135) Homepage
    How about not living in areas that are so warm, you need airconditioning to keep yourself functioning? California! Man, those airconditioners really consume (uhh, convert) too much energy. The fact about global warming is that society denies there is a problem, but worse, there is a solution too. Or perhaps the solution is the reason why we don't want to see the problem. Anyways, I am going to enjoy my peanut butter sandwich now.
  • Re:Damn Straight (Score:1, Interesting)

    by LordLucless (582312) on Monday May 24, 2004 @06:10AM (#9236142)
    Beamed power is a great concept, and with the advances in quantum technology, it could be become even more viable than originally thought. Many physics labs have teleported electrons, and a lab in Australia managed to teleport an entire laser beam. Imagine if we could teleport energy from those solar-orbit satellites down to earth. No loss of energy in the atmosphere, and if the teleports off, the energy just gets earthed straight away, no searing blaze of microwaves torching a town a la SimCity.
  • Re:Great (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dotwaffle (610149) <slashdot@walst e r . o rg> on Monday May 24, 2004 @06:16AM (#9236164) Homepage
    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!
  • by jadel (746203) on Monday May 24, 2004 @06:17AM (#9236168)
    according to this page [solarmissi...logies.com] a 50KW prototype was tested in spain over a period of several years. Of course that is 1/4000th of the planned installations size, but at least it isn't totally theoretical.
  • Re:Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

    by replicant108 (690832) on Monday May 24, 2004 @06:20AM (#9236179) Journal
    Lovelock has been advocating nuclear energy for a while now.

    From a September 2000 article in the Guardian:

    "And then they say: what shall we do with nuclear waste?" Lovelock has an answer for that, too. Stick it in some precious wilderness, he says. If you wanted to preserve the biodiversity of rainforest, drop pockets of nuclear waste into it to keep the developers out. The lifespans of the wild things might be shortened a bit, but the animals wouldn't know, or care. Natural selection would take care of the mutations. Life would go on."

    Guardian article here [guardian.co.uk]
  • by advocate_one (662832) on Monday May 24, 2004 @06:22AM (#9236189)
    "And how exactly are you going to transport all this energy? "

    split water to make hydrogen and oxygen... duh...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 24, 2004 @06:24AM (#9236199)
    I don't think you'd need that, just put solar panels over all the parking lots.
    Reduce the heat load on populated areas and generate power where its needed.
    Also, states/counties could require a certain percent of the parking lots being covered by solar panels, just like they can require other stuff - donations on land, set-asides for low-income housing, etc...
  • by sg_oneill (159032) on Monday May 24, 2004 @06:25AM (#9236208)
    I'm a west australian, and I'll tell you this. Solar is ready to go NOW.

    Up in the north of WA, we have a fair amount of mining, and reeeeeeealy remote towns (like towns with 500k spacings between each one and just desert in between) , and many many aboriginal communities with perhaps 20 members and the like.

    Through necesity, alot of these places are using solar energy, simply because it isnt feasible to stick all that copper around the place. This includes mining btw which is verry energy intensive.

    There are folks up there also using 'bio diesel', which is basically canola oil + ethanol + an agent to 'crack' the oil (dont ask me what that means, cos I dont know either!) since its cheaper to make diesel then to drive it there.

    You can get a handfull of large solar panels , chuck it on the roof, stick it thru a 240w inverter and blammo. You dont have to pay power bills again (factor in 10 batteries every 5 years tho).

    It can be done, we just need to get off our ass and do it. In some parts of the north west of australia, solar is the rule, not the exception.
  • by Beautyon (214567) on Monday May 24, 2004 @06:36AM (#9236257) Homepage
    Are you a citizen of any of the states that own a piece of the Sahara desert [wikipedia.org] territory?

    If no, then its "how did our oil get under their soil" all over again.

    Any energy coming out of those states will belong to those states, and anyone who wants access to it is going to have to pay.
  • by deragon (112986) on Monday May 24, 2004 @06:38AM (#9236271) Homepage Journal
    Neophyte here. Why does nobody talk about those new reactors that automatically shutdown by design (following the laws of physic) if anything goes wrong? Like this one [anl.gov]?

    Anybody here working/studying in the nuclear field can comment on the state of these reactors and why we do not hear much from them? If the nuclear industry wants to come back, its not by proposing the old designs it will succeed.

  • Re:It's About Time (Score:3, Interesting)

    by starseeker (141897) on Monday May 24, 2004 @06:40AM (#9236283) Homepage
    "peppering the countryside with ugly, intusive and pretty feeble wind turbines."

    Which are also clean. I hear this complaint a lot, but at least they have less of the "not in my backyard" problems that nuclear does. I agree nuclear needs to be rethought, but my feel on this is all viable renewable sources need to be developed. We will get used to wind turbines - I'd rather have them everywhere than be the one to deal with the nuclear waste produced by nuclear plants. (Storing something for 10000 years is a problem. I do know a little about that.)
  • by pfdietz (33112) on Monday May 24, 2004 @06:53AM (#9236346)
    With renewables you do have to mine. What do you think the equipment is made of, fairy dust?

    Not having to pay for initial investment and maintenance is damning with faint praise. For most renewable technologies, the investment cost makes them noncompetitive for most applications.

    Waste: some forms of renewable energy have a great deal of waste. Geothermal, OTEC, biomass. And all the equipment eventually has to be disposed of as it wears out.

    'Recent breakthroughs' usually don't pan out ('Popular Science Syndrome'), and even if they do they take much longer than we'd like to be reduced to workable products.
  • by mpmansell (118934) on Monday May 24, 2004 @06:57AM (#9236375)
    Just off the top of my head, but is it not possible that, by collecting the heat over a wide area and concentrating it into the tower, you could create a 'plume' of heat, inside a generally temp lowered surrounding, that could rise higher and faster in the atmosphere than it would otherwise?

    Coukd this not affect weather patterns locally, and perhaps globally?
  • by airdrummer (547536) <{air_drummer} {at} {verizon.net}> on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:04AM (#9236425)
    they standardized on 1 design & worked out the bugs, reducing costs & risks, not 2 mention opposition;-) unfortunately, in the u.s. every new nuke is a unique design, with a new set of bugs to be discovered during and after construction:-(not to mention the hassle of unique regulatory approval)-: a guy i knew was hired to draft as-built blueprints of a nuke in michigan(? memory fades after 20 yrs; and, yes, as-built != as planned)-: he said he didn't want to be in the same state when it went online:-}
  • by Half-pint HAL (718102) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:04AM (#9236427)
    That's true. However, it might be better if it did -- Mark Thomas' exposé on Sellafield showed that seagulls were soiling the towns and countryside for miles around with excrement that breached regulations on radioactivity.

    I don't know about you, but I say "better dead than shitting uranium".

    HAL.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:05AM (#9236433)
    Do we really think that we, with a few fossil fuels and other environmental crap we throw into the air and water over the past 150 year, can really change the Earth?

