Saturday, 21 February 2009

Saturday 21/02/09

Hey – I’ve had a good idea. Why doesn’t Jade Goody donate the money she’s getting from selling her wedding photos to cervical cancer research, or would that perhaps be a bit too altruistic? It’s not as if she hasn’t got enough money already – more than enough for her kids’ education. Or is there another motive behind this? I always get suspicious when Max Clifford gets involved and portrays vacuous and vulgar people as paragons of virtue. Will there perhaps be a miraculous recovery in the next couple of months? I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

The burning question of the day is where I can purchase Jack and Jade celebration mugs and plates. Answers to the usual address.

Talking of greed, the biggest teachers' union in England and Wales, the NUT, is calling for a 10% pay rise and says the economic downturn should not be an "excuse" for low pay rises.

Government tax receipts are in a downward spiral due to companies not selling much and staff being laid off or made redundant. The car industry, on which hundreds of thousands in the supply market rely, is calling for government aid to keep it afloat. All (except apparently teachers) are worrying about whether they will be able to weather the storm, yet teachers are talking about exorbitant pay rises. I wonder where the NUT suggests the inflation-busting pay increases are going to come from? Nurses? The police? Road sweepers? If teachers are unhappy with their pay, why don’t they do what the rest of us do in similar circumstances – get another better paid one! Or are they saying they are unemployable elsewhere?

Are you capable of making a bio-diesel catalyst? Here’s a link that allows you to mix two chemicals and see if you can create a simple bio-fuel catalyst.

I thought today I’d have a rant about the nuclear debate.

I’m an advocate of mass adoption of nuclear power. Why? Because it’s the only viable solution to the exponential growth in the need for electricity. I also happen to like big bangs.

Oil and gas stocks are fast running out and we have enough for only 20-30 years. Coal is more plentiful, with enough for maybe 290 years but, as with all fossil fuels, coal contributes to climate change and is dirty (if you don’t believe me, just try rubbing a lump of coal in your hands). Whether you believe in anthropogenic climate change or not, there’s no denying that coal pollutes. The World Health Organisation maintains that 3 million people p.a. are killed by outdoor pollution and another 1.6 million from indoor use of solid fuel – nowhere near that many die from nuclear power plant explosions. While research is going on into clean-burn coal, the stocks just aren’t large enough for a long term solution to the 5kW society (5kW being the average person’s continuous power drain, globally, in some 30-50 years time).

Renewables, like wind, solar and wave, are simply incapable of producing the vast amount of power required in the longer term. They will certainly be useful adjuncts, but with current and anticipated levels of efficiency and availability they can supply only a fraction of our needs. The other big drawback is that they are subject to weather conditions – if it’s a calm and cloudy day, you ain’t going to be able to cook your din-dins on the wind / solar powered Barbie without a battery the size of a car. Also, there’s only a finite area on which you can put wind farms and as the prime sites get used up they will have to be placed in less suitable locations – like your back yard – meaning that the law of diminishing returns will kick in. One humungous wind turbine per garden doesn’t bear thinking about, and relying on solar power in the UK is just wishful thinking.

Bio fuels are worse than fossil fuels for causing pollution, and if we want cheap food for the billions of hungry mouths the chavs are busy spewing forth, then any agricultural land is going to HAVE to be devoted to food crops.

There is an argument that nuclear power plants cost much more than conventional power plants. That’s a side issue. Once fossil fuels become fully depleted, then a pint of oil or a lump of coal will be more expensive than a Damien Hirst diamond-encrusted skull. Also, a lot of the cost is as a direct result of delays and law suits instigated by the bloody environmentalists.

How about the danger aspect of nuclear? Well, fission is certainly dangerous, or else we wouldn’t have the words ‘nuclear deterrent’, but nowhere near as dangerous in power production as it was in the 70s and 80s. Modern reactors are much safer and staff have much better training. It was said that the chief engineer of Chernobyl had about the same level of knowledge of nuclear physics as an A level student, which means none – I guess he had a multiple choice exam and relied on a bit of course-work.

How about disposal of nuclear waste? A large nuclear plant produces no more than 2 or 3 cubic metres of waste a year. Compare than with the mountains of waste from a coal-fired plant – both physical slag and gaseous carbon. The length of time nuclear waste has to be stored is controversial because there is a question of whether one should use the original ore or surrounding rock as a safe-level reference. The ding-bat anti-nuclear organisations use potting compost from your back yard as a reference, whereas more sensible people argue that geologically disposed waste can be considered safe once it is no more radioactive than the uranium ore from which it was produced, which is an eminently more sane viewpoint. We don’t create nuclear fuel ex-nihilo.; it’s a product derived from naturally occurring ores. As such it can be neutralised by bulking it out to the same level as when it was mined. Even an A level student should grasp that concept.

