Sounding the Depth, Sea Marks and Bridge Lights

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 11th, 2013

Technology 101

It’s Important to know both the Depth of the Water beneath you and the Hidden Dangers below the Surface

On November 10, 1975, the Great Lakes bulk ore carrier S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald sank in a powerful Lake Superior storm.  Waves of 35 feet crashed green water across her deck.  But time and again she bobbed back up from under the waves.  Until she began to lose her buoyancy.  No one knows for sure what happened but the Fitzgerald was taking on water prior to her sinking.  One theory said that she bottomed out on Six Fathom Shoal off of Caribou Island.  As she fell into the trough between two huge waves.

A fathom is 6 feet.  So six fathoms would be 36 feet.  Though the water over Six Fathom Shoal could be as shallow as 26 feet.  Which is pretty deep.  But is dangerously shallow for a ship like the Fitzgerald.  For she had a draft of 25 feet.  At best she had 11 feet (36-25) of clearance between the shoal and her hull.  Or in the worst case, 1 foot (26-25).  With the gale force winds pushing the waves as high as 35 feet that would put the trough approximately 17.5 feet (35/2) below the ‘calm’ surface level of the lake.  Which would bring the top of the shoal above the hull of the Fitzgerald.  Thus making a strong case that she bottomed out and fractured her hull and began to take on water.

The theory continues that as she took on water she settled deeper and deeper into the water.  Growing heavier.  And less buoyant.  Until a wall of water swept across her that was too great for her to shake off.  Sending her to the bottom of Lake Superior so quickly that the propeller was still spinning when the bow hit bottom.  Causing the hull to break.  With the torque of the spinning shaft rotating the stern over until she rested hull-up on the bottom.  This is only one theory of many.  People still debate the ultimate cause of her sinking.  But this theory shows the importance of knowing the depth of the water beneath you.  And the great danger of unseen objects below the surface of the water.

Ships use Sea Marks to guide them Safely through Navigable Channels

Those mariners who first crossed the oceans were some of the bravest ever to live.  For if a ship sank in the middle of the ocean chances are people never saw those sailors again.  For there’s nothing to sustain life in the middle of the ocean.  Everything you ate or drank you brought with you.  And crossed at the greatest speed possible to get to your destination before your supplies ran out.  Which was easy to do in the deep waters of the middle of the ocean.  But very dangerous when the water grew shallower.  As you approached land.  Especially for the first time.

If a ship struck a submerged object it could break up the hull and sink the ship.  Especially if you hit it at speed.  This is why they had lookouts high up in the crow’s nest looking for land.  Or indications that the water was growing more shallow.  And they would ‘heave the lead’.  Big burly men (leadsmen) would throw a lead weight on a rope as far out in front of the ship as possible.  Once the lead hit bottom they’d pull it up.  Counting the knots in the rope spaced at 6-foot intervals.  Or fathoms.  Sounding the depth of the water beneath them.  As the sea bottom raced up to the water’s surface they furled their sails to catch less wind.  And slow down.  As they approached land they would approach only so far.  And safely anchor in a safe depth of water near a promising location for a harbor.  Some sailors would then board a dinghy and row into the shallow waters.  Sounding the depth.  And making a chart.  Looking for a safe channel to navigate.  And a place suitable to build a deep-water dock.  Deep enough to sail in to and moor the large sailing vessels that would sail to and from these new lands.

Of course, we could do none of this during the night.  It may be safe to sail in the middle of the ocean at night but it is very dangerous in the shallow waters around land.  At least, for the first time.  After they built a harbor they may build a lighthouse.  A tall building with a beacon.  To guide ships to the new harbor in the dark.  And even add a fog horn to guide ships in when fog obscures the light.  This would bring ships towards the harbor.  But they needed other navigational aids to guide them through a safe channel to the dock.  As time passed we made our navigational aids more advanced.  As well as our ships.  Today a ship can enter a harbor or river in the black of night safely.  Thanks to sea marks.

If Ships wander just Inches off their Course the Results can be Catastrophic

Landmarks are navigational aids on land.  Such as a lighthouse.  While a sea mark is a navigational aid in the water.  Typically a buoy.  A buoyant vessel that floats in the water.  But held in place.  Typically with a chain running from the bottom of the buoy to an anchorage driven into the bottom of the water channel.  Holding it in place to mark the edge of the navigable channel.  In North America we use the colors green and red to mark the channel.  With the “3R” rule “Red Right Returning.”  Meaning a ship returning from a larger body of water to a smaller body of water (and ultimately to a dock) would see red on their right (starboard).  And green on their left (port).  If you’re leaving dock and heading to open water the colors would be the reverse.

As ships move up river the safe channel narrows.  And there are bridges to contend with.  Which compounds the problem of shallow waters.  Fixed bridges will have red lights on piers rising out of the water.  And a green light over the center of the safe channel.  A vertical lift span bridge or a double leaf (lift) bascule bridge will have red lights at either end.  And red lights over the center of the channel when these bridges are closed.  When the center span on a lift bridge is open there will be a green light marking the center of the channel on the lifted center span.  Showing the center of the channel and the safe height of passage.  When the bascule bridge is open there will be a green light on the tip of each open leaf.  Showing the outer edges of the safe channel.

Ships are massive.  And massive things moving have great momentum (mass multiplied by velocity).  The bigger they are and the faster they go the harder it is to stop them.  Or to turn them.  Which means if they wander out of that safe channel they will probably hit something.  And cause great damage.  Either to the ship.  Or to the fixed structures along the waterway.  Like on an Alabaman night.  When a river barge made a wrong turn in poor visibility and entered an un-navigable channel.  Striking a rail bridge.  Pushing the bridge out of alignment.  But not enough to break the welded rail.  Which left the railroad block signal green.  Indicating the track was clear ahead.  The river pilot thought that one of the barges had only run aground.  And was oblivious to what he did.  And when Amtrak’s Sunset Limited sped through and hit that kink in the track it derailed.  Killing 47 people.  About twice the loss of life when the Fitzgerald sank.  Showing the importance of navigation charts, sea marks and bridge lights.  For if ships wander just inches off their course the results can be catastrophic.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Britons lose Interest in Saving the Planet thanks to rising Utility Bills and Green Levies to pay for Wind Farms

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 1st, 2013

Week in Review

Britain is green.  They have made the prevention of manmade global warming a national goal.  They’re gradually doing away with carbon-based energies.  Like coal-fired power plants.  And replacing them with green things like wind farms.  Although one large wind project just got derailed.  The £4bn ($6.6 billion US) Atlantic Array project in the Bristol Channel.  But just the fact that they were going to spend $6.6 billion to build an offshore wind farm shows you how committed they are in going green.  Of course one might ask where does one get $6.6 billion to build a wind farm?  Simple.  You just add a green levy to everyone’s utility bill (see Energy policies just rob Peter to pay Paul by Telegraph View posted 12/1/2013 on The Telegraph).