    Although I agree with the sentiment of your post, I don't agree with this particular argument. There is quite a bit of evidence that the very oxygen that we breathe was the result of pollution by the earliest lifeforms to evolve on this planet. If true, these earliest life forms poisoned themselves out of existence but left a legacy that allowed many other forms to flourish. You are right, the planet isn't going anywhere, but Man may be! But the planet has, and will continue to be, modified extensively by life. And isn't that part of the whole Gaea concept in the first place?
  • Re:Some ranting. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by budgenator (254554) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:19AM (#9236518) Journal
    Most of the cons of nuclear is based on old technology nayway. I remember seeing an article in popular science years ago where the fissile material was sealed inside ceramic balls along with the necessary moderator. This resulted in a package that was impact resistant, tamper resistant and best of all unlikely to melt or release its contents.

    The reactor was controled by adding more fuel balls as power was increased, removing them as power was decreased, as the fuel balls were remove from the reactor they would automaticaly analysed for fuel remaining fuel content and be re-added to the usable population or retired to the spent population.

    While nuclear could theoreticaly replace even all CO2 fuels I doubt that it would make any difference; the differnence in co2 warming at pre-induistrial 100 ppm levels and our present 330 ppm levels is not significant because the IR adsorbance band are to narrow and the degree of adsorbanse is to small to account for any significant atmospheric warming. Anything going on is natural and therefore beyond our control; we'd have to plug all the volcanoes, kill all of the termmites, and drain all of the oceans to really effect global warming due to atmospheric gasses.
  • Re:Great (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gnu-generation-one (717590) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:24AM (#9236550) Homepage
    "However, I often heard by experts that power from wind cannot be more than 20% or else the fluctuations become problematic."

    So either:
    (a) Install energy storage (warehouses full of fuel cells), the method being developed at the moment
    (b) Install energy storage (pumped hydroelectric) is being used already at loads of places, and does wonders for the reliability of your grid.
    (c) Do whatever the danish do... they have something like 90%+ wind-power and seem to manage

    Do a search on "Dinorwig" [google.com] for more info on pumped hydro, or the danish site [windpower.org] for wind power.

  • by Latent Heat (558884) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:27AM (#9236574)
    A retired professor friend whose research was in auto engines told me "more lies are told about gas mileage" when I tried to tell him I could easily beat EPA numbers. Yes, there is a selection effect of only "remembering" particularly good mileage values, where you had a tail wind on a road trip and you only filled the tank to the "first click."

    I drive two cars: a 3L 24V 96 Taurus with 130,000 miles and a head gasket oil leak in its "Duratec" engine, which I drive in winter, a 2.2 L 16V 97 Camry with 100,000 miles and a power steering leak which I drive in summer because I bought it in Florida and was not exposed to direct road salt, only salt ocean air. Last year I ran 7800 miles on the Taurus at an average MPG of 25 and 7500 miles on the Camry at an average of 31. Just as they put low miles on the Concorde fleet to keep them in service, my theory is that I can keep this "fleet" going until more high gas mileage cars are available to chose from. There are no "beater" Prius cars on the road to give experience on how their battery ages.

    The EPA on the Taurus is 20/29 -- the 96 Taurus had rather tall gearing, and later model Tauri have lower EPA numbers, in part from being regeared. At one time I thought I got around 22 in summer driving in town, 32 on the highway, but I don't have records to back that up. The Camry EPA is 23/30. Last year (I have records) in town was 25 and on the road was 35.

    There are raw EPA numbers, and then there are consumer EPA numbers. In the 70s and early 80s, the sticker gave raw EPA numbers, and no one ever got those. I had a 2.5L 8V Chevy Celebrity with EPA highway of 38, and the best I did was around 35. You can look up all this info at www.epa.gov and as it turns out, the raw EPA highway on the Camry is 38. EPA highway also represents driving in moderate traffic on an LA freeway (EPA city is on LA "surface streets", more representative of suburban driving than downtown Manhattan), and there is a lot of 50 MPH running in it -- I imagine if I drove highway at a strict 55 and had people stacked up behind me trying to pass I could do 38 in the Camry.

    Now there was a recent Slashdot article about how no one seems to get 60 MPG out of a Prius. I drive to get good gas mileage (steady speeds, no faster than 65 on the highway, anticipate traffic as best I can to coast to slow down), but the consensus seems to be that hybrids are even more sensitive to driving technique and EPA numbers on those things is an elusive goal. If the EPA numbers on the Prius are that high, the raw EPA numbers must be proportionately higher, which means there is some driving condition where you could probably get 70 MPG in a Prius, but good luck achieving that.

  • by mpe (36238) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:28AM (#9236583)
    Of course, diesel engines also help mileage, though those are also hard to find around here in cars.

    Rudolph Diesel ran his prototype engine on vegetable oil. Similarly Frank Whittle used vegetable oil in his prototype gas turbine. The only reason we have ended up with most of the world's vehicles using petroleum derived fuels is that a century ago these were waste products of the oil industry. Nothing in the technology of internal combustion engines requires the fuel to come from oil... Even with spark-ignition engines, which tend to be more fussy about their fuel than either compression-ignition or gas turbines.
  • by Moderation abuser (184013) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:29AM (#9236594)
    "As gas prices go up demand for SUV's will drop."

    Nice thought, but naive. In the UK, gas (petrol) prices are $6/gallon and there have never been more SUVs on the road as there are now. People regularly fill up spending 80 ($150) or so, that's how much it costs to fill up a Rangerover.

    SUVs are a *status symbol* which means, like perfume, the more it costs the more desirable it is.

  • by zogger (617870) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:34AM (#9236634) Homepage Journal
    ..... putting millions back to work in the manufacturing industries inside the US? Two and a half million manufacturing jobs lost in the past few years, how about just start building and deploying the technology that we have now, that works? Ask any of them guys currently out of work "hey, you want your old job back, same pay, but now you'll be making a model A wind charger instead?" What do you think they'd say to that?

    When we decided to mass produce "stuff",instead of custom build it one at a time method, it took off, all of a sudden joe average not only got the benefit of having modern tech, he had a job that let him afford that tech! Why is it that anytime we see any sort of big government solution to a problem it revolves around a handful of giant international corporations making even more profits?