However, there’s one big barrier in the way of nuclear power, and that’s the fact that we only have enough fissile material stocks for another 70 or so years, and the Taliban, North Korea and Iran are trying to corner the market for themselves. The solution therefore is nuclear fusion plants. Fusion has a number of advantages:
  • The half-life of the radioisotopes produced by fusion are less than those from fission (around 50 to 100 years, rather than thousands), so that the waste inventory decreases more rapidly.
  • Nuclear fusion is nowhere near as dangerous as fission and has a much reduced capacity for catastrophic accidents.
  • The overlap with nuclear weapons technology is small.
  • Current lithium reserves would last 3000 years, lithium from sea water would last 60 million years, and a more complicated fusion process using only deuterium from sea water would provide enough fuel for 150 billion years – longer than the time to the end of the universe.

The sun is the largest fusion reactor within a few light years of our planet; unfortunately it’s a bit too far away to produce the amount of power we need to sustain our technologically advanced society (just think of the Large Hadron Collider’s electricity bill). We have to recreate lots of mini suns here on earth. Commercially viable fusion power is still a long way off, but if that is our goal, we must first grasp fission in both hands (although not literally, as you’ll die of radiation poisoning) as a stepping stone.

14 comments:

  1. I LIKE your blog :-) found you by way of Charmaine....Keep on ranting...it is fabulous. i look forward to reading more

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  2. I hate wind farms - awful ugly things. Give me a well-run nuclear plant any day.

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  3. Maybe not so far away:

    Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained
    Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration?

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  4. Suggest you to provide link to

    www.energyenvironmentforum.com

    and encourage your readers to use the Energy Environment Forum and get a link back !
    energyenvironmentforum at gmail dot com

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  5. What on earth is the matter with you? If Ms Goody chooses to go out in a way she enjoys – and if she makes a bit of cash doing it – Why not – What’s this dignified bit you keep harping on about – there is nothing remotely dignified about death – do you mean sitting in a corner with a blanket over your head so no-one knows you’re there and thus you don’t disturb the even tenor of other people’s lives?

    Good on you Jade – I wish that I could do what you’re doing – I wish I could generate some income for my estate by my death but even more I wish I could exit accompanied by a band, acrobats in spangled tights, performing elephants and a TV crew. And if that is too much for you creepy load of old farts hiding behind the appalling Daily Telegraph and harrumphing into your glass of whisky perhaps, just perhaps, Ms Goody is doing some good by publicizing death and making us all a little less fearful of it.

    Get a life and then perhaps you can have a death.

    Richard x x x

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  6. Richard,

    Goody's impending death (although for someone at death's door, she looks remarkably healthy) has nothing to do with her being crass, loud-mouthed or objectionable in the extreme. Those are enduring qualities which we have come to expect from her.

    Dying or not, she's not someone I would like to live nextdoor too - nor, I suspect, would you.

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  7. Doesn't matter whether we like her or not - the great British public do and she is using that opportunity - 'cos she enjoys it and I say HURRAH! Bring on the dancers.

    Richard x

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  8. Richard,

    The Great Brisish public likes watching road crashes. It also hates people like Gail Trimble.

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  9. But that is not the argument - Ms Goody wants to exit in a particular way - you don't seem to approve - but if she wants to do it that way - with the Public cheering her on - which they seem willing to do then why not? And she might just do a bit of good by bringing death and the dying out of the closet.

    Allow other people the freedom to live their deaths to the full!

    Richard x x x

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  10. She's free to exit in whatever manner she chooses. What I object to it the national celebration of crassness and intellectual paucity she represents.

    What she's doing is holding up a mirror to the nation - and a large portion of the nation sees themselves in her. They celebrate being moronic and see it as a positive attribute.

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  11. I suppose she's the chav equivalent of Fred Goodwin.

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  12. Richard,

    Hay asks whether after a session of chemo you are feeling well enough to be fully made up and have a row with a neighbour in froot of cameras.

    There's something about this which just isn't authentic.

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  13. Row with the Neighbours? Depends on the Neighbours - for the opportunity to row with some of mine I would rise Lazarus-like from my death bed.

    Actually it depends on the Chemotherapy - after the first one I had it would have been impossible for several days - after this final one - the third - there were no real immediate side effects and I happily drove myself back from the hospital

    Also different people are affected in different ways by chemotherepy.

    Love to Haley

    Richard x x x

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