Vicki OSIS .... and Thanks so much for your interest. You give me hope.
There is consensus among scientists that we can no longer halt climate change but can only work to slow its progress and lessen its impacts.
• Our current situation, C02 concentrations in the atmosphere are at their highest levels since 1961 when the announcement was first sent out by Charles David Keeling, who produced data showing that carbon dioxide levels were rising steadily in what became known as the "Keeling Curve".
• The US has not signed the last three IPCC protocols to reduce emissions and currently has no national policy to reduce emissions.
James Hanson, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies notes that if we replace all our coal fired electric power plants with emission free energy sources we can reduce C02 emissions enough to save us from the worst effects of climate change. (there are 600 coal plants in the US) We must act now as we have only 10 years left to try to slow C02 emissions to levels that will reduce the worst effects of climate change. (he made his statement in 2010) Hanson goes on to say “It is extremely irresponsible to make the assumption that efficiency and renewable energy sources are all that will be needed to save us from the worst of climate change and will provide the energy to run our nation.
Solution: 1. Our biggest need is a public who is aware of the risks that we are facing by not reducing out C02 emissions! We need a public that is willing to speak out and demand change. Only with a knowledgeable public can we bring pressure to bear on our governmental officials to make the transition away from coal and oil as our main energy sources.
Solution 2. We need to use every possible emission free source of energy we have and demand that funding be made available to do the research to develop the high intensity energy sources we need. Some experts say it will take an effort comparable to the effort to put a man on the moon or maybe a better comparison is the effort and dollars we put into winning the 2nd world war.
Solution 3. The public needs to know the risks and drawbacks with each energy choice and be able to make intelligent choices based on the best information that scientists can provide.
Solution 4. Switching to electric cars. Electric cars are now on the market. Since we do not shut down our electric generating plants at night, by recharging the cars at night, energy will be available to meet the recharging demand. We must develop a public who is willing to transition from a gas powered cars to electric.
The following provides information about the energy choices we currently have and the pluses and drawbacks of each.
Comparison of the generating capacity of green energy compared to nuclear energy.
Power generated by a power station is measured in multiples of watts, megawatts (10 to 6th watts or gigawatts (10 to 9th)
• Wind farms: A large wind farm with 44 turbines produces 101 megawatts
• Solar Power : One of the largest solar powered plants in the world in the Mojave Desert of California produces 354 megawatts.
• Gas Powered- Medway Power station in Kent , UK makes 700 megawatts. (gas plants release half the amount of C02 that coal plants emits)
• Hydroelectric - Aswan Dam in Egypt has a capacity of 2.1 gigawatts.
Wind Farm largest is in Oregon (to be completed 2012) 889 megawatts (has 300 wind towers.)
• Nuclear : Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant 802 megawatts
Wind and Solar do not have the energy intensity to meet our energy demands. Solar units for homes in cloudy northern states currently only produce about 1/3 of an average home’s energy needs. (source solar energy agent) Promises of more efficiency and cheaper units are still being developed but have yet to be brought to market.
We have 104 aging nuclear plants built in the 1950’s that need replacing and we have no energy policy to dictate what energy source to replace them. These conventional Nuclear plants only burn 1% of energy in the fuel rods; the remainder is left in the fuel rods leaving them with high levels of radioactive toxicity. These "spent" rods must safely be stored for 10,000 years until that toxicity has depleted. *The spent rods are currently stored on site in pools in the existing plants. On-site storage of spent fuel in dry casks has become increasingly popular among licensees needing additional capacity for storing spent fuel. Fuel that has been stored for at least five years in water has cooled sufficiently, and its radioactivity decreased enough, for it to be removed from the spent fuel pool and loaded into casks for dry storage. This frees up additional space in the pool for storing spent fuel newly removed from the reactor. (source US Nuclear Regulatory Agency)* the spent fuel rods stored in the Fukushima plants in Japan was one reason their melt down was so horrific.
What are our options for emission free energy sources.
Bloom Boxes Fuel Cells http://tinyurl.com/82bst5h
These are fuel cells that use natural gas as fuel, but do not burn the fuel therefore less emissions. (see problems with mining for natural gas) Bloom boxes are on the market and being used by companies such as Google.
Nuclear produces electricity with no C02 emissions.
Arguments in favor of nuclear power (from Hanson Book. Storms of my Grandchildren.).
•Fast Breeder Reactors (FBR) , the new improved ones, called "Third Generation" do not depend on mining more uranium.
• FBRs use spent fuel from old conventional nuclear reactors, and nuclear wastes from nuclear weapons production. That spent fuel is toxic for 10,000 years and no permanent storage site has yet been found.
• Conventional reactors only burn 1% of energy in the fuel rods; the remainder is left in the fuel rods which is the reason for their radioactive toxicity.
• FBRs burn 99% of the remaining fuel rod’s energy. They multiply the fuel as well as produce electricity. Hanson estimates we have 1000 years of energy using the FBR technology.
• The spent fuel rods from the Fast Breeder Reactors is toxic for only 2 centuries during which they decay and becomes non toxic. A great improvement over 10,000 years.
• The technology is available and they can be built now.
These are large powerplants that will take years to site and build.
Small scale nuclear reactors. All the nuclear accidents, Fukushima Daiichi complex, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl all occurred because of pump failure. Pumps are needed to provide a constant supply of cooling water for the nuclear reactors. If the cool water supply is halted the nuclear core over heats and melt down occurs.
Nuclear has the energy intensity to meet our needs, but the fear aroused by the Fukushima has resulted in Japan shutting their nuclear plants and now are bringing back on line their oil and coal fired plants. Germany has also started to shut down its nuclear plants and replace it with coal.
In the US small modular nuclear reactors are under development and soon may be available including NuScale. NuScale does not use pumps but rather convection currents for cooling the core reactor. NuScale offers small separate modules and many modules can be added to a site. They can be installed on coal plant power sites and hook into the existing grid. These are expected to be ready for installation soon. http://www.nuscalepower.com/ot-Scalable-Nuclear-Power-Technology.php
The other small-scale nuclear reactor currently under development is Terra power. (ready maybe by 2030). These units use waste uranium (spent rods) for electricity production and also do not use pumps for cooling. Bill Gates is investing in this research and development. See Gates Ted Talks Terrapower. They researching ways to burn more of the energy left in the radioactive wastes. Reduce the time the rod must be stored and supply us with emission free energy that we need. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaF-fq2Zn7I and http://tinyurl.com/2b5nzd5
Examples of small nuclear reactors.
Toshiba Mini nuclear reactors
Hyperion mini nuclear plants.
All our energy choices come with issues. Wind and solar are emission free but are not energy intensive, Natural gas releases half the C02 of a Coal plant but mining for natural gas involves fracking. “fracking” (pumping water and chemicals under high pressure into shale to release gas from rock strata). This has contaminated ground water supplies in many states. In Arkansas, spring 2011, fracking, released uranium present in the rocks, contaminating ground water with radioactivity. Lousiana and in other states fracking liquids have contaminated ground water supplies ruining fresh water supplies for towns, cities and wells for household use.
(New York Times Feb 2011 from EPA study)
As for reducing our dependency on oil, electric cars are now on the market. Since we do not shut down our electric plants at night, by recharging the cars at night, the reduced demand in energy would meet the recharging demand.