    Smaller scale, distributed energy production means more jobs for more people,practical jobs, too, less points of energy failure or political machinations, more national security, not less. What's wrong with all that? There are millions of roofs inside the US just sitting baking in the sun every day, accomplishing not much other than wearing out the shingles. A million hilltops all over, the breeze just blowing on by, untapped. Hundreds of thousands of farms still not collecting and using the methane that could be garnered. How about as simple an idea as mandating tougher INSULATION standards on new buildings? 2x4 crappy built butt joint r-18 insulated walls are like ancient technology, but are still being made brand new, banks still pop for 20 year mortgages for that sort of non-quality construction, and it "passes code". Why, it's ill thought out and ridiculously energy wasteful. Modern building techniques at the medium and lower scales are teh suxs, really, they are pure crap. I'm amazed people even buy them, they certainly aren't going to last and people are buying guaranteed energy hog homes, or leasing energy hog commercial space. Dollar for dollar, just better construction efforts and more insulation results in a better energy savings and over all savings to the economy than any scheme, nuclear or anything else. I'm a solar and wind advocate, but I'm the first to admit that just better designed and more insulated buildings are the best deal out there to drop energy demand. If you don't NEED the massive constant energy input in the first place, isn't that a better idea? Here's another, how about mandating more recycling, force these international profiteers to take back their old worn out stuff for recycling, instead of just dumping it? And for more R&D and deployment of the renewables, how about bringing back 100% tax credits, not a deduction, a pure credit? When we had that, adoption of renewables was just proceeding great,interest was up, people were getting them, the small companies out there doing the new work required were making some decent inroads on improving the various technology, but then it ceased and it slowed down, just when things were looking good. Perhaps a few giant monopolies got scared, they saw their generations long dominance being disrupted. I don't know but that is what it looked like to me back then.

    Nukes have some place in the scheme of things, but really, incredibly complex and dangerous and expensive tech to basically produce a heat source. That's all they do, make "hot" that not only is hot now, the resultant stuff stays hot and has to be literally guarded with military forces for the next several--whatever thousands of years it takes. That's critical mass societal arrogance to think we can do that. Ye gads, we got millions and millions of acres of "heat source" hanging around doing basically nothing in the south west. And all over any place else that gets even a modicum of normal rainfall we got several million more acres of land that could be put to use with such cross-useage practical crops as industrial hemp, a HUGE untapped resource that has energy and manufacturing useages. And the frozen methane hydrates locked into place all over the planet, sur
  • by Eunuchswear (210685) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:37AM (#9236649) Journal
    Yup, I'm serious.

    France was very happy to sign up to the Kyoto treaty 'cos it's target is +0.00% CO2 emissions.

    (Currently at +0.04%, but hey, that's not bad).

    The other power is from natural gas, hydro, buring waste in CHP plants, and so on. Even some wind and tidal power schemes. Much like anyone else.

    As for waste, it's reprocessed in France. (Not sent to Sellafield as someone downthread guesses. France wants control of ALL it's nuclear needs).
  • It's possible (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gerbouille (663639) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:45AM (#9236717) Homepage
    Here in France around 80% of the electricity is nuclear (15% hydroelectric ...), it's not cheap but it's possible. EDF [www.edf.fr], the french monopoly, is actually the world leader (45 € billions, 22 % of the electricity of the European Union), so it can even become profitable (despite the huge investments). There's however a problem with nuclear waste, which is vehemently debated here. All nuclear plants are using the same technology (pressured water) and the MOX fuel, so on a large scale, they reduce costs and increase security.
  • Re:Great (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sql*kitten (1359) * on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:45AM (#9236718)
    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.

    The economics don't make sense because the British government has as a matter of policy busily been driving the British power industry out of business in favour of importing energy from Europe. They've stuck their head in the sand - they think that building new power stations would hurt them at the polls, so they're postponing dealing with the problem for another government to worry about sometime in the future.

    The power stations we have are rapidly approaching end of life (but not rapidly enough to be before the next election) and NOTHING is being done about it. Even if the government would let them, British utilities simply don't have the cash, as their profit (i.e. reinvestment) margins have been so eroded by the regulator.

    If Britain went for an serious nuclear strategy, like France, it would be more than viable.
  • by nniillss (577580) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:47AM (#9236731)
    How can somebody argue about global warming in an US magazine and not criticize the enormous waste of energy by Americans? My Ford Galaxy, a 7-seater, uses less than 7 liters per 100 km (that should be about 40 miles/gallon) at a cruising speed of 150 km/h (that is 94 mph) when using the air condition. Where are such cars offered/bought in the US? One important factor in the fuel efficiency of the mentioned car is, of course, the engine: a VW 1.9 liter TDI diesel engine (115 hourse power). My house needs probably a tenth of the oil/gas for heating that a typical american house would need in the same climate.

    Today, the US waste energy like there is no tomorrow. In contrast to developing countries, they have no good excuse for not employing more energy efficient technology/insulation. And the last thing the world needs is blaming environmentalists for the lack of options against the green house effect (that is still denied by the present US government AFAIK).

  • Re:Great (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:47AM (#9236732)

    Do you? How about figuring out how much energy is required to ship a terajoule's worth of reactor-grade uranium across the country, as opposed to a terajoule worth of coal/gasoline/biodiesel/whatever?

    Do you know how much energy it takes to grow your plants, process them into fuel, deliver same? Or how much CO2 is emitted when "biodiesel" is burned?

    Or how much it takes to build a wind generator, maintain it, and dispose of it? And how much effect on global weather would there be if, say, 30% of our energy were extracted from the ambient wind?

    Repeat same for wave generators? Anyone ever figured out how much it costs, and what the long-term effects are?

    I don't pretend to know whether wind/wave generators can be cost-effective. Haven't done the research. Biodiesel is a waste, in terms of global warming - doesn't much matter whether the emissions come from petroleum or corn, they're still in atmosphere. I *do* know that uranium reactors (or plutonium reactors), properly designed, are reasonably clean (That should excite some horrendous reactions from the anti-nuke zealots!), emit no greenhouse gases, and (barring lawsuits) are no more expensive than the alternatives (not counting the greenhouse emissions of the alternatives).

  • by EinarH (583836) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:50AM (#9236751) Journal
    there have never been more SUVs on the road as there are now.
    In US the truck and SUV segment make up almost 30% of the market. The SUV distribution in UK is much lower (10%?).

    And "high" gas prices have already caused a fall in SUV sales.
    From this [go.com] article:

    Last month, sales of the largest and least fuel-efficient SUVs dropped, according to auto sales tracker Autodata. The largest SUVs, including the Ford Expedition, were off 33.6 percent and Chevrolet Suburban sales were down 20.7 percent. It was the first time that gasoline prices have hurt SUV sales. Automakers are now rushing to build more fuel-efficient SUVs -- hybrid, gas-electric vehicles.

    But even more interesting;

    According to the EPA the average miles per gallon is now just over 20, down from a high of 22.1 in the late 1980s.
    So much for the "fuel efficient" cars...
  • by gfxguy (98788) on Monday May 24, 2004 @08:03AM (#9236829)
    I agree, but I don't think that, even then, you will see a dramatic reduction. People are paying a lot more for SUVs than they would be paying for a fuel efficient economy car. Over the course of a year, they may be paying hundreds of dollars more for gasoline, but they generally have already payed thousands more for the upfront cost of buying an SUV over an economy car.

    Moreover, there are other significant costs to owning an SUV (and other luxery cars) that aren't always obvious at first; tires for example. Often enough a single tire for a large SUV can cost four or more times than a single small tire for an economy car, and only last half as long. Higher insurance, maintenance on the larger engines (more cylinders, more spark plugs, more oil). Often enough it even costs more just to get it washed.