Yesterday morning, George Osborne and Ed Balls both graced the sofa of the Andrew Marr Show as part of a pre-Autumn Statement offensive to woo the voters. Perhaps the biggest issue of the day was the fate of the green levies on consumers’ bills – a policy that Ed Miliband began as energy secretary and which the Tories embraced in office as a way of proving their environmentalist credentials. Now the consensus that the consumer should be forced to pick up the tab for saving the planet is gone, thanks to sky-rocketing energy costs. But the solutions proposed by Mr Osborne and Mr Balls may not be enough to induce a warm glow in the heart of the hard-pressed voter.

Mr Balls had nothing compelling to say. He made some noises about “value for money” and said that anything the Government could do to reduce costs was welcome. But it was Labour, after all, that introduced the green levies and remains committed to unreasonable decarbonisation targets. The party’s core pledge now is to freeze prices after the 2015 election. It is, as Mr Osborne called it, “back of a fag packet” stuff. Labour can do nothing to control global energy prices; a price freeze could put smaller providers out of business; and the likely outcome is that companies will simply hike bills before the freeze comes into effect. This variety of socialist populism typically ends up hurting the economy in the long run.

However, there are serious flaws in Mr Osborne’s alternative. Although the average bill could fall by £50 under the Government’s plan, some bills are predicted to rise by £120.

First of all, “back of a fag packet” isn’t a gay slur.  A fag is slang for cigarette in the UK.  And a fag packet is a pack of cigarettes.  So “back of a fag packet” stuff is a plan with so little meaningful details that they can write it out on one side of a pack of cigarettes.  It’s sort of like us yanks writing out something on the back of a cocktail napkin.  It’s not detailed stuff.  And probably not stuff thought out well.  Hence the disparaging tone of George Osborne’s criticism of the Labour Party’s idea of a price freeze.

As interesting as this explanation was it’s what is in the following paragraph that is of note.  The rise in the average bill of £120.  This is the green levy on the people’s average utility bill.  Which comes to $197.16 in US dollars.  This is the cost of all those wind turbines they’re building.  A number so painful that Britons everywhere are saying that this manmade global warming?  It isn’t as bad as I once thought it was.  So we can stop building these silly windmills.  Especially those that cost $6.6 billion.  Let’s just leave those beautiful coal-fired power plants on line.  So I can afford to feed my family.  For I know my history.  And my Dickens.  England during the Industrial Revolution was a filthy place.  Where workers—and everything else—were covered in soot and ashes.  And despite all of this manmade carbon it was not warm and balmy during those times.  No.  People struggled to both eat.  And stay warm.  England is cleaner today and yet we are suffering from manmade global warming?  Right, pull the other.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Nuclear Power is Green but Governments prefer Wind Power because its More Costly

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 30th, 2013

Week in Review

To save the world from global warming we have to go to a low-carbon energy economy.  Say goodbye to coal.  And hello to solar.  And wind (see Energy firm RWE npower axes £4bn UK windfarm amid political uncertainty by Terry Macalister posted 11/25/2013 on The Telegraph).

Britain’s green ambitions have been dealt a blow as a big six energy company has pulled the plug on one of the world’s largest offshore windfarms, with the political storm enveloping the industry threatening the multibillion-pound investments needed to meet emissions targets and head off a looming capacity crunch.

Weeks after warning that the government was treating environmental subsidies as a “political football”, the German-owned RWE npower is pulling out of the £4bn Atlantic Array project in the Bristol Channel because the economics do not stack up.

The move comes as figures show that energy firms reaped a 77% increase in profits per customer last year, due to bill increases that the big six say are partly due to government green levies…

The Renewable Energy Association (REA), which lobbies for more low-carbon power, said government infighting over subsidies was causing deep uncertainty in the industry…

“We need assurances from George Osborne in the autumn statement about where we stand,” said a spokesman for the REA. “Nick Clegg says one thing about the green levies, Michael Fallon [the energy minister] another…”

RWE indicated that the government might have to raise green subsidies – and thus increase bills or the burden on the taxpayer – after admitting that technical difficulties had pushed the price up so far that it could not be justified under the current subsidy regime.

But RWE has already pulled out of a £350m nuclear-power project, is selling its DEA North Sea oil business and last week disposed of part of its UK gas and electricity supply arm. Developers have been warning for some time that they would need more subsidies from the government if ministers were to realise low-carbon energy targets.

RWE was in partnership to build that nuclear project.  Which cost in total £696m.  Or 17% of the cost of the £4bn Atlantic Array project in the Bristol Channel.  Which they say will power one million homes.  Of course, that would be only when the wind is blowing.  But not blowing too fast.  For there is a small window for safe wind speeds these turbines can generate power at.  Giving them a low capacity factor (the amount of power they could produce over a period of time at full nameplate capacity and the actual power they produced over that period).  About 30% in Britain.  Whereas nuclear power is about 90%.  Which is why we use it for baseload power.  Because it’s always there.  Even when the wind is blowing too slow.  Or too fast.  So that Atlantic Array wasn’t going to provide reliable power for a million homes.  In fact, on a calm day it will provide no power to any home.  Which begs the question why spend £4bn for unreliable power when you can spend £696m for reliable power?

Worse, wind power requires government subsidies.  So much that companies won’t build wind farms unless they get government subsidies.  Something you don’t need to build a nuclear power plant.  And to rub salt in an open wound those subsidies are paid for with levies on the family utility bill.  Or higher taxes.  Forcing these families to get by on less.  While these green energy firms are seeing rising profits.  Because of the money the government takes from the households and gives to the green energy firms in the form of subsidies.  Which begs another question.  Why charge the British people so much more for clean energy when they can get it for far less from nuclear power?  At 17% of the cost for the Atlantic Array project?

