I'm sure our beloved President would rate me a “low-energy” guy. Well, to that I can only say I'd rather be low-energy than a hebephrenic like him:
hebephrenia: a disorganized form of schizophrenia characterized especially by incoherence, delusions which if present lack an underlying theme, and affect that is flat, inappropriate, or silly.
Forgive the pun, but I've been trying to work-up the energy to respond further regarding the efficacy of nuclear energy. At your suggestion, I did some preliminary reading on the AP-1000 you mentioned, and while the Chinese experience appears to be initially successful, the American experience with the AP-1000 is much less so:
I agree with you that we, that is to say humans, have a problem, and that is trying to provide sufficient energy to meet the needs of the 7.2 billion (and counting – rapidly) people on this planet. Where we don’t agree is that nuclear power is a viable solution even in the short-term, not as long as we have no solution to the very long-term problem of spent fuel with a 100,000-year half-life. That is, of course, an all but infinite, in human terms, problem. Frankly, I don’t believe that problem can be overcome.
But nuclear power also presents a serious, and sometimes fatal, problem in the near term. The disasters at Three-Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima are obvious examples, and I would be very surprised if there aren’t other lesser examples we haven’t heard about.
Don’t know if you saw the 60 Minutes episode on Fukushima, but it was an eye-opener. Clean-up inside the reactors is being done by robots, and the episode showed one of those robots, which cost $100 million dollars. It’s time inside the reactor? Eight seconds, before it was irretrievably stuck in the muck.
The target date for the completion of the multi-hundred-billion-dollar clean-up is 30-40 years. The slightly more realistic hope is that it will done in 50 years, while the man in charge of the project says it could well take 70 years or more.
The episode also showed the multitude of tanks filled with contaminated water in and around the plant. To my mind, these tanks stand like sentinels, symbols of another problem with nuclear energy – water.
As I understand the current fission process, massive amounts of water are required to cool the fuel in the reactors … water that in the process is converted to steam ... that in turn powers the turbines that generate electricity. Some of that electricity is required to run the pumps that provide all that water.
While the reactors at Fukushima amazingly were able to withstand an earthquake that measured 9+ on the Richter scale, they could not withstand the tidal wave that followed. Needless to say, electricity and water do not mix; and when that water hit the plants electrical grid, the power went down … and the pumps stopped … and the nuclear fuel got hotter and hotter and hotter ...
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I’ve personally witnessed this sort of meltdown, though on a very small scale. I used to be part of the crew that rebuilt the three water-cooled electric furnaces that provided molten steel in the Sealed Power sleeve plant in my hometown. It was very expensive to rebuild those huge furnaces, and management was, of course, insistent on running them to the last possible minute before meltdown.
It was a constant battle trying to operate one to that point, with an eye always on the temperature gauge. Frankly, the process was as much art as science, and sometimes we guessed wrong.
When that happened, it wasn’t electricity that caused the major problem; no, the real problem was when the refractory material developed a crack and molten steel at 3000 degrees hit the water jacket that all hell broke loose. I’ve seen a huge furnace lid blasted forty feet or so into the air … I’ve seen steel girders in the buildings superstructure bent like twigs from the impact ... I have literally run for my life in that situation.
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So – what to do in the meantime? Well, for starters we should be investing heavily in alternative energy, such as hydro-electric power, and especially in renewables like solar, wind, and wave energy. We should also be investing in R&D for technology such as hydrogen fuel cells. We should also be using tax credits to encourage all forms of energy saving, such as insulation, dimmers, LED lighting, ultra-efficient appliances, water heaters, and heating and air conditioning equipment.
These energy policies were promulgated in the Carter administration back in the Seventies, when OPEC caused an artificial oil crisis. Had Carter been re-elected, and had we continued his policies, I feel safe in saying, we would be in a much better place today, when it comes to energy cost and climate change. But alas, the people in their infinite wisdom chose as our President a second-rate actor with a third-rate intellect and a fourth-rate slogan “Let's Make America Great Again”.
Americans can't seem to learn the lesson that you can't go back to the future.
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To make matters worse, the Supreme Court erroneously and tragically ruled in favor of George W. Bush, the actual loser in the election of 2,000. It's certain the energy policies of Al “An Inconvenient Truth” Gore would have been very different than those of George “What Me Worry” Bush, who gave us the Clear Skies Initiative, aka the Coal Company Welfare Act.
Obviously, such policies are going to cost a lot of money, but some of that cost could be defrayed with a carbon tax. But that, and anything else isn't likely to happen with Donald Trump, a man who felphoniuosally (yes, I invented that word) ran on bringing back jobs to coal country, a man so lacking in imagination, he had to steal Reagan's sorry punchline and promised to “Make America Great Again”.
Again, Americans can't seem to learn the lesson that you can't go back to the future.
Mired in the present, I remain your humble, faithful and low-energy servant,