    So money is not the object here, for all but a small portion of those who buy SUVs. Personally, I'm not the anti-SUV zealot I may once have been. I still think it's a stupid buy, but if someone wants to waste their money then, well, it's their money. There's a lot of other big luxery cars that are just as bad on gas mileage yet, for some reason, we don't complain about those.

    Frankly, my next car will not be an economy car. I'm getting old, I spend a lot of time in my car, and I want it to be more comfortable.

    Anyway, to stay on topic, I've always supported nuclear ("Nuculer... it's pronounced new-cue-ler...") power, and was hoping 15 years ago that fussion would have been more advanced now than it is.

    While there is a definate possibility of disaster with fission, the truth is that instead of releasing pollutants in the air, it's right there - ultimately in barrels. So there's your choice... you have pollution using fission or fossil fuels, but with one of these two methods the pollution is immediately released in the air, and with the other it's right there, in that barrel.

    Yes, we need to deal with the barrel, but it's a better dilema than trying to deal with pollution that's already been released into the atmosphere.
  • Re:It's possible (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gerbouille (663639) on Monday May 24, 2004 @08:03AM (#9236830) Homepage
    Sorry to reply to myself ... I just wanted to give the Slashdot crowd an example of "energetic" hypocrisy : the German government banned nuclear power a few years ago, now they buy French nuclear energy. The funniest part is that they used to send back their nuclear waste to France for reprocessing, now they only use "clean" energy like oil or coal ... how cynical.
  • storing energy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zogger (617870) on Monday May 24, 2004 @08:04AM (#9236838) Homepage Journal
    --the two techniques I am aware of that can store energy without using batteries are large capacitor banks, and just pumping water uphill someplace with the off-peak demand generated power. It's stored there as a potential, released on demand to fall back down and run something like a small pelton wheel or something. It's already being done for that matter, on big scales anyway, several large power plants do this. I've also seen some references to those air powered cars, just compressed air as an energy storage potential.

    And batteries aren't bad, sane useage and they last for years and years, and can be rebuilt. So far, my storage batteries that are from 1998 are still working just fine. Plain old flooded lead acid, just I slapped a piece of modern gear on them, called a desulphator. That and never draining them dry works just great.

    I think if the problems are approached from two directions it makes more sense. You have to put just as much effort into reducing demand as possible, along with increasing production, from various sources and in a more localised manner. Every time you can eliminate a watt demand, through a better built appliance or use, you reduce the amount of production needed. Instead of an incandescent light, a compact fluorescent or an LED array. Instead of a computer that needs liquid cooling, how about just being happy with a smaller processor that can struggle by with passive cooling? On a bigger scale, instead of having your furnace or AC kick on every 15 minutes from massively underinsulated homes, how about having them only kick on twice a day? I've SEEN that in the superinsulated houses I've worked on in the past. The energy savings are simply incredible. So, they just need less energy to work, and they work even better than traditional construction.

    We have solutions, a few changes in the way people think can do wonders. The deal is, there is no "one"solution, there are hundreds of them, because each situation is slightly different. You plan out what is best for you, then do it. Waiting for government to do it, or waiting to see if the big guys are just gonna cut you some deal that is a better deal for you than it is for them is the true "wishful thinking" that is impractical and isn't going to work.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 24, 2004 @08:04AM (#9236840)
    wow - the answer is so simple and I never saw.

    More taxes!

    I bet we could lower the price of heath care that way as well!

    It's almost too easy...

  • Waste combustion produces CO2, but some of that CO2 comes from plants, so won't actually make any difference {where do you think the carbon in plants comes from?}; and the fact of the waste plant putting out energy means that fossil fuel power plants don't have to put out so much energy {i.e. less CO2 is made elsewhere}.

    Nuclear has had a bad press, but realistically, it's about the one sane option. And bear in mind that the radioactive material kicking around the place is getting less so at a known rate. So while it's no more renewable than fossil fuels, at least we can leave say ten years' worth of oil and coal just in case -- because nuclear is running out even if we aren't using it.
  • Re:Reactor safety (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mikerich (120257) on Monday May 24, 2004 @08:11AM (#9236886)
    It would have been even better if the reactors had been designed so as to make prompt criticality unatainable. Prevention is better than the cure.

    Yep, it was just that problem which stopped the British developing their own graphite moderated, water-cooled reactor in the 1960s - they even told the Soviets of their concern.

    The Soviet Union was aware of the problem and had committed to PWRs, however, it had never managed to perfect the technology of creating the very large pressure vessels required in a power plant PWR. The VVR was still very new technology at the time, but energy demand in the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc required new nuclear capacity.

    So Chernobyl had 'stretched' RBMKs - believe it or not, they were considerably more safe than their predecessors!

    Best wishes,
    Mike.

  • by fluffy666 (582573) on Monday May 24, 2004 @08:29AM (#9237029)

    We are often told that nuclear waste is unavoidable, massively dangerous and has a very long half life. This is not strictly true.

    We are quite lucky with fission products, because they all have half lives under 35 years. This site [doe.gov]gives an overview of the common ones. Sr-90 and Cs-137 have the longest half lives, at around 30 years. The relatively small amount of genuine waste only needs containing (or recycling into nuclear batteries) for a few hundred years, instead of the tens of thousands usually quoted.

    The other products should be recycled back into fuel; without reprocessing, nuclear waste does become a major problem. Breeding of fuel - which reduces the amount of uranium mining and the amount of depleted uranium you end up with - should also be used; this extends the fuel supply to over a hundred years (assuming you use it for everything and grow by 5% per year).

    Nuclear plants are easiest and most economic to run on a 24/7 basis. This could be achieved by providing an alternate load, in the form of a methanol plant (or choose your favorite liquid fuel); instead of the hard task of regulating the electric grid by switching electric plants on and off, you just vary the rate of liquid fuel production. The fuel than keeps your SUV on the road. With such a set up, even more variable sources such as wind, solar and hydro could easily be plugged in to make more fuel.

  • by mwood (25379) on Monday May 24, 2004 @08:51AM (#9237218)
    Style? I couldn't care less about style. Try fitting two tall, beefy teenagers in the back seat of a typical econobox.

    A year ago I took my eldest son with me to the auto show and we tried on a lot of vehicles. The Grand Cherokee was cramped. The &%&^%& *Hummer H2* was cramped! The Dodge Ram Crew Cab half as big as our house was cramped!!! The smaller models caused him to emit sounds of pain as he tried to get in and out. He didn't even attempt the VW New Beetle.

    The only two vehicles we tried that had enough room in back were the Ford Windstar van and [applause!] the tiny Toyota Echo. I'll be buying the Echo, but if you don't like Toyota and have big kids then you're kinda out of luck unless you are willing to accept something huge.