When it comes down to it renewable energy is crony capitalism at its worst.  Huge transfers of money from the private sector to the public sector.  Where they turn around and give to their friends in green energy companies in the form of lucrative contracts and fat subsidies.  After taking some off the top for their expenses, of course.  If it wasn’t they’d be building less costly and more reliable nuclear power plants to be green.  Instead of building these green elephants all over the place.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Visible Light, Additive Coloring, Subtractive Coloring, Printing and Pointilism

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 28th, 2013

Technology 101

Our Eyes see Shades of Gray with Rods and Color with Cones

If you have colorful flower gardens all around your home and go out at night you won’t see much.  Only shades of gray.  You’ll see none of the vibrant colors of your flowers.  The moonlight, streetlights, the neighbor’s security lights, your landscaping lights, etc., will provide enough lighting so you can see your flowers.  But you won’t be able to see their colors well.  If at all.

If you go out with the bright afternoon sun shining down it’s a different story.  You can see the color.  Rich, vibrant color.  Because of the cones in your eyes.  Which can see color.  As long as it is bright enough.  Unlike the rods in your eyes.  Which work well in low light levels.  Letting you see shades of gray in low light levels.  But saturate at high light levels.  Which is where the cones take over.

Light is electromagnetic radiation.  And the key to color is the wavelength.  What is a wavelength?  Think of a guitar.  If you pluck a thick string it vibrates at one frequency.  If you pluck a thin string it vibrates at a higher frequency.  The thick string will move back and forth at a greater distance (and a slower speed) as it vibrates than the thin string.  So the thick string has a longer wavelength than the thin string.  This is a crude explanation.  But the takeaway from this is this.  As frequency decreases wavelength increases.  As frequency increases wavelength decreases.

Different Wavelengths of Light have Unique Colors and are a Small Portion of the Electromagnetic Spectrum

Light is electromagnetic radiation.  Different wavelengths of light have unique colors and are a small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.  If you ever conducted an experiment in grade school where you passed a white light through a prism (or if you saw the cover of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon) you saw this.  White light enters the prism and a ‘rainbow’ of colors exits the prism.  Violet on the bottom.  And red at the top.  This is the visible light spectrum.  From violet (the smallest wavelength) to blue to green to yellow to orange to red (the largest wavelength).  Wavelengths smaller than violet are ultraviolet, X-rays and gamma rays.  Wavelengths larger than red are infrared, microwave, FM, AM and long radio waves.

In low light levels rods can make out things in shades of gray.  But cannot distinguish color.  As the light intensity increases the rods saturate and lose their ability to see.  While at the same time the cones begin to see.  There are three types of rods in the eye.  Those that see long wavelengths (around the color red).  Those that see medium wavelengths (around the color green).  And those that see short wavelengths (around the color blue).  These are the primary colors of light.  Red, green and blue.  If you add any combinations of these light wavelengths together you can get any color in the visible spectrum.  The cones will ‘see’ a color based on the combination of wavelengths they sense.  If the cones sense only red and green the eye will see yellow.  If the cones sense all wavelengths equally the eye will see white.

If you’ve ever bought a color inkjet cartridge, though, you may be saying this isn’t right.  Inkjet cartridge packaging has three dots of color on them.  None of them green.  There’re red, blue and yellow.  Not red, blue and green.  Green isn’t a primary color.  Yellow is.  And that is true.  When it comes to painting.  Or printing.  Or dyeing.  That uses subtractive coloring.  Where we use dyes, inks and pigments to absorb light wavelengths.  A blue paint, for example, will absorb wavelengths of all colors but blue.  So when you look at something dyed, printed or painted blue only the blue wavelength of the source light (such as the sun) reflects onto the cones in your eye.  The other wavelengths from the source light get absorbed in the dyes, inks and pigments.  And don’t reflect onto the cones in your eyes.

Our Brain blends Wavelengths of Color together into a Continuous Color Image

Artists mix paints together on a palette.  Each individual paint absorbs a set of wavelengths.  When mixed together they absorb different wavelengths.  Allowing the artist to create a large palette of colors.  The artist applies these colors to a canvas to produce a beautiful work of art.  But not all artists.  Georges Seurat didn’t mix colors together for his masterpiece.  A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.  The subject of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Sunday in the Park with George.  Where George explains the technique he used.  Pointilism.

Instead of mixing paints together to make colors Seurat applied these paints unmixed onto the canvas.  And let the eye mix them together.  The individual pigments absorbed all wavelengths but the desired color.  As these different wavelengths of different intensities fell onto the cones the brain blended these dots of color together.  In the musical George (Mandy Patinkin in the original Broadway cast available on DVD) shows someone what the painting looks like up close.  A bunch of dots of different colors.  And then moves backward with him.  As they do the dots blend together into a rich palette of colors.  Producing a beautiful painting.

In 4-color printing we use a combination of these techniques.  Where they reproduce a color photograph by blending the three primary colors (red, blue and yellow) and black.  The original photograph is broken down into its primary colors.  Before digital printing this was done with photography and color filters.  One for each primary color.  They then made screens for each color.  To vary the intensity of each color they broke solid colors into dots.  The amount of white paper showing between the dots of ink lightened the shade of the color.  The paper runs through a press that adds each of the primary colors onto the image.  Overlapping colors to produce different colors.  Subtracting wavelengths to produce a color image.  With the brain blending these colors together to reproduce the original color photograph.  (They added black to make a cleaner image than they could by mixing the inks together to make black.)

Video displays are more like pointilism.  Televisions in the days of picture tubes had three electron guns repeatedly scanning the phosphorus coating on the inside of the picture tube.  Each gun hit one of three different colors of phosphorus.  Red, blue and green.  These dots of phosphorus glowed at different intensities.  Each pixel on the screen has one dot of each phosphorus color.  The three colors blend together into one color pixel.  We use different technology today to produce the same wavelengths of red, blue and green.  That produce a color image.  That falls on the cones in our eyes.  With our brain blending these pixels of color together into a continuous image.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Yorktown, North, Rockingham, Shelburne, Franco-Spanish Alliance, Vergennes, Adams, Franklin, Jay and the Treaty of Paris

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 5th, 2012

Politics 101

For the British to Maintain the Balance of Power in Europe an Independent America actually Helped Them

The war wasn’t over with Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown.  But his surrender changed everything.  The continuing war was becoming more and more unpopular in Britain.  And costly.  Britain was fighting four wars.   One with the Americans.  One with the French.  One with the Spanish.  And one with the Dutch.  The debt was growing so great that there were discussions about suspending some interest payments.  The British wanted out of these wars.  The opposition blamed Lord North for the latest debacle at Yorktown.  The Prime Minister resigned.  His government fell.  And the opposition took power.

