environment,energy,greenhouse,gas,carbon,dioxide,global,nuclear energy,clean energy,emissions,global climate change,environmental impacts, Nuclear Energy Can Save US: July 2009

Nuclear Energy Can Save US--America�s 100 nukes equal four million barrels of oil per day.

Billions of lives and civilization itself may be at risk from the Global Warming & End of Cheap Oil, Crisis. Rising sea levels and rising oil prices could be the end of civilization as we know it. The problem is so huge that the most powerful answer, many nuclear plants, must be deployed. Currently, America‘s 100 nukes deliver the energy of four million barrels of oil per day. Wind and solar cannot do the job, and may delay the real answer too long. Still, all kinds of clean energy, plus conservation, plus reducing deforestation, will be needed to help the poor half of the world, and for civilization to survive through this century.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Arctic Ice Cap Melt Season Is On.

Unfortunately for the polar bears, winter Arctic Ice Cap data in my May 23, 2009 post may have been exaggerated. More reliable looking (carefully specified), data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, Boulder, Colorado shows that April 1, and May 1, 2009, ice cap coverage was only about 700,000 to 800,000 square-km (300,000 square-miles) more than the same dates in 2007 (lowest year of ice cap coverage). This is much less than(up only 6%, not 15%--this may just be an aberration of ocean currents, rather than evidence of lower solar energy) the 2,000,000 square-kilometers reported by some Canadian source. The Center says that the melt season is gaining steam. See http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/. I will watch NSIDC closely next winter.
If a slightly cooler Sun does not really mitigate global warming from fossil fuels, then we still have to develop massive supplies of pollution-free energy, primarily from nuclear and wind farm plants. America’s 100, one-gig nukes, deliver energy equal to four million barrels of oil per day. Since the world currently uses 80 MBPD, oil energy is equal to 2000, one-gig nukes. Since oil energy is about 40% of world energy, world energy is equivalent to 5000, one-gig nukes. It is likely that with 300-400 each in China and India, 1000 or more will be built this century, but that will not be enough.
Many believe that wind turbines will be the best solution. It would work, but only if huge numbers of large turbines are built, and there may be a limiting factor. The Altamount Pass, CA, wind farm (frequently cited), has 5400 turbines. Many of these must be small, since the total rated energy only equals 62% of a one-gig nuke. Furthermore, the rated energy is only delivered for some percentage of any day due to wind variation (25% is often stated as the norm). Suppose that the pass has steadier wind, and delivers 33% of the time. 33% of 62% is about 20% of a one-gig nuke. It would take five times 5400, or 27,000, wind turbines with the same array of sizes as the Altamount Pass, wind farm to equal a one-gig nuke.
There are some serious problems with wind turbines; the blades kill many raptors and bats (a very useful species). However, I think that the Achilles Heel for wind energy may be cement for the concrete footings for the towers. Nukes also need lots of concrete (75,000 tons/plant), but my gut feeling is that a wind farm equal to a one-gig nuke would take 5, 10, or even more times this much. For 2500-kw turbines: 2500 into one million kw (one-gig nuke) equals 400 towers. With 33% wind, 1200 towers (three times 400) are needed. 1200 into 75,000 tons, allows only 65 tons per footing. To me, this seems incredibly light. Larger, 3600-kw towers are planned for New Jersey, in shallow water, off-shore for good wind. Underwater footings to support 30-foot diameter masts would have to be buried in the seafloor. Each might well take dozens and dozens of times more than 65 tons of concrete. (Does anyone have any data on this subject?) Furthermore, even now, with only a few thousands of towers constructed worldwide each year, production of cement, an energy-intensive industry, produces 4% of world CO2. Cement production for massive tower deployment may cause so much concurrent CO2, that the benefit of CO2 saved during years of operation, will be nowhere near what the industry hopes.