    (Interestingly enough, Toyota had a *far* larger, SUV-type model there too, and it was *too small*! Much less roomy than the Echo. Dunno what the Echo engineering team did, but I hope they do a lot more of it. "Stood up to the stylists and insisted on a practical design" gets my vote.)
  • by egarland (120202) on Monday May 24, 2004 @08:52AM (#9237228)
    I agree that Nuclear power is a good answer that has been overlooked for too long. It never reached it's potential due mostly to PR problems that caused people's deep fear of the technology. Now that we've been living with Nuclear for a long time and it has proven itself much safer than people feared, it might be a good time to take another look at it.

    Environmentalists, real environmentalists, should love nuclear power. The problem is most people who call themselves environmentalists aren't. They care more about themselves, their health, their safety and controlling what goes on around them then they do about preserving nature and the environment. They would be more appropriately called "my environment-ists". This guy is right, radiation from nuclear waste poses basically no threat to nature, it's only really a threat to us. Leaving it around on the surface of the earth is a really bad idea, we should dispose of it deep underground, but it illustrates an important point. Nuclear waste is a danger to us, not nature, and it's a danger that we know how to deal with. To continue poisoning the environment the way we are so that we don't have to worry about radioactive waste is irresponsible and selfish.

    Secure transport to a disposal site is very important and, in my opinion, the biggest issue with the current system of nuclear power generation. We should be expanding our nuclear power production capabilities but not in the way we built them before. Put them together in large clusters near the disposal site so that you can control access to all aspects of the operation of the pants and disposal of the waste. That way, you don't have to truck radioactive material through every city and town in the country.

    I think the US government should build two huge clusters of nuclear power plants. The first cluster should be near enough to Yucca Mountain to facilitate secure transport of the waste without traveling near populated areas. The second one should be in Alaska with it's own waste disposal site if possible. The only way on and off of both should be an air strip. The clusters would be huge sites with restricted airspace and lots of security around dozens of small, well protected reactors. They should be designed so a failure of one would not prevent the operation and maintenance of the others. They should be housed in separate buildings separated by relatively large distances to make it hard for a terrorist attack or nuclear strike to do damage to more than one. Each cluster should be capable of powering the entire US by itself (for security reasons) and each should be able to expand to twice it's initial size to accommodate the inevitable rise in power consumption.

    This may seem wildly expensive but if done correctly it could dramatically help the economy of the US. First, we could we cut the huge flow of money out of the country from purchasing oil and also reduce the demand for oil further reducing prices. But also, secondly, if we overbuilt production capability we could sell power to other countries creating a flow of money into the country instead of out. Clusters could be run much more economically than current facilities by sharing resources for engineering, inspection, security, maintenance.

    If done correctly, this setup could be much safer than our current system of power generation. People who work at the sites should spend several months working at a time, not commute on and off the base every day to reduce the flow of people in and out and allow for much stricter security as people arrive and leave. The only way in and out should be by plane. There should be an airforce base at each of the two sites to help defend it like they do with other sensitive locations. You could even keep one reactor offline at every time to provide a reference model if anything goes wrong.

    An alternative that I've heard about that seems horribly irresponsible is selling and building inexpensive small nuclear reactors all over the world. I heard about a company that
  • This is probably too late to the discussion, but has anyone seen any good analysis in terms of environmental risk and damage between Oil (or even coal) and nuclear?

    My problem with the whole debate between fossil fuels and nuclear is that people are scared to death of what nuclear power could do them, but the are perfectly okay with the effects of burning fossil fuels.

    My point is, is nuclear any more dangerous than burning gasoline every day to go to work?

    Sometimes I wonder if it's just people over-reacting to a new technology because its related to the a-bomb or big green-glowing pieces of metal which help kill you in a gruesome way.

    Slowly killing all life over the next 150 years doesn't scare us enough, it seems.
  • by MSTCrow5429 (642744) on Monday May 24, 2004 @09:02AM (#9237323)
    The uber-parent has two fundamental misconceptions as written, and as such serves to mislead those who may not have had the time nor exposure to differences of opinion.

    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. The economist F.A. Hayek, in "The Road to Serfdom," noted that socialism would almost inevitably grow into a nationalist ideology. It is worth noting that the full name of the Nazi party was the "National Socialist German Worker's Party." Only those who deny the reality that socialism has a strong tendency to evolve into a totalitarian government, especially as the private means of production allows one to direct their own life as they see fit, and the state appropiation of this would lead to total control over the populace, if the program of socialization was utter and total.

    As for global warming, the consensus among the scientific community is by no means solid. Perhaps 10% at most are convinced that global warming exists, that it's effects would be harmful to humanity, and that this could not be checked by human innovation. The vast majority of the scientific community, on the other hand, is either not convinced of its existence, or believe that the effects of global warming would be far less catostrophic that the Cassandras would have us believe. Indeed, it has been theorized that slight global warming would lead to longer growing seasons and greater crop production. As for the claim that such diseases as malaria would extend its reach beyond its current reach, we must remember that malaria was once widespread among the United States, and that it was public health initiatives, not a more temperate climate, that eliminated this scourge from the nation. Others point out that we are still coming out of an ice age, and that tropical conditions once existed far north and south of the Equator as at present, and they believe global warming is only a result of the natural cycle of the Earth's climate.

    Let me make clear that I am in no way stating that those who believe otherwise are flawed or otherwise of poor character. The vast majority who hold views contrary to my own no doubt hold good intentions, but are in my opinion, due to the lack of diversity of thought throughout much of the common media, misinformed, or at the very least not confronted with alternative viewpoints that may challange their preconcieved notions of the world. However, let it be made clear that while one can disagree whether Nazism was on the "Left" or the "Right," it was an outgrowth of socialist thought of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Likewise, regardless of where one stands on the theory of global warming, the fact of the matter is that the scientific community as a whole is divided on this issue, with the current consensus of the vast majority that it either does not exist, is occuring naturally, or is occuring naturally and/or is man made, but will overall be beneficial to humankind.

  • by Moderation abuser (184013) on Monday May 24, 2004 @09:08AM (#9237386)
    For quite a while now. Solar II in California generates electricity at night be storing the energy as heat during the day. It heats salt up to 500+C and stores it as a molten liquid in big tanks. It then generates power from the stored heat as required.

    There are compressed air power stations which store energy in underground caverns, natural and man made. They can use the solar and wind power to compress the air for later generation on demand.

    Both of these mechanisms are in use *now*.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 24, 2004 @09:09AM (#9237388)
    Please don't replicate the "every SUV must have bad fuel economy" meme.

    I think it's a moot point anyway. If gas hits $7/gallon, people will become considerably more concerned with fuel economy. That's how it is in most European countries, people don't treat gasoline as if its free, like we do in America.

    But until then - drive all the fuel-gozzling SUV's you want while you still can, AFAIAC.

  • nuclear power (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 24, 2004 @09:17AM (#9237483)
    I think the suggestions on nuclear power are good thoughts.

    First, Chernobyl had a graphite core which when it over heated caught on fire. All modern Nuclear power plants in the US use water.

    As far as waste, there should be 1 world location for disposing nuclear waste. Lets just say yucca mountain. If it is centralized it would reduce the waste problem.

