Archive for the Nuclear Category

COP 21 – Finally Agreement, But What Now?

Posted in America, Britain, Conservation, Environment, European Union, Health, Modern World, News, Nuclear, Toxic Waste with tags , , , , on 13/12/2015 by floroy1942
COP 21 - Our Last Chance?

COP 21 – Our Last Chance?

It is good to see that almost two hundred countries have finally reached agreement on a programme to limit climate change, but will it be as empty a promise as all the others? I hope not, because the future of mankind on this planet is at stake. For twenty years nations of the world have come together in an effort to agree measures to halt climate change, but sadly all have failed until now.

Although nations agreed to take action in past conferences, none of the resolutions reached have been successfully acted upon. This makes me think that many nations will once again renege on the agreements reached this time. Why, because the necessary changes will be very expensive.

It Doesn't Grow On Trees

It Doesn’t Grow On Trees

Even most rich countries will be hard-pressed to make the necessary changes, but the majority of poorer countries simply cannot. So it remains to be seen if the rich countries can assist these poorer nations in achieving the goals set out by the conference, even though a binding agreement has been reached for them to provide $65B each to assist them. Personally, I doubt it.

Life today is all about money, and most countries will be loath to give away their riches to some poor country that cannot even feed its people, let alone make the huge changes required to stop global warming. Even if the money is given, without proper control there is no guarantee that it will all be spent for the purpose to which it was intended. As usual, the big problem is corruption, and much of it will disappear into the offshore bank accounts of corrupt politicians.

Self Explanatory

Self Explanatory

The human race has, for the greater part, become self-centred and greedy over the past fifty years, and all most people think about today is their own well-being and riches. They don’t give a damn about tomorrow and the kind of existence they are passing on to future generations. So long as they have a comfortable life and ridiculous amounts of money in their bank account that is all that counts. Even if they have a billion dollars they still want more, and to hell with the starving millions and climate change.

To me this shows a complete inadequacy in human intelligence, and unfortunately, unless there are drastic changes in our thinking mankind is doomed on this planet. It is absolutely essential that all countries and all people begin to cooperate and share the cost of changing the way we live to improve the environment.

Pollution Rise

Pollution Rise

Over the last century with the rise in technology and manufacturing, we are steadily destroying our world to the extent where if it continues, all life will end on the planet within a few generations. We are decimating the wildlife, poisoning the ground and seas that give us life, and are rapidly approaching a point in man’s history where it will be too late to go back. This is why the agreements reached at this conference are so vital to the continued existence of mankind on the Earth. Sadly few people can see how desperate the situation is, and are loath to change their comfortable lifestyle.

Main CO2 Sources

Main CO2 Sources

The two biggest polluters are fossil fuel burning power stations and the vehicles on our roads, which now number over a billion world-wide. The conference has agreed that a significant reduction in the use of fossil fuels is desperately required to slow down the contamination of our atmosphere by CO2. To limit the biggest impact will mean reducing the number of fossil fuel burning power stations and a reduction in the number of vehicles on our roads.

Today in China cities are on red alert for atmospheric contamination caused by the many coal-burning factories they have, and to save the situation many have been temporarily shut down.

China - If We Do Not Change This Could Be All Of Us!

China – If We Do Not Change This Could Be All Of Us!

This is a real indication that we need to stop using coal and other fossil fuels as a source of power and find a cleaner alternative. There are many alternatives people will say, like nuclear and wind energy, but to change to these sources will be astronomically expensive for any nation.

Wind power in particular is not as efficient as many think, for the generators are extremely costly and prone to breakdown, also relying on the weather which may or may not be suitable. Light winds are not enough and conversely, strong winds require them to be shut down to avoid major damage.

Alternatives

Alternatives

Nuclear power is the best option, but then you have the problem of disposing of the nuclear waste. Our best hope is that scientists can come up with a completely new method of power generation that is safe. I am not holding my breath on that one!

With the resources we have it is clear that a massive amount of time and money needs to be spent to rid ourselves of the plague that is fossil fuel. It must be done as quickly as possible, for the longer we wait the harder it will be. I just hope that all the rhetoric passed back and forth at the conference will result in us finally saving the future of our planet and species.

Roy.

World-Wide Electricity Crisis

Posted in Britain, England, Environment, Europe, Germany, Nuclear, Security Council, UN, United Nations, USA with tags , , , , on 26/04/2011 by floroy1942

At 01.00hrs this morning the switches were thrown to shut off the electricity generators prior to taking the nuclear reactor offline at Gundesheim power plant in Eastern Germany. Gundesheim was the last operational nuclear power plant in the world.

Nuclear Electricity Generation By Country – 2008

As a result of the Fukushima nuclear emergency following the earthquake and tsunami, public opinion and daily demonstrations across the globe finally forced nations to come together at the UN. This resulted in Resolution 1992 which demanded all nuclear power plants across the world be shut down within six months. The first country to complete the shutdown was France, followed by India, Pakistan, Brazil the United Kingdom and Spain.