The new Prime Minister, Lord Rockingham, had favored American independence.  His foreign secretary, Charles James Fox, had favored American independence.  In fact, those who had favored American independence filled all cabinet positions.  Except for one.  The Secretary of Colonial Affairs.  Lord Shelburne.  Fox and Shelburne did not much care for each other.  They quarreled.  Each having their own idea of how they should conduct the peace.  Fox sent Thomas Green to France to begin negotiations with the French.  Shelburne sent Richard Oswald to France to begin negotiations with the Americans (Benjamin Franklin was in Paris).

The French had a debt problem of their own.  And they, too, were anxious for the war to end.  But on favorable terms.  They were looking to change the balance of power with their eternal enemy.  The British.  And therefore wanted to negotiate the peace for the Americans.  Get back some of their lost North American territories.  And elsewhere.  Meanwhile the Spanish were laying siege to the British in Gibraltar.  Anxious to retrieve that from the British.  They were greatly interested in blocking American westward expansion.  And they also wanted to keep them off the Mississippi River.  Which flowed to the Gulf of Mexico through their Louisiana Territory.  So the politics were quite complex in negotiating the peace.  For the British to maintain the balance of power they enjoyed an independent America actually helped them.  While an independent America actually harmed the French and the Spanish.

Shelburne negotiated Directly with the Americans to use them to gain Favorable Terms with their European Enemies

The original peace commission in Paris was just John Adams.  Few could be found that were more adamant on American independence than he.  And this was a problem for the French foreign minister.  Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes.  He didn’t like Adams.  Who was not willing to compromise.  Vergennes wanted to end the war.  And stop the financial hemorrhaging.   And he was willing to compromise with the British to make that happen.  Willing to compromise away American independence.  American navigation of the Mississippi River.  American territorial ambitions beyond the Appalachians (leaving Maine, New York City, portions of the Northwest territories, Charleston and Savannah British).  And the American fishing rights off Newfoundland.  He was willing to give all that up to end the war with Britain.  He had only one problem.  John Adams.  Who refused to give up what the Americans were actually fighting for in the first place.

Vergennes instructed the French minister in America, the Chevalier de la Luzerne, to lobby the Continental Congress.  To have them order Adams to be less belligerent.  To be more willing to compromise.  And to accept the wise counsel of the King of France.  The most generous sovereign who made it possible for the Americans to bring the British to the negotiating table.  Luzerne was successful.  Perhaps with a little bribery.  The Congress sent Benjamin Franklin, John Jay and Henry Laurens to join Adams.  With the instructions to follow the advice of the French in the peace negotiations. 

Fox still favored granting American independence.  And he wanted to do it quickly.  To split the allies apart.  And make separate peace treaties to limit the damage.  For the French, Spanish and Dutch could hold out for a grander bargain.  Especially if the fortunes of war turned their way.  As the Spanish were hoping would soon happen at Gibraltar.  So the British warned that their allies could force the Americans to continue the war not for their own interests but that of these Europeans.  He told Green to tell Franklin that Britain was prepared to recognize American independence.  And that it was in America’s best interests to negotiate a separate peace.  Franklin suggested early that Britain may want to throw Canada into the deal.  To help pay for all the damage the British did to American property.  Shelburne wasn’t about to negotiate away Canada.  His answer was to bring up the debt owed to British creditors.  And reimbursing the Loyalists who lost their property in America.  Things that weren’t high on the American list of demands.  Then Rockingham died.  Shelburne became prime minister.  And Fox quit.  Pro-American independence ministers no longer filled the government.  Still, Shelburne continued to negotiate directly with the Americans.  So he could use them to gain favorable terms with their European enemies.

The American Negotiators were being Played by the Best of European Intrigue

In Franklin’s talks with Oswald he made it clear that independence was a prerequisite for peace.  Officially that was a problem for Oswald.  For his original commission from Shelburne directed him to negotiate with a commissioner from the colonies or plantations.  Not a commissioner from the United States of America.  Which, of course, would recognize American independence.  Vergennes urged Franklin and Jay to proceed anyway.  That official recognition could follow in the final peace treaty.  Jay suspected that the French were stalling.  He knew of the siege of Gibraltar.  And didn’t trust the Franco-Spanish alliance.  So he ignored Congress’ order.  And did not listen to the wise French counsel.  Joining Franklin and Adams in stating that independence was a prerequisite for peace.

The American commission had good reason to not trust their European allies.  The French wanted the British to agree to keep the Americans out of the fisheries along Newfoundland.  So they could fish these waters.  A bitter pill for a New Englander like Adams to swallow.  The French were also opposed to the Americans annexing Canada.  What they once called New France.  Before it became British.  While the Spanish were working hard behind the scenes to keep the Mississippi River away from the Americans.  Had they gotten their way the Mississippi south of the Ohio River would have been in Spanish hands.  As well as the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and parts of Louisiana. 

The American negotiators were being played by the best of European intrigue.  But thanks to the principled men America sent to negotiate the peace the Americans bested the Europeans at their own game.  John Adams.  Benjamin Franklin.  And John Jay.  For the Americas got their independence.  Territory that stretched to the Mississippi River.  And navigation on the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.  Even their fishing rights off of Newfoundland (though they would revisit that issue later).  It would be America’s greatest achievement in diplomacy.  The Treaty of Paris (1783).  And they made this treaty without consulting the French.  Who were miffed.  But thanks to Franklin America and France remained friends.  So the Americans won the Revolutionary War.  And the peace.  While avoiding any entangling alliances with the old European powers.  Not bad for a brand new nation on the world’s stage.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

People don’t want Costly, Inefficient and Noisy Wind-Generated Power forced on them in Ontario

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 22nd, 2012

Week in Review

Ontario is putting up wind farms in rural communities.  And the people in those communities are very unhappy about it (see Ontario farm group urges halt to wind power development by Richard Blackwell posted 1/20/2012 on The Globe and Mail).

Ontario’s largest farm organization has called for a moratorium on wind power development in the province, saying there are too many unanswered questions about its value, and that the debate over turbines is polarizing rural communities.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture, which represents more than 38,000 farmers in the province, said Friday that no more wind turbines should be built until a number of issues are dealt with.

First, some of the planning for wind farms should be returned to municipalities, the OFA said. Under the province’s Green Energy Act, municipalities have very little say in the decisions where turbines will be built.