    Solar is starting to look promising. New solar cells with 3 band gaps are being developed. Other cells are being developed with better organized nano crystals. Thus, solar cells are do for a 40-60% increase in power output.

    The nuclear call is wise. If oil runs out ( which it will ) half of eatth's human population is going to die because it depends directly on oil. No oil equals no fertilizer and no tractor for mass farming ( 4 passes over a plot of land ) and no transportation of food to people.

    Somolia is a good example of no food transport. That is, the rebels prevented food distribution.
  • by john.r.strohm (586791) on Monday May 24, 2004 @09:24AM (#9237551)
    Supply and demand only works for elastic demand.

    If the demand is inelastic, it doesn't work.

    Example: if your choice is take this pill every day, without fail, or die, you're going to take the pill, because if you don't take the pill, you die. If there are only so many people who need the pill, and only so many suppliers, it won't pay anyone any more to make more pills, so the existing suppliers just cruise along. When there are more people who need the pill than there are pills, you can get interesting economic effects.

    Change "pill" to "food" in the above paragraph, and you get "wars" where it says "interesting economic effects".

    If there are only the existing suppliers, and the existing customers are getting older, the suppliers have to find new customers or start losing money. Think "tobacco" and "RJ Reynolds".

    When demand is elastic, so some people can go without the pills, but there are still more willing buyers than there are sellers, you get auctions, and the buyers with more quatloos bid the price up. In a free market, when the bid price gets high enough, other people notice that there is unsatisfied demand, and money to be made, and they start making more pills, and prices drop.

    THIS IS FRESHMAN MACROECONOMICS, PEOPLE. GET A FSCKING CLUE!!!
  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Monday May 24, 2004 @09:35AM (#9237663)
    He said if you covered the entire state of New Jersey with solar panels, they would generate enough energy to supply only 10 gas stations.

    Let's apply a sanity check to that statement:

    1 gallon of gasoline ~= 1.3e8 joules thermal
    1 gas pump ~= 10 gal/minute
    1 gas station ~= 10 gas pumps
    => 10 gas stations ~= 1.3e11 joules/minute ~= 2.16 Gigawatts thermal
    (Of course, in the real world, a gas station only pumps a few percent of it's capacity because most pumps aren't busy around the clock, so this figure is grossly exaggerated.)

    New Jersey = 19231 km^2
    Solar influx @earth ~= 1000W/m^2
    Solar overall system efficiency averaged over 24x7 with current technology: ~= 1%
    => 19231 x 1e6 x 1000 x .01 => 192 Gigawatts thermal

    He appears to be off by 2 orders of magnitude (3 orders of magnitude assuming real-world gas station usage). I wonder if he's one of Cheney's "energy advisors".

  • Reality check (Score:2, Interesting)

    by danharan (714822) on Monday May 24, 2004 @09:36AM (#9237675) Journal
    If the reality of global warming is so grave -and I believe it is- we need solutions that can be deployed much faster than your average nuclear plant.

    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.

    Not only that, it will take a bit longer for each solution to be energy positive. To build and transport anything, you need energy... and IIRC, a nuclear plant has to produce for at least a year before producing as much as was needed to build it and mine the uranium. Even assuming 2 years for a wind turbine, it's producing energy before the nuclear plant is even built.

    So call me a crank, but notice that Lovelock has been opposed to wind energy [countryguardian.net] because it just ain't pretty, and is a notorious flake that posits the Earth as a self-aware and self-healing organism (getting rid of us pests). Occam's razor, anyone?

    The most mind-boggling part of this debate, of course, is that there are much faster ways to reduce our energy consumption than we can produce more. A compact fluorescent lightbulb is a cliche example, but you can reduce energy consumption by 75%, with a payback of less than 1 year. Just like you would pay off your debts starting with the highest-interest bearing credit cards, if you want to find the cheapest way to balance energy consumption you start with the 100% return investments (lightbulbs) before the 5-6% ones (nuclear plants).

    If you understand global climate change to be a serious problem, start with conservation. And please, help discredit these green scientists that are neither green nor scientists.
  • by Spamalamadingdong (323207) on Monday May 24, 2004 @09:47AM (#9237767) Homepage Journal
    The actual size of the waste increases by at least one order of magnitude when we prepare it for cross-country freight.
    Are you sure about this? It was my impression that the shipping casks were just that, shipping casks.
    I would wonder if it's possible to build the disposal system into the plant.
    The US taxpayer paid for the development of a system to create disposal-ready packages of radwaste at reactor sites (mostly the fission products, not the uranium). It is called pyroprocessing, and it was to be part of the Integral Fast Reactor. The process involved electrolytically dissolving the spent fuel in a molten salt bath (no water), plating out the useful elements and leaving the rest dissolved in the salt. The spent salt would be adsorbed into the pores of a zeolite (making it insoluble), putting the cold salt powder into stainless steel cans, hydraulically pressing the cans to solidify the powder and then encasing the cans in ceramic.

    The purpose was to build a proliferation-proof breeder reactor, with the fuel so highly radioactive at all stages that it would be impossible to remove it from the "hot cell" areas around the reactor proper. The only thing that would ever leave the reactor would have been the processed radwaste. However, this scheme can be used in a somewhat modified form to process and separate UO2-based PWR fuel as well. The advantage is that there are no organic solvents or water-based chemistry involved, so the problems evident at Hanford become impossible.

    The US taxpayer paid for this, but nobody will be benefitting from it; the anti-nukes have succeeded in killing any consideration with a well-orchestrated scare campaign.

  • One of the most efficient ways to utilize solar energy is to grow willow trees (grow fast, easy to harvest) and then turn them into energy (variety of methods). Many of these energy products can be consumed at will with no loss over time.

    Of course it's still land intensive, but any solar energy scheme is going to require a lot of light, which translates into a lot of land.

    I always think back to the one science fiction book I read some time ago where the sun was dark because the civilization had sourrounded it with an orbit of mini-planets in a shell. Complete conversion of all the available solar energy...

    Look up willow tree biomass for more info. The university of michigan studies has shown it to be a viable self-sustaining resource for quite a lot of energy.

    -Adam
  • by Moderation abuser (184013) on Monday May 24, 2004 @10:15AM (#9238008)
    Power towers work better in cloudy situations than photovoltaic. Infrared penetrates clouds easily so you can generate under cloudy conditions as well. The mirrors are much cheaper to produce than PV panels, if it breaks, you put in a replacement. They reach efficiencies in excess of 40% (depending on the particular design of course).

    BTW, the Solar I and II systems at Barstow were 10MW and the new ones being put up are 40MW. CESA 1 is a smaller test system in Spain but is still in the 7MW range.

    Basically, Power Towers are cheaper, more efficient, scale better and are environmentally more friendly than photovoltaics. The only advantage I can see for photovoltaics is that they work on a small scale.

