Sunday, November 30, 2008

Nuclear Power's Hour is Now

I have always believed this was coming in regards to U.S. energy policy, and now somebody else is finally tooting the nuclear power horn as well:
Commercial reactors currently provide 20 percent of the nation's power—but accounts for 70 percent of the country's emission-free energy. "We cannot get to the reduction of CO2 in a big way without relying on nuclear energy even more than we do today," says Mujid Kazimi, the director of MIT's Center for Advanced Nuclear Systems.[1]
The Newsweek article goes on to note a couple of other interesting facts:
Most Americans probably have no idea that there are 104 commercial nuclear-power plants currently operating in the United States today. None has suffered a malfunction that led to a major leak of radioactive material. Nuclear-power proponents often point to France, which depends on nukes for 80 percent of its power.[1]
I certainly didn't know there were so many active plants in the U.S. already. But this clickable map from the International Nuclear Safety Center pretty much confirms the many U.S. nuclear sites and their operational capacity. [2] The big problem, of course, is where to store the depleted fuel rods. "About one-fourth to one-third of the total fuel load from the pools is spent and removed from the reactor every 12 to 18 months and replaced with fresh fuel."[3] These fuel load rods are either stored in underground pools, which limit the radiation coming out of them, or (more interestingly) in specially designed concrete casks which are kept on site.

Most of the on-site storage is filling up, which is not a scientific problem but a political one. The U.S. has a well-researched, safe site to place its expended nuclear fuel rods:
After over 20 years of research and billions of dollars of carefully planned and reviewed scientific field work, the Department of Energy has found that a repository at Yucca Mountain brings together the location, natural barriers, and design elements most likely to protect the health and safety of the public, including those Americans living in the immediate vicinity, now and long into the future.[4]
Unfortunately, the citizens of Nevada are no more educated in basic science than is the rest of the nation; so, their state representatives have been able to successfully red-tape (if not outright stop) the construction at this most reasonable place to safely store nuclear waste. This is not the first (or the last) time that a collection of dumb people have worked together to pull down the quality and safety of the rest of the nation. Science literacy has greatly suffered in recent years under a conservative administration, but my feeling is it still won't get much better.


[image] Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Plant at Shippingport PA from "Kyoto -- A Perspective" PA Pundits - International (Accessed 11/28/2008)

[1] Daren Briscoe "Obama’s Nuclear Reservations" Newsweek Online November 22, 2008 (Accessed 11/28/2008)

[2] "Maps" International Nuclear Safety Center (Accessed 11/28/2008)

[3] "Spent Fuel Pools" United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (Accessed 11/28/2008)

[4] "Yucca Mountain Repository" U.S. Department of Energy (Accessed 11/28/2008)


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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I want my Moller Skycar

This truth is, I'd sure like to have a few rides in this car before I keel over. Maybe I'll get my chance. (video). A questionable but highly entertaining analysis of what a flying car is worth to mankind is found in this video. Still, such speculative analysis aside, my desire for a few rides is not merely a pipe dream, since testing is already underway. And the FAA is predicted to give approval to models sometime before 2015. Mark's Technology News outlines the specs of the Moller Skycar as follows:
Apparently the company already has over 100 reservations for the $500,000 SkyCar which will be capable of a top speed of 375mph and get you 750 miles. The Skycar runs on ethanol rather than costly aviation fuel making it, as they claim, cheaper to run than a Land Rover or Porsche. The plane, which can also drive on the road at up to 35mph, will use eight Wankel rotary engines instead of jet engines - in order to keep the cost down.[1]
Thus, I'm thinking my odds are good. Once people see the flying car in action, they'll start moving out farther away from cities too, helping mitigate the suburban sprawl problem, which will further reduce traffic-load on those oh-so 20th century, virtually two-dimensional structures called "streets."


[1] "Moller M400 Skycar: 375mph Car/Plane to Hit The Roads, Skies." Mark's Technology News (Accessed November 24, 2008)


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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ecoprotests increasing not clearly a good thing.

Bright Green Blog
is reporting on how climate protests are rising. The article notes that one movement's numbers,
"just exploded and went from being a sizable amount of people, several thousands of very active youth all around the country, to just hundreds of thousands of young people [....] The floodgates are about to open. We have the numbers. We have the skills. We have the passion."
Well, that might be the case, but I worry -- were such a large movement to really take-off, then there would be fringe elements that would inevitably take to eco-terrorism methods, such as vandalizing or even bombing coal-fire plants. For comparison, when anti-abortion groups occasionally gain substantial popularity there are always radicals who take the next step into intimidation and violence. I think it's great that people are taking global climate issues seriously, but sudden quasi-political "movements" to force the market to change faster than its ready for will be counter-productive.


[image] Cox and Forkum editorial cartoons. (Accessed November 23, 2008)

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Monday, November 17, 2008


This picture got me thinking a bit about vegetarianism. Some claim there are as many as 20 million vegetarians in the US,[1] though I've seen numbers of about 5-7 million being more widely quoted. Either way, that's a lot of people, but still a fairly small number when given the whole population of the country. One of the most enjoyable (and competent) articles I've read against committing to a vegetarian lifestyle (as the most reasonable life-choice) is by Craig Fitzroy, titled "The Great Fallacies of Vegetarianism." Perhaps I should cite an enjoyable and competent article for vegetarianism, but I can't say I've ever run across one.



[1] This 20 million stat is apparently from the San Francisco Vegetarian Society.


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Friday, November 14, 2008

A Few Basic Epistemology Thoughts

Just a few thoughts on Epistemology, mostly uttered as a way of testing my ability to post Quicktime videos.


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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Brawling Christian Monks

So much for Christian love of neighbor, much less for love of the brethren in Christ. However, I was happy to see that unlike when Buddhist monks get torqued at each other, these Christian monks did not know how to fight. It was more like a scuffle with a few kick techniques from elementary school thrown in for purely defensive purposes. I think a case for pacifism can be made on Christian grounds, but it's just not clear enough to convince me that Christianity must commit one to pacifism. After all, as early as the fourth century, there were increasing numbers of Christians among the Roman soldiers, so that seems to preclude that Christianity was understood as essentially a pacifist religion, even if many early Christians did often maintain a pacifist stance.

[1] "Monks brawl at Jerusalem shrine [article and video]" BBC News November 9, 2008.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Return of the Woolly Mammoth Possible?

A group of Japanese scientists who specialize in cloning mice after the cells in their bodies have been frozen, and even damaged, have claimed their techniques could be used to clone, and hence revive the now extinct Woolly Mammoths.[1] For some reason, I think we should have these around again. After all, we were the one's that killed them off -- well, at least we probably hastened their end.


[image] BBC

[1] Maggie Fox "Frozen mice cloned - are woolly mammoths next?" Reuters Nov. 3, 2008. (Accessed Nov 5, 2008)


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