Health and noise complaints also need to be addressed, the OFA said, and more study has to be done to ensure that the current minimum 550 metre “setback” from houses is sufficient.

People living close to these turbines complain about the noise and vibrations.  Can’t sleep.  Some even getting sick.  And when they sell their houses they have to disclose these health problems lest they be sued by the new owners.  When they can sell, that is.  It’s so good to be green.  People feel good about going green.  That they’re doing their part for the environment.  As long as they do their part in someone else’s backyard.  Because the people who are unlucky enough to live by these turbines are seeing their property values plummet.  Because people don’t want to live by these windmills.  Because they’re big and noisy.  And won’t let you sleep.

There needs to be more work done to allow the electricity generated from turbines to be stored, the federation said, because the power is currently often sold at a loss on export markets when it is not being generated at times of peak usage…

Ontario has installed about 2,000 megawatts of wind power capacity, by far the most of any Canadian province. Development has been accelerated by the Green Energy Act, under which the province pays premium rates for electricity produced by renewable power projects.

And if the health problems and declining property values weren’t enough these windmills are also inefficient.  Producing electricity during off-peak times.  So to make them efficient will require a massive investment in energy storage facilities.  Consisting of electrical rectifiers, batteries and inverters.  To convert the AC generated power to DC so it can be stored in batteries.  And then converted back into AC when sold on the grid during peak demand.

It sure is a lot of trouble for some 2,000 megawatts of wind-generated electricity.  But the wind doesn’t blow all of the time.  And it isn’t constant when it does blow.  Which is why we rate wind-generation with a capacity factor.  A percentage of the nameplate value.  These factors range from 20-40%.  Which means this 2,000 megawatts of wind-generated electricity is more like 400-800 megawatts.  Not a lot, is it?  By contrast the Nanticoke Generating Station in southern Ontario has a rated capacity of 3,964 MW.  And all you need to get that capacity is to turn the plant on and feed it fossil fuels.

The Nanticoke Generating Station is one facility.  Where it can be managed.  And its emissions can be scrubbed.  Wind turbines, on the other hand, come in small sizes.  They can’t be too big because they sit on top of a pole.  The turbines at the 181.5 MW Enbridge Ontario Wind Farm in Bruce County, Ontario, have a nameplate rating of 1,650 kilowatts each.  Which is why they need 110 of them for that 181.5 MW rating.  Which is more like 36-73 megawatts when factoring in the capacity factor.  Again, not a lot for all of the trouble they cause.  Which begs the question are they worth it?  From an economic standpoint the answer couldn’t be more ‘no’.  They’re very bad economics.  And people hate living by them.  So are they worth it?  It sure doesn’t look like it.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Energy Drives both Food Prices and the Economy. And Politics.

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 16th, 2011

The Left Promotes and Attacks Electrical Power

The Left wants to get rid of the internal combustion engine and make all cars green.  Plug-ins.  Cars with batteries that charge by plugging them into electrical outlets.  They say it will break our dependence on foreign oil.  And stimulate the economy with new green technology.  For the same reason they want to dot the landscape with high-speed electric trains.  They want to make everything electric.  Because electric motors don’t pollute.

At the same time there is an all out assault on electrical generation in this country.  The nuclear power industry (the closest to a ‘green’ useful source of electricity we have) has been stalled since 1979 thanks to The China Syndrome and Three Mile IslandHydroelectric dams (another ‘green’ source of useful electricity) kill fish and alter the ecosystem.  So we can’t build them anymore.  With two down they’re turning their sights onto fossil fuels.  And they’re locked and loaded (see E.P.A. Proposes New Emission Standards for Power Plants by John Broder and John Collins Rudolf posted 3/16/2011 on The New York Times).

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed the first national standard for emissions of mercury and other toxins from coal-burning power plants on Wednesday, a rule that could lead to the early closing of dozens of generating stations and is certain to be challenged by the utility industry and Republicans in Congress…

She estimated the total annual cost of compliance at about $10 billion, in line with some industry estimates (although some are much higher), and the health and environmental benefits at more than $100 billion a year. She said that households could expect to see their electric bills rise by $3 to $4 a month when the regulation is fully in force after 2015.

With the country struggling to come out of the greatest recession since the Great Depression they want to raise the cost of energy?  For what?  Health and environmental benefits they pull out of the air (there are no ledgers anywhere totaling these costs)?  To offset one of the highest regulatory costs to come down the pike in history?  This is insanity.  One has to ask do they want to push the nation into a depression?  Or are they that ignorant in things economic?

She said that installing and maintaining smokestack scrubbers and other control technology would create 31,000 short-term construction jobs and 9,000 permanent utility sector jobs.

Okay, we increase the cost of electricity forever but we get a few temporary construction jobs.  Construction jobs aside, if you do the math, each of those new permanent jobs will end up costing us over $1 million each year.  In addition to their wages and benefits.  All paid for by the electrical consumer.  The fact that they talk about this as a good thing shows their utter ignorance of things economic.  And contempt for the consumer.

The National Association of Manufacturers said the proposed rule would lead to higher electricity prices and significant job losses.

“In addition, electric system reliability could be compromised by coal retirements and new environmental construction projects caused by this proposed rule and other E.P.A. regulations,” said Aric Newhouse, the group’s vice president for government relations. “Stringent, unrealistic regulations such as these will curb the recent economic growth we have seen.”

Manufacturers use a lot of electricity.  The more they have to pay for it the less they can spend elsewhere.  The new utility costs will always be there.  To stay competitive in the market, they will have to offset that permanent increase with cuts in their operating costs.  Translation?  Layoffs.  Or they simply will not hire new people.  Instead they will make capital investments to increase their productivity.  And use fewer people.  This is how they do things when costs go up.  Either that or they will send manufacturing operations out of the country.

What Happens in Vegas isn’t much these Days

Economic activity is driven by disposable income.  That’s the money you have left after paying the things you have to pay for just to subsist.  Food.  Mortgage.  Gasoline.  Property taxes.  Those kind of things.  Once we pay these, we can splurge on economic stimulation with what’s left over.  Dinners out.  Movies.  Vacations.  And gambling (see The Penny Slot Economic Indicator by Douglas French posted 3/16/2011 on Ludwig von Mises Institute).

Those at the Fed and in the financial press are telling us that the economy is turning around. Corporate America is ginning up profits so prosperity on main street can’t be far away…

However, if gaming trends in Nevada are any indication the middle class is hurting. Tourism and gaming peaked in 2007, with middle America making the trek to the gambling city to sit down and play a little blackjack (or 21). Latest figures have blackjack revenue down 31 percent from 2007, the Las Vegas Sun reports.