    Here you go. Boeing seem to like them:
    http://www.boeing.com/assocproducts/energy/ powerto wer.html

  • by Spamalamadingdong (323207) on Monday May 24, 2004 @10:21AM (#9238069) Homepage Journal
    (I'd love to know who modded the parent "overrated", because the moderator is an idiot. This was one of the most informative posts among the +5's when I started browsing this thread, and since I only have time to look at the +5's I would have missed it otherwise.)
    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.
    You can make up for anything with sufficient equipment. The Texaco gasifier is quite able to turn powdered coal or petroleum coke into a syngas of hydrogen and carbon monoxide; the syngas can be shifted to hydrogen and CO2 if you need hydrogen. Since you'd be doing this with methane anyway, the only thing you'd need to add to use bitumen instead of methane for the hydrogen feedstock is to install the gasifier and its air separation plant. The bitumen could probably be sprayed in as a liquid, making the process that much easier than coal handling.
    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.
    I believe that you are correct in the short term, but very wrong in the long term. Natural energy flows on Earth are truly staggering.
  • by IAmMaxHarris (750973) on Monday May 24, 2004 @10:37AM (#9238223) Journal
    Frequently asked questions about nuclear energy [stanford.edu]

    (John McCarthy is known for being the man responsible for Lisp, and some AI research, among other things. I'm surprised that the pages I'm pointing to haven't been mentioned yet in this article.)

    Also, you may be interested in his take on progress and sustainability [stanford.edu].

  • by egarland (120202) on Monday May 24, 2004 @10:42AM (#9238272)
    Power is never generated on a large scale where it is needed, we transmit it over power lines. Granted, there are losses in doing this and those losses would be higher if the power was transmitted over such vast distances but that's OK. Just generate more.

    The power loss in the current system is estimated at 9%. From what I understand, more than half of that is in local transmission. Even if you tripple the loss from long distance transmission you are only adding about 10% overhead to the system. It seems to me that this system would be many times cheaper than the one it is replacing so it would be well worth it.
  • by Tesla Tank (755530) on Monday May 24, 2004 @10:50AM (#9238400)
    While there is a definate possibility of disaster with fission, the truth is that instead of releasing pollutants in the air, it's right there - ultimately in barrels.

    Umm... don't you remember the radioactive clouds that spread over almost half of the world a few weeks after Chernobyl? While the CANDU reactor does contain the nuclear waste within the concrete structure, the possibility of other reactors releasing radioactive clouds into the air is still there

  • Prius battery aging (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Monday May 24, 2004 @11:26AM (#9238816) Homepage Journal
    >There are no "beater" Prius cars on the road to give experience on how their battery ages.

    Yellow Cab in Vancouver BC had a Prius in service. At 200,000 miles it still had the original battery. Toyota bought it back to study it.

    > hybrids are even more sensitive to driving technique

    For perspective, most attempts at changing your driving technique give you worse mileage than the "Just Drive It" approach. The balance between gasoline and electric is calculated realtime by a computer that's much faster than the driver and incomparably better informed. If you try to outthink that computer you're like John Henry trying to outperform a steam drill. One of the best ways to improve mileage on a Prius is to turn off the MPG display and remove the temptation to improve your economy.
  • by gfxguy (98788) on Monday May 24, 2004 @11:30AM (#9238870)
    Three Mile Island proved that you can have a safe nuclear reactor. Chernobyl was not only a different type of reactor, it simply did not have the safeguards that most countries require.

    As long as week keep up on the redundant safety of our reactors, I am not worried.
  • Re:Great (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 24, 2004 @11:44AM (#9239036)
    Why is it that certain ranting posters HAVE NO FSCKING CLUE about the difference between scale and density? If a low-efficiency energy resource is available EVERYWHERE and in quantities that dwarf the energy sources you support then maybe it can serve as a useful energy source. While wind power is not a highly efficient form of power generation, it is sufficient for most forms of energy consumption. We don't all need to have hundreds of megawatts available to us, for most people a few tens of kilowatts of energy are sufficient for our daily needs. If this power can be gathered locally then we also save the transmission losses involved in distribution. It sounds like you need to SHUT THE FUCKING PHYSICS TEXTBOOK AND PICK UP A COMPLEX ADAPTIVE SYSTEMS TEXT to see how complex problems sometimes require answers that are beyond your limited intellect.
  • by smurf975 (632127) on Monday May 24, 2004 @11:48AM (#9239067) Homepage Journal
    I saw this program om Nationa Geo or Discovery Channel and it showed that the green house effect was actually very good for the rain forest.

    The Brazilian rainforest has never been that dense and tree's have never grown that high. This all due to more CO2 on the air, which algea, plants and tree's depend on.

    So the green house has a side benifit. But as an other poster said it's not about save the nature but save the human as nature WILL adept! As the denser rainforests have proven. So there will be more deserts but that mean also more plants that consume less water. And insects that can live of them and roadents that life of those. But it's only a real problem for the human race.

  • by aminorex (141494) on Monday May 24, 2004 @12:04PM (#9239209) Homepage Journal
    This is bullshit. Nobody ever took this issue to
    "the public". To "the media" perhaps. I know I
    never got to vote on it.
  • by MBraynard (653724) on Monday May 24, 2004 @12:51PM (#9239643) Journal
    Something else along that line. Notice how over the last twenty years gasoline prices in the US seem to be immune to the effects of inflation.
  • by Moderation abuser (184013) on Monday May 24, 2004 @12:54PM (#9239670)
    35% -> 40% overall conversion efficiency is around about what you get for a good solar thermal system. Molten sodium as the coolant allows much higher temperatures than 838K, but has disadvantages over molten salt.

    You're assumptions are just that. Assumptions. Pretty wild ones at that. Your first assumption is that they're making the receiver bigger and hotter rather than having multiple receivers and it just gets worse from there. You're making assumptions about the paper's assumptions over insolation levels. You're making assumptions about the heat being lost as waste heat after it's used, the very fact you mention the Carnot efficiency assumes this (hint: it isn't lost).

    "Plus you're just supporting my point more when you say they have to defocus the mirrors - that's lost energy right there."

    Um, yes, so? It means they need a bigger plant. Point the mirrors at another receiver, run the coolant faster. Solar II was an experimental plant. Proved it's point. That point is, you can make the thermal receiver as hot as you want, you can store that heat and you can use it to generate *lots* of power whenever you like. You can do it efficiently and you can do it cheaply.

    "Remember that solar panels right now are ~15-20% total efficiency - that is, straight from the solar flux to electricity."

    Yeah, that's solar flux to DC. Which is damned near useless on a large scale. Invert it and lose 10-20%.

    "though here suggests a 2-mile radius (25 km^2 or so) needed for, say, 200 MW"

    Now you're assuming that the words "2 mile wide" is a circle, and that it's the radius and not the diameter of the circle (though that doesn't tie up with your 25km^2 either).

    "Even being nice, and assuming that the power generation occurs 5 hours out of a day"

    And making assumptions about the generation time.

