Thursday, March 27, 2014

Carbon-Free, Nuclear-Free Energy Economy Is Inevitable

While a clean energy future is inevitable, questions remain about how quickly we will get there.
The impossible has become inevitable. A carbon-free, nuclear-free energy economy is our future. Despite the energy industry's hard work to keep energy dirty and damaging, the future will be clean and sustainable. Government is not leading the way. The new energy revolution is coming from the ground up, not the top down.
The United States and world face a series of interconnected crises: climate change caused by carbon-based energies like oil and methane gas; a shrinking supply of carbon fuel that has led to wars for oil and extreme extraction methods using tar sands, hydro-fracking, mountaintop removal and deep off-shore drilling; and proliferation of nuclear weapons of mass destruction and long-term environmental damage from the production of nuclear energy.
The human and environmental costs of fossil fuel and nuclear power as sources of energy are being felt by a growing number of people worldwide. At the same time, there is a realization that the government is doing little to nothing to encourage a transition from extractive to clean renewable sources. Instead, the Obama administration reveals its alliance with the status quo through the revolving door between industry insiders and government positions, the use of energy industry consultants to perform environmental impact statements, the suppression of unfavorable analyses and disregard for the concerns of people who are affected by energy extraction.
Fukushima - A Global Threat That Requires a Global Response

Truthout depends on you to continue producing grassroots journalism and disseminating conscientious visions for a brighter future. Contribute now by clicking here!Workers take soil samples in Ukedo, Japan, which was evacuated after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, August 30, 2013. Two and a half years after the Fukushima Daiichi plant belched plumes of radioactive materials over northeast Japan, the almost 83,000 refugees evacuated from the worst-hit areas are still unable to go home. (Photo: Tomas Munita / The New York Times)
The story of Fukushima should be on the front pages of every newspaper. Instead, it is rarely mentioned. The problems at Fukushima are unprecedented in human experience and involve a high risk of radiation events larger than any that the global community has ever experienced. It is going to take the best engineering minds in the world to solve these problems and to diminish their global impact.
When we researched the realities of Fukushima in preparation for this article, words like apocalyptic, cataclysmic and Earth-threatening came to mind. But, when we say such things, people react as if we were the little red hen screaming "the sky is falling" and the reports are ignored. So, we’re going to present what is known in this article and you can decide whether we are facing a potentially cataclysmic event.
Either way, it is clear that the problems at Fukushima demand that the world’s best nuclear engineers and other experts advise and assist in the efforts to solve them. Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen of and an international team of scientists created a 15-point plan to address the crises at Fukushima.
A subcommittee of the Green Shadow Cabinet (of which we are members), which includes long-time nuclear activist Harvey Wasserman, is circulating a sign-on letter and a petition calling on the United Nations and Japanese government to put in place the Gundersen et al plan and to provide 24-hour media access to information about the crises at Fukushima. There is also a call for international days of action on the weekend of November 9 and 10. The letter and petitions will be delivered to the UN on November 11 which is both Armistice Day and the 32nd month anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that caused the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The Problems of Fukushima
There are three major problems at Fukushima: (1) Three reactor cores are missing; (2) Radiated water has been leaking from the plant in mass quantities for 2.5 years; and (3) Eleven thousand spent nuclear fuel rods, perhaps the most dangerous things ever created by humans, are stored at the plant and need to be removed, 1,533 of those are in a very precarious and dangerous position. Each of these three could result in dramatic radiation events, unlike any radiation exposure humans have ever experienced.  We’ll discuss them in order, saving the most dangerous for last.
Missing reactor cores:  Since the accident at Fukushima on March 11, 2011, three reactor cores have gone missing.  There was an unprecedented three reactor ‘melt-down.’ These melted cores, called corium lavas, are thought to have passed through the basements of reactor buildings 1, 2 and 3, and to be somewhere in the ground underneath. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Football Pitch-Sized Batteries Could Change the World of Renewable Energy