The net result has been a massive 25% drop in power generation across the world. Consequently, cities have been forced to reduce underground rail and tram systems that rely on electricity by 40%, and electric powered train services across the world have been cut by 57%.

Abandoned Subway System:

All electronic or electric advertising signs have been switched off, and a limit of 10Kwh per household per month imposed which necessitated the removal of household appliances such as coffee makers, mixers, high wattage vacuüm cleaners and the like. Gone also is sphere lighting in our homes for we are allowed only one low energy lamp per room.

Production Ceases!

Many of the goods that people have come to rely on like cars, computers and other electronic gadgets are no longer being made because of the drain on power reserves during their manufacture.

In cities across the planet with well known features like Times Square in New York, Tokio centre in Japan and Piccadilly Circus in London have become dark and sombre places after all the electronic hoardings and advertisements were switched off and replaced by the occasional dim street lighting.

Los Angeles in California has become a virtual ghost town after all the lights went out and the casino’s were forced to close their doors in order to conserve energy. The world economy has been turned into chaos, and millions world-wide have lost their jobs due to factory closures caused by the number of ‘non-essential’ goods which may no longer be produced to prevent a final meltdown of the power generating system.

All this has been necessary to ensure sufficient power for essential services, but power cuts are still a daily occurrence in most of the developed world as we are starved of energy.

Anti-Nuclear Protesters

When instigating the plan, the United Nations Leader, Ban Ki-Moon, stated the will of the people could no longer be ignored. After the nuclear incidents at Three-Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima, the people of the world became so incensed against the use of nuclear power and its dangers that the question could no longer be ignored.

Anti-Nuclear Demonstrations:

Nuclear Electricity Production – 2008

This is of course fiction, but gives a snapshot of life across the world should we give in to the demands of demonstrators currently voicing their grievances. Rallies in Germany and France last week have shown that many people want to see all nuclear electricity generating plants shut down, sooner rather than later! But those who make such demands do not think past their own ideology and imagine what life without nuclear energy would be like. They are lacking the essential foresight to imagine how we would satisfy our ever-increasing demands for power without it. To quote an old saying: ‘They can’t see the woods for the trees’!

There are currently more than 440 nuclear plants across the world providing in excess of 20% of our energy requirements. It does not seem much when you look at the figures for other sources like coal, but to close down all nuclear plants would be catastrophic for the world economy, business and the people. Some countries are already suffering power shortages as our appetite for energy expands. More and more gadgets in the home, increasing transport requirements and even the introduction of electric cars all take their toll on our energy supplies. We are at the moment locked into a vicious spiral that must burst apart at some time in the future.

The Nuclear Rector – How It Works:

In my opinion, we cannot do without nuclear power, and until some scientific breakthrough is made with something like cold fusion, we are stuck with it. Our efforts would be more usefully channeled into making it safer.

Fukushima – Lessons Learned?

The idea of building a six-reactor plant on the coast in a known earthquake and tsunami area to me was a big mistake, which has been born out by recent events.

Fukshima Accident Explained:

It would have been obvious to me that such things as reactor cooling systems, in their entirety, should have been better protected against the sea. It does not help to protect the reactor core, if the power generators for the cooling pumps are vulnerable. OK! This is all with hindsight, but these are the type of lessons that need to be learned, and measures taken to see it can never happen again. I am sure there are many other safety measures that can be taken to protect a reactor from ‘going critical’ even in an earthquake zone such as Japan.

Typical Nuclear Plant

Perhaps the United Nations should consider gathering the world’s foremost experts in this field and have them inspect every nuclear facility on the planet with a view to increasing safety.

Nuclear power is not a demon, it is a tool in the hands of man that can be controlled and used safely, providing all the necessary safety measures are in place and adhered to. It is only when mistakes are made that things can go wrong, and yes, ‘to err is human’, but with our increasing computer abilities it should not be too difficult to have electronic fool-proof safety measures backing up the operators. We already have plenty I know, but I am sure they could be improved.

2008 Energy Production

There is of course another alternative to placate the demonstrators, and that is a return to coal-fired power stations. But considering we turned to nuclear energy as a relatively clean method of generating power, this seems a retrograde step, and lets not forget the effect it has on our planets atmosphere.

Greenpeace Action Against Coal-Fired Plants:

Nuclear power generation has proven its value when it comes to our atmosphere. It has been calculated that the nuclear energy programme world-wide has prevented 38 billion tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere, as opposed to continuing with coal-fired power plants which would have added four times as much. It is also just one-twelfth of the total amount pumped into the air during 160 years of electricity generation using coal, gas and oil.

These people seem to be of the opinion that all our power requirements can be met using wind, solar panels and hydro energy, but the reality is, its impossible!

We Need To Keep The Electrons Flowing

Hydro-energy for example provides us with less than 18% of our needs, while wind energy only contributes approximately 3%. Not all countries have rivers, and how do you provide wind energy across Africa? Are we to cover every free acre of ground on the planet with wind farms? There is little doubt in my mind that we will have to make the best of nuclear power until a scientific breakthrough is made with some other form of energy production.