Last year was the first time baccarat, a game favored by Chinese high-rollers, generated more revenue than blackjack. But the $1.2 billion in baccarat revenue pales next to the $2 billion that penny slot machines generated…

So Las Vegas is limping along dependent on high rollers from China and low rollers playing penny slots. “This is why Vegas got hammered,” Anthony Curtis, publisher of Las Vegas Advisor says. “It needs the middle market.”

Casinos worked in Las Vegas because people went to Las Vegas to lose their money.  It’s a destination city.  All the other cities who opened casinos to cure their budgetary woes saw no magic.  The middle class just spent their money at the casinos instead of at the movies or the restaurants.  And by taking staycations.  We spent the same amount of money in the community.  We just spent it at different locations.

The recession may be over according to Washington, but it’s not over for the middle class.  Because they haven’t returned to vacationing in Las Vegas.  Why?  They don’t have as much money as they used to have.  And prices are going up.  A double whammy.  They have less to spend and subsistence costs are on the rise.

If Energy Costs Rise Food Costs Rise

In the summer of 2010 the Obama administration was touting their summer of recovery.  Declaring that their stimulus spending had ended the recession.  They were a bit premature.  Unemployment is still close to 9%.  Despite all of their quantitative easing.  They printed a lot of money.  Didn’t help.  Worse, on top of stubborn high unemployment, prices are going up on almost everything (see Wholesale prices up 1.6 pct. on steep rise in food by the Associated Press posted 3/16/2011 on Yahoo! Finance).

Wholesale prices jumped last month by the most in nearly two years due to higher energy costs and the steepest rise in food prices in 36 years. Excluding those volatile categories, inflation was tame…

Food prices soared 3.9 percent last month, the biggest gain since November 1974. Most of that increase was due to a sharp rise in vegetable costs, which increased nearly 50 percent. That was the most in almost a year. Meat and dairy products also rose.

Energy prices rose 3.3 percent last month, led by a 3.7 percent increase in gasoline costs.

Separately, the Commerce Department said home construction plunged to a seasonally adjusted 479,000 homes last month, down 22.5 percent from the previous month. It was lowest level since April 2009, and the second-lowest on records dating back more than a half-century…

Food costs, meanwhile, are rising. Bad weather in the past year has damaged crops in Australia, Russia, and South America. Demand for corn for ethanol use has also contributed to the increase.

Prices rose 1 percent for apparel, the most in 21 years. Costs also increased for cars, jewelry, and consumer plastics.

Some would love to see $4/gallon gasoline again.  It would push people into electric cars and mass transportation.  But there’s a downside.  A big one.  Higher energy costs make everything more expensive.  Even our vegetables.  Because those vegetable don’t appear by magic in the grocery store.  They travel long ways on trucks that burn diesel fuel to get to the grocery store.

Food and energy are tied at the hip.  If energy costs rise food costs rise.  And when you siphon some food off to make low-energy ethanol that no one wants that just increases food costs more.  We should use food for food.  And oil for fuel.  It’s more cost efficient.  And consumers will have more money left over to stimulate the economy with.

The Left Makes a Very Poor Argument Against Nuclear Power

And speaking of energy, nuclear energy is in the news these days in a big way.  But not in a good way.  Japan has some reactors that were hit with a one-two punch of earthquake and tsunami.  The tsunami took out the cooling systems.  So there’s a little trepidation over these plants right now.  And absolute glee as anti-nuclear people exploit this for all it’s worth.  They’re saying, “See!  That’s what could happen in America right now.  And in Europe.  We need to stop all nuclear power.”  I’m paraphrasing, of course.  But you get the gist.  Why, some are even playing loose with facts.  Even lying.  And some are writing top 10 lists why nuclear power is bad and why solar and wind are good (see Too Cheap to Meter: The Top 10 Myths of Nuclear Power by Michael Rose posted 3/15/2011 on The Huffington Post).

The best way to generate new power for the long term is not to build nukes but to invest in large scale solar and wind, coupled with natural gas as a transition in the short term.

The problem has been coordinating the power produced when the wind blows and the sun shines, distributing the power and storage. There are solutions to all of these. “You need to link up the disparate sources to compensate for when the wind is blowing and the sun isn’t shining,”

Coordinating the wind and the sun?  Really?  That should be our energy policy?  And how will that work during a major blackout?  Like the Northeast Blackout of 2003?  Can solar power really run all our air conditioning systems during the dog days of summer?  Our fossil fuel-fired plants can’t always do that.  Can you imagine a hot summer without those high capacity plants?  The inevitable blackouts won’t be rolling.  They’ll simply be scheduled daily during air conditioning weather.

The nuclear industry has asked for loan guarantees from the Federal government because the banks looked at the risk and took a pass. With the loan guarantees in hand the companies can get financing and if they default, or walk away from the projects (which is what happened before) the taxpayers will be stuck with the bill. “It’s the same as if you defaulted on your mortgage and the Federal government had to step in to pay the banks back,” said Hirsch.

We saw above how new regulations are going to cost the coal-fired plant operators.  The new regulations will probably force some plants to shut down.  This is the fear of regulation.  Uncertainty.  If you change the rules midway through the game there’s a good chance you’re going to end up losing in the end.  Power plants are costly.  They are difficult to build because of the regulatory hoops you have to jump through.  It is a very high-risk game.  And nowhere are the risks and regulatory hoops greater than nuclear power.  These plants take even longer to build.  Are far more costly because of the regulatory compliance costs.  And have by far the greatest uncertainty because of the length of time from drawing board to operating on line because of these regulatory hurdles.  This is why banks don’t want to invest.  Because the government can change the rules and prevent a plant from ever going on line, leaving the bank to eat the construction costs.

It’s true that building the reactors does create jobs, but these disappear when the reactor is complete. And there are staff positions for running the reactors, providing maintenance and security but not enough to warrant the high costs and risks…

Ironically some fear that building new nukes will chase jobs away because electric rates will have to dramatically increase to pay them off. “No state ever created a net increase in jobs by raising electric rates to commercial and industrial customers. Such a policy drives jobs out of many businesses to create relatively few permanent jobs at the new reactor,” said Bradford.