    Your "bottleneck" is irrelevant. Photoelectic cells which are 30%, 40%, 50% efficient are fairy stories, they don't exist. The cheap ones are 10-15%, the expensive ones are 15-20% and the one in a million NASA can get their hands on are 20-30%. The cheap photovoltaic cells are still several times the cost of a solar thermal system.

    Look. Go an read the literature on the subject, then come back and argue the toss.
  • by whitroth (9367) <whitroth&5-cent,us> on Monday May 24, 2004 @01:39PM (#9240066) Homepage
    As much as I appreciate Mr. Lovelock, I think he's wrong on power sources. For one, I'd like to ask him, or anyone here, if they'd care to host a nuclear waste facility in their county...and if they believe that they could convince a majority of their fellow citizens to do so.

    I think biodiesel is a good interim solution for fuel shortages, but even that has to be superceded, and soon.

    He is right, though, on global warming. Other than the reactionary right in power in the US, and the few paid scientists they keep, and the "Christian" scientists (not to be confused with Christian Science, the sect), *NO* *ONE* doubts that global warming is real, and a very serious threat.

    *sigh*

    And we should have started building solar power satellites 20 years ago, but noooooo, all those US oilmen, and their agents, like Bush Sr.....

    mark "should have built the first real
    space station by expanding Skylab, too"
  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Monday May 24, 2004 @01:49PM (#9240171)
    The 1000 W (actually, looking it up, it's 1386 W/m^2 above the atmosphere) is for full sunlight. My 1% figure takes the much lower average insolation at the ground that you mention into account.

    Starting from say a 200W/m^2 overall average (assuming you'd actually set up in a place more like Arizona than NJ), you then account for various inefficiencies. My 1% is a very rough rule of thumb, because it would vary depending on whether you generate electricity (via solar cells; heliostats -> steam generators; etc), or if you do direct storage of energy (thermally catalyzed H2 production; molten salt storage; etc).

    Taking steam generated power, for example, you might be 80% efficient at reflecting and concentrating the sunlight, and 30% efficient at generating power from the heat (just like a coal plant). That gives you about 5% overall efficiency (200W/1000W * .8*.3) to generate electric power averaged over the year. However, I'd round that down for miscellaneous losses and distribution, say to 3%.

    That's great, but generating electricity in real time isn't that interesting. Only a small fraction of our total energy consumption is electricity consumed while the sun is shining. Therefore, I assume that you convert most of the power to chemical form (such as H2). This is currently a very lossy process, so I rounded all the way down to 1%.

    It's a very rough estimate, but I don't think that it's unrealistic.

  • Radiation doses (Score:3, Interesting)

    by IncohereD (513627) <mmacleodNO@SPAMieee.org> on Monday May 24, 2004 @01:56PM (#9240250) Homepage
    I recently attended a talk on 'dirty bombs', and what I found incredibly interesting is that the people who get the highest on-the-job dosage of radiation is not any sort of nuclear plant workers, but flight crews.

    Just being closer to space that often increases the dosage much more than being near a nuclear plant, but its still well within safe levels. We're getting dosed all the time, from both space and the earth.

    So this is not all that much of a surprising suggestion.
  • by john.r.strohm (586791) on Monday May 24, 2004 @02:30PM (#9240553)
    As with anything, oversimplification causes problems. The standard examples for pills and oil are subject to those problems.

    It is difficult to compare US and European transportation requirements, in part because of the other differences.

    SUVs became popular in the United States when it became unlawful to sell passenger automobiles that do not meet the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. The customer requirement was for a mommy machine, capable of hauling the kids to soccer practice, the groceries home from the market, and the whole family to Aunt Suzie's place. You can't do that with a European-style economicrobox, and, at the time those rules went into effect, it was not technically feasible to build a full-size station wagon, at that time the standard mommy machine of choice, that could meet the standards. SUVs, being legally trucks, were and are not subject to the CAFE standards, and so, as the full-size station wagons died out, the SUVs took over their ecological niche. The problem with this is that the SUVs had to remain sufficiently truck-like that they do not fall under CAFE, which basically means BIG and HEAVY, and that's where your gas mileage problems come from.

    Homework: Design a complete ambulance rig, including space for gurney, passenger, all necessary equipment, and oxygen, including communications, to fit inside a Nissan Altima.
  • ... global grid? ... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ninjagin (631183) on Monday May 24, 2004 @04:59PM (#9242208)
    As much as I agree that there's a place for fission-derived nuclear energy, I just don't like the smell of it, for all the reasons that people have listed here.

    There was this guy, awhile back, named R. Buckminster Fuller. He was somewhat of a crackpot. He pioneered geodesic domes, the Fuller projection for global cartography, the tetrahedral lattice, among other things. Not bad ideas, really. All of these are used today.

    He also tried to get the world to start driving cars with single rear-wheel steering (the Dymaxion Car), or live in round all-aluminum houses that leaked air by design, or install one-piece stainless-steel bathrooms that could be automatically cleaned. None of these things caught on.

    He did have a lesser-trumpeted idea, though, that related to the global electrical grid. The idea (and it requires a VERY high degree of cooperation between nations) was to interconnect every nation's power grid to that of its neighbors. In such a way, power would become more fault-tolerant and production would become cheaper.

    The idea is that there are about six hours of every day that people are just not using much electricity. Humans tend to sleep every day. While we sleep, we're not watching TV or running the vacuum or opening/closing the fridge door a lot, so there's more electricity available. A hydroelectric plant doesn't shut down for the night -- it keeps generating power as we sleep. Same goes for a nuclear plant.

    Electricty has no shelf-life. You put as much on the grid as you need from it, and when demand fades, you put less on the grid -- but you don't stop producing. Balancing the demand and the production on a global scale, while a tall order, would certainly help lesser-developed nations aquire cheap power and would ease the environmental impacts of individual plants in areas where they may not be needed.

    clearly, there's a lot to work out in the global grid scenario, but it has certain advantages and elegant attributes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 25, 2004 @01:05AM (#9244869)
    Death toll in fossil fuels is much higher than in nuclear fuels.

    Chernobyl was an example of extreme carelessness.

    In the West the death toll for nucelar events for the last 40 years is minimal - much lower than YEARLY death toll for coal mine accidents in China alone.

    Direct death toll in coal mines and similar is way over 100 - probably close to 1000 yearly worldwide.

    Moreover there are effects caused by CO2 and SO2/3

    Not counting the cost of involment in the oil-reach unstable regions like Middle East.

    It is our oil money that allowed 9/11.

  • So basically (Score:2, Interesting)

    by k2r (255754) on Tuesday May 25, 2004 @02:03AM (#9245078)
    all of the answers say:

    We don't need no f*ckin' environment
    We don't care about sustainability
    I don't care about anything but my own, fat ass
    I don't even care about my children's future
    Anything that would require me to think about my position is leftish

    These answers look exactly as insightful as the ones a five year old could give. On the other hand: this is slashdot :-)

    Wow, I didn't want to know it that precisely.

    k2r

"Text processing has made it possible to right-justify any idea, even one which cannot be justified on any other grounds." -- J. Finnegan, USC.

Working...