The Future Of Nuclear Power:

Complaining about it, and demonstrating against it will not solve our energy needs, we just need to use our brains and make it safer for all concerned.

Roy.

Fukushima – A Disaster Waiting In The Wings?

Posted in Environment, Modern World, Nuclear, Oceans, Radioactive Waste, Toxic Waste with tags , , , , , , , on 13/04/2011 by floroy1942

Should we be concerned at the latest news of a hike in the severity level at the Fukushima nuclear generating plant to 7, bringing it on a par with Chernobyl?

Chernobyl Reactor Building

We can all remember what happened at the Russian plant, but the experts tell us there is no danger of a repeat. Now that is reassuring news, certainly to the Japanese, and probably for the rest of us too.

The whole episode however leaves me with some questions, most important of which is, why was a nuclear plant built on the coast in an earthquake/tsunami zone? Reactor One was opened in July 1967, and since then another five have been built on the same site.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/Noqk78bjE-Q

The Cause Of A Tsunami

It is safe to assume that we did not know as much in 1967 as we do now about earthquakes and the effects, but even so, it seems to me the Japanese were taking a big chance in building such a facility right on the sea shore.

I can well imagine their desire to have a ready supply of water for cooling the reactor, but then surely, better precautions should have been taken to protect the installation against the possibility of a tsunami.

The Tsunami Strikes

History has shown us on many occasions that earthquakes under the sea cause tsunami’s, so it should be obvious, even in 1967, that the site would be prone to just such an event.

I freely admit, I am no nuclear scientist or structural engineer, but it seems to me that building such a plant on the coast at Fukushima, knowing the possibilities, should have received more attention.

The main difference between Chernobyl and Fukushima is that in the former accident the reactor vessel ruptured, releasing large amounts of radioactivity into the atmosphere, whereas in the latter, this did not happen and the reactor vessel remained intact. Contrary to popular opinion, there is never a chance of a nuclear explosion at a nuclear power plant, even if meltdown does occur.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/Z69rtx3YlE0

Fukushima Reactor

Each reactor at the Fukushima plant has a secondary containment vessel which is designed to prevent the release of radioactive particles into the atmosphere even in the event of a reactor containment vessel breach. This was not the case at Chernobyl and indeed, very few Russian plants had such a safety facility (lessons learned).

Furthermore, The Chernobyl reactor was ‘fired up’ at the time of the accident while experiments were carried out on the power generators for the emergency cooling system. At Fukushima the reactor shut-down automatically when the earthquake was detected.

Typical Reactor Cooling System Generator

It would seem that the problems began at Fukushima when the various backup cooling pumps, that supply the core with water to keep it from overheating, lost power when the tsunami destroyed the generators supplying the pumps. It would appear that perhaps more protection should have been given to these vital components.

Fukushima Damage

The disaster at Fukushima, though of natural causes, does indicate that more attention must be given to the siting of nuclear power plants, especially in earthquake prone countries around the famous ‘Ring of Fire’ bordering the Pacific. It indicates that all nuclear plants should be inspected to see what improvements can be made to the operating systems when a natural disaster strikes, and most specifcally, protection of the cooling apparatus.

Anyone wishing for a simple straight-forward explanation of the events at Fukushima should visit the following site:

http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/03/13/fukushima-simple-explanation/

Its all well and good for armchair ‘experts’ to give their opinions, and as we all know hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I should hope that some valuable lessons have been learned from this disaster and steps are taken to see such an event is never repeated.

Fukushima Heros

In the meantime, we should not forget the brave men and women who have been working tirelessly to prevent a major disaster at Fukushima at the risk of their own well-being. I salute you!

One thing is sure, we are a long way from doing away with our nuclear power plants despite all the hype that has been generated, for until the scientists come up with something better we are stuck with it. At this moment in time we have no other way of keeping up with the ever increasing demands for power.

Roy. 

Nuclear Power Demonstrations After Japan

Posted in Britain, Demonstration, Environment, Europe, Germany, Insanity, Modern World, Nuclear, UK, USA with tags , , , , on 13/03/2011 by floroy1942

I guess it was inevitable that the anti-nuclear lobby would be out demonstrating even before the dust had settled on the Japanese reactor  in Fukushima. Students were out in force in Germany yesterday, just a day after the disaster, demanding the shut down of all nuclear power plants in the country.

OK! But Give Us An Alternative

As soon as I saw the reports on the news, I remarked to my wife that while these people may demand an end to nuclear power, none have a workable suggestion to replace the electricity generating capacity of the nuclear plants. Passion is one thing, but common sense often dictates the reverse!

 Until man devises a safer way of satisfying the needs of our power-hungry society, we are stuck with what we have. It may not be ideal, and in certain circumstances i.e. when abused like Three-Mile Island and Chernobyl or a natural disaster as in Japan, things can go ‘pear shaped’. These are the risks we have to take.

There are those who say we should concentrate our attention on wind, solar and hydro-electric power or bio-fuels, but all are totally