Funny.  The same arguments work for other federal stimulus spending.  Those short-term construction jobs are good when they’re trying to pass a stimulus bill.  But it’s not good if it will stimulate nuclear power.  And they say here that increasing the cost of electricity will kill jobs.  Meanwhile, increasing the cost of electricity by adding new regulations for coal-fired plants will increase jobs.  Costs are funny that way.  Sometimes they’re bad.  Sometimes they’re good.  Sometimes they’re rooted in reality.  Other times, in fantasy.

France is pointed to as demonstrable proof that nuclear power can be affordable and safe. While it’s true France gets about 75% of its electricity from nuclear power and that it has avoided a large scale disaster but we don’t know very much about their accident record since its industry is nationalized and run behind a veil of secrecy…

It also adds to the costs of the producing nuclear power which is one reason French electric rates are 20% above U.S. rates despite subsidies, according to Bradford.

So, yes, France has energy independence.  And they haven’t had a nuclear disaster.  But that doesn’t mean anything.  They could.  Just because they didn’t doesn’t mean they can’t have a China syndrome next week.  Or tomorrow.  So we should proceed as if they will.  Despite their safety record.  And the cost?  Interesting.  Because the source they cite paints a little different picture.

The present situation is due to the French government deciding in 1974, just after the first oil shock, to expand rapidly the country’s nuclear power capacity. This decision was taken in the context of France having substantial heavy engineering expertise but few indigenous energy resources. Nuclear energy, with the fuel cost being a relatively small part of the overall cost, made good sense in minimising imports and achieving greater energy security.

As a result of the 1974 decision, France now claims a substantial level of energy independence and almost the lowest cost electricity in Europe. It also has an extremely low level of CO2 emissions per capita from electricity generation, since over 90% of its electricity is nuclear or hydro.

In mid 2010 a regular energy review of France by the International Energy Agency urged the country increasingly to take a strategic role as provider of low-cost, low-carbon base-load power for the whole of Europe rather than to concentrate on the energy independence which had driven policy since 1973.

Energy independence?  Low fuel costs?  Almost the cheapest electricity in Europe?  Extremely low CO2 emissions?  And the International Energy Agency wants them to be the provider of “low-cost, low-carbon base-load power for the whole of Europe…”  I don’t know.  These sound like good things to me.  Talk about being a bit disingenuous.  And by a bit I mean a lot.  Clearly they are cherry-picking some facts to forward an agenda.  Speaking of which, back to the HuffPo.

All civilian nuclear programs create spent fuel that can be reprocessed into weapons grade plutonium. This is what Iran, North Korea, India and Pakistan have done.

It doesn’t take much. At first you needed a chunk of plutonium about the size of a softball now it’s down to the size of a golf ball. “If a country has done its engineering, it can take about a week to go to a bomb,” said Gillinsky. “Safeguard inspections are too late.”

And here we come to why we use the energy we use.  Because it’s concentrated.  A little bit of nuclear fuel goes a long way.  Just like our fossil fuels.  That’s why our cars run on gasoline.  Because it’s easy to store and it’s highly concentrated.  With a small tank of fuel you can drive a very long way.  While carrying your whole family.  And a lot of your stuff.  That’s why we don’t drive electric cars.  You can’t do any of this in a battery-electric car.  The battery takes up too much space.  And you just can’t go very far on a charge.

Solar farms and wind farms are not concentrated sources of energy.  The very term we use to describe these generating ‘plants’ tells us this.  You need so many of them that we call them ‘farms’.  Not ‘plants’.  And even with a large footprint their electricity output won’t come close to what the power plants using concentrated-fuels can produce.  A couple of reactors on a small site can power a large city.  It would take a very large plantation of solar panels and windmills to produce the same amount of electricity.  And they will only produce when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing.  Our concentrated fuel-fired power plant will be there 24/7, day or night, rain or shine.

Will the Great Recession turn into the Great Depression II?

Never before has our energy policy been in such a mess.  The children have taken control of policy.  They’re promoting fanciful solar panels and windmills no doubt while dreaming of unicorns and sugar plum fairies.  They don’t understand energy.  Or economics. 

Energy costs.  Construction costs.  Fuel costs are recurring.  While construction costs are one-time.  Therefore, the best economic policy would be to minimize fuel costs.  And coal, natural gas, oil, and nuclear do just that.  You get huge amounts of energy from small amounts of fuel.  Especially nuclear.

Yes, sunshine and wind are free.  And you can’t minimize fuel costs more than free (except with nuclear that can use some nuclear waste to produce more fuel).  But the infrastructure cost to make solar and wind provide meaningful amounts of energy are staggering.  A nuclear plant can sit on a small footprint out of the way.  While solar and wind farms will take acres of land.  Or water (for offshore wind generation). 

While they play with energy and economic policies, consumer costs rise everywhere.  And will continue to do so.  As a direct consequence of their policies.  Consumers pay more.  And the greatest recession since the Great Depression drags on.  Perhaps turning recession into depression.  Could the Great Depression II be around the corner?  I hope not.  But one can’t rule it out with the current administration.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Anti-Nuclear Crowd yearns for Chernobyl in Japan

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 13th, 2011

Enough of Exploiting Japan’s Disaster for Political Gain

First it was an environmentalist saying global warming caused the 8.9 magnitude earthquake.  A sure grasping of straws in their quest to move man back into the cave.  Then it was anti-nuclear power Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, the senior Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, who said we should learn from Japan’s near Chernobyl-like disaster.  And move back into the cave.  And now it’s Senator Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, chiming in (see “Put the brakes” on nuclear power plants: Lieberman by Will Dunham posted 3/13/2011 on Reuters).

“I don’t want to stop the building of nuclear power plants,” independent Senator Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said on the CBS program “Face the Nation.”

“But I think we’ve got to kind of quietly put, quickly put the brakes on until we can absorb what has happened in Japan as a result of the earthquake and the tsunami and then see what more, if anything, we can demand of the new power plants that are coming on line,” Lieberman added.

Put the brakes on?  What, he wants to slow down from the breakneck speed we’re building new nuclear power plants and bringing them on line?  That’s going to be pretty hard to do considering the speed we’re going at.  I mean, when was the last time we built a nuclear power plant in the United States?

It’s not about what happened at the Fukushima Power Plant, it’s about what hasn’t Happened

We’re missing the big picture here.  The nuke plants didn’t kill or wipe out cities yet.  Like the earthquake-tsunami one-two punch has.  Let’s not lose sight of that little fact (see Nuclear Overreactions posted 3/14/2011 on The Wall Street Journal).