2011 saw huge advances in solar, wind and other renewable energy sources, and these advancements will continue into 2012. In fact 2012 could be the year that renewable energy sources start to seriously compete with traditional fossil fuels, at least that is the hope in the battle to reduce carbon emissions and our dependence on dwindling oil stocks. However a major problem with renewable energy sources is that they can rarely provide consistent power levels, due to a myriad of factors outside of human control.
Eric Wesoff, an industry analyst with Greentech Media, explains that, “A wind farm only works when the blades are spinning. It might have a nameplate capacity of 100 megawatts, but it never puts out that much. Sometimes it’s 70; sometimes it’s nothing. To a grid operator, that kind of resource is a headache rather than an aspirin.” To overcome these fluctuations energy storage systems can be used to store excess power at peak generating times and release it when needed to provide a more constant level. “So now that 100-MW wind farm can say, ‘We’re a 40-MW, steady-state, 24/7 energy source’-more like a coal plant. That’s more valuable to society.”
The most abundant energy storage system in use around the world is the battery, but producing giant batteries for the electrical grid has always been very expensive. Lots of research has been done into small batteries for mobile phones and MP3 players, etc. and now, according to Haresh Kamath, program manager for energy-storage research at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). “The research applied to those industries is now being applied to batteries for the grid.” In fact the world’s largest battery array, a $500 million system capable of storing 36 megawatt-hours of electricity, has recently been completed in China by the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) and the electric car maker BYD. As part of China’s push toward a smart grid system for renewable energy, the battery has been hooked up to 140 megawatts of solar and wind power generation as well as a smart grid transmission system. And we can expect more of these battery facilities after the Deputy Director of China’s National Energy Administration called it the model for the future of Chinese renewable energy development.
As one of the first large battery systems for grid-level energy storage it will prove an intriguing test-bed for the rest of the world to watch and learn from. However we could also have a new, bigger example to study in a few years after Rubenius, the Dubai-based company, finalised plans to build an unprecedented energy-storage facility in Mexicali. Being positioned near the border it will help improve the reliability of both the US and Mexican grids, paving the way for more solar and wind power in both countries.

Nuclear Power: The Energy of Protest. The Future could be Renewable

With an increasing global population, many wonder just how future energy needs can be met. While wind, tidal and solar energy are posited as being cleaner and sustainable when compared with fossil fuels, certain countries have opted for nuclear power as the solution to their energy needs.
Fukushima has however raised concerns about the safety of nuclear power and has served to place the nuclear industry on the back foot. Moreover, when government costs, the impact of uranium mining and the issue of long-term nuclear waste storage are factored in, the industry isn’t as cheap, energy efficient, sustainable, environmentally friendly or as safe as is often claimed.
Of course, there is also thorny issue of the link between nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Any number of Chernobyls or Fukushimas pale into insignificance when placed alongside the potential danger of nuclear terrorism or arms proliferation.
The late French environmentalist Jacques Cousteau once said that human society is too diverse, national passion too strong and human aggressiveness too deep seated for the peaceful atom and the warlike atom to stay divorced for too long. Countries with nuclear technology and know-how all have the potential to embark on a weapons development programme. At present, there are 21 countries using nuclear energy.
A major challenge to nuclear proliferation controls has been the spread of uranium enrichment technology. The question arises as to whether it is possible to adequately oversee a civil nuclear energy programme in order to prevent the diversion of plutonium to nuclear weapons.
Article Two of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) states that the Agency shall seek to enlarge its contribution to peace throughout the world and that it shall ensure that assistance is provided by it to prevent atomic energy from being used for military purpose. Article Four of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) reaffirms the inalienable right to develop the peaceful use of nuclear technology and pledges to facilitate trade with this in mind. Both bodies seek to promote the development of peaceful nuclear power, while at the same time trying to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.
Nuclear weapons parties to the NPT — US, Britain, France, Russia and China — are prohibited from transferring nuclear weapons or associated technology to non-nuclear states, but can provide technologies for civilian nuclear activities. In return, the non-nuclear states agree not to seek nuclear weapons and to accept ‘safeguards’ on their civilian nuclear materials.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Replacing Fossil Fuel and Nuclear Power with Renewable Energy: Wind, Solar and Hydro Power

 It’s a MYTH that We Need Fossil Fuel Or Nuclear
The big oil, gas, coal and nuclear companies claim that we need those energy sources in order to power America.
Good news: it’s a myth.
Mark Diesendorf – Associate Professor and Deputy Director, Institute of Environmental Studies, UNSW at the University of New South Wales – notes:
The deniers and scoffers repeatedly utter the simplistic myth that renewable energy is intermittent and therefore cannot generate base-load (that is, 24-hour) power.
Detailed computer simulations, backed up with actual experience with wind power overseas, show that the scoffers are wrong. Several countries, including Australia with its huge renewable energy resources, could make the necessary transition to an electricity generation system comprising 100 per cent renewable energy over a few decades.
Feasibility has been established by computer simulations of electricity generation systems by several research groups around the world, including my own …
Diesendorf gave an update earlier this month:
Ben Elliston, Iain MacGill and I have performed thousands of computer simulations of 100% renewable electricity in the National Electricity Market(NEM), using actual hourly data on electricity demand, wind and solar power for 2010.
Our latest research, available here and reported here, finds that generating systems comprising a mix of different commercially available renewable energy technologies, located on geographically dispersed sites, do not need base load power stations to achieve the same reliability as fossil-fuelled systems.
The old myth was based on the incorrect assumption that base load demand can only be supplied by base load power stations; for example, coal in Australia and nuclear in France. However, the mix of renewable energy technologies in our computer model, which has no base load power stations, easily supplies base load demand.