Part of the problem is the lack of media proportion about the disaster itself. The quake and tsunami have killed hundreds, and probably thousands, with tens of billions of dollars in damage. The energy released by the quake off Sendei is equivalent to about 336 megatons of TNT, or 100 more megatons than last year’s quake in Chile and thousands of times the yield of the nuclear explosion at Hiroshima. The scale of the tragedy is epic.

Yet the bulk of U.S. media coverage has focused on a nuclear accident whose damage has so far been limited and contained to the plant sites. In simple human terms, the natural destruction of Earth and sea have far surpassed any errors committed by man.

So in the grand scheme of things, the Japanese nuclear plants are minor players in this great tragedy.  Even that embellishes their role.  Much of Japan lies in waste.  Because of the earthquake and the tsunami.  The nukes so far have been innocent bystanders in the death and destruction.  But it’s all we focus on.  Even though they haven’t really done anything yet.  But under the right set of circumstances that don’t currently exist…they could.   So we use the big ‘what if’ to further shut down the already shutdown American nuclear power industry.  Why?  Simple.  Because congress can’t place a moratorium on earthquakes or tsunamis.

So back to that question.  When was the last time we built a nuclear power plant in the United States?

But more than other energy sources, nuclear plants have had their costs increased by artificial political obstacles and delay. The U.S. hasn’t built a new nuclear plant since 1979, after the Three Mile Island meltdown, even as older nuclear plants continue to provide 20% of the nation’s electricity.

So Senator Joe Lieberman wants to tap the breaks on a car that’s been parked and in the garage since 1979.  How does he do it?  Where does the genius come from?

No coal.  No oil.  And now no nukes.  Translation?  No power.  I guess we should practice our hunting and gathering skills.  Because we’re going to need them when we move back into the cave.  Of course, we’ll have to eat our food cold.  You know.  Carbon footprint.  From those foul, nasty, polluting campfires.

In America, Coal, Oil and Nuclear Power all Wear Black Hats

Some in Congress just love the planet so much.  They want to get rid of coal and oil and replace them with clean energy.  Which means nuclear power.  Because windmills and solar panels just won’t produce enough power.  Especially when they want us all driving tiny little electric cars that are going to suck more juice off our strained electrical grid.  And just how strained is our electric grid?  Remember the Northeast Blackout of 2003

High summer currents caused power lines to sag into untrimmed trees.  As lines failed some power plants dropped off the grid.  This strained other power plants.  And other power lines.  More lines failed.  More plants dropped off the grid.  This cascade of failures didn’t end until most of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Ontario lost power.  It was huge.  And if you experienced that hot, stifling, August blackout, you know that windmills wouldn’t have helped.  There was no breeze blowing.  And solar panels wouldn’t have helped you sleep at night.  Because there’s no sun at night.  No.  What would have helped was some big-capacity power generation.  Like a coal plant.  An oil plant.  Or a nuke plant.

Energy demands increase with population.  And with electric cars.  We need more generation capacity.  And the only viable green solution is nuclear power.  And now we’re dilly dallying about the dangers of clean nuclear power because of what didn’t happen in Japan (see Japan Does Not Face Another Chernobyl by William Tucker posted 3/14/2011 on The Wall Street Journal).

Rep. Ed Markey (D., Mass.), a longtime opponent of nuclear power, has warned of “another Chernobyl” and predicted “the same thing could happen here.” In response, he has called for an immediate suspension of licensing procedures for the Westinghouse AP1000, a “Generation III” reactor that has been laboring through design review at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for seven years.

Talk about the irony of ironies.  The Soviet-era nuclear reactor at Chernobyl was the most dangerous ever used.  That reactor went ‘Chernobyl’ because of its design.  A graphite core that caught fire.  And no containment vessel that let plumes from that fire spread radioactive fallout throughout western Russia and Europe.  If the Soviets had used the type of reactor that’s getting all the media attention in Japan, there would have been no Chernobyl disaster.  And now the irony.  Rep. Markey wants to suspend licensing of the world’s safest nuclear reactor (the Generation III) by citing the world’s most dangerous reactor that Japan doesn’t even use. 

But facts don’t matter when you’re just against nuclear power.  No matter how safe the Generation III design is.  Or the fact that it doesn’t even need cooling pumps. 

On all Generation II reactors—the ones currently in operation—the cooling water is circulated by electric pumps. The new Generation III reactors such as the AP1000 have a simplified “passive” cooling system where the water circulates by natural convection with no pumping required.

Despite this failsafe cooling system, there are calls to stop the licensing.  To put the brakes on.  To move back into caves.  All because of what didn’t happen at Fukushima.  What didn’t happen at Three Mile Island.  But what did happen in a Hollywood movieThe China Syndrome.  (But that’s a whole other story.)

If a meltdown does occur in Japan, it will be a disaster for the Tokyo Electric Power Company but not for the general public. Whatever steam releases occur will have a negligible impact. Researchers have spent 30 years trying to find health effects from the steam releases at Three Mile Island and have come up with nothing. With all the death, devastation and disease now threatening tens of thousands in Japan, it is trivializing and almost obscene to spend so much time worrying about damage to a nuclear reactor.

What the Japanese earthquake has proved is that even the oldest containment structures can withstand the impact of one of the largest earthquakes in recorded history. The problem has been with the electrical pumps required to operate the cooling system. It would be tragic if the result of the Japanese accident were to prevent development of Generation III reactors, which eliminate this design flaw.

Looking at Japan with Awe and Reverence

Japan has been nuclear since 1966.  They now have some 53 nuclear reactors providing up to a third of their electricity.  Yes, Japan lies on the Ring of Fire.  Yes, Japan gets hit by a lot of tsunamis.  And, yes, they now have a problem at a couple of their reactors.  But the other 50 or so reactors are doing just fine.  Let’s stop attacking their nuclear program.  So far they’ve done a helluva job.  And the Japanese know a thing or two about nuclear disasters.  They lived through two.  Hiroshima.  And Nagasaki.  Which make Chernobyl look like a walk in a park.  If anyone knows the stakes of the nuclear game, they do.  And it shows.

We should be looking at Japan with awe and reverence.  If they can safely operate nuke plants on fault lines and in tsunami alley, then, by God, we should be able to do it where things aren’t quite as demanding.  And should.  It is time we put on our big-boy pants and start acting like men.  Before we give up on all energy and move back into the cave.  And down a notch or two on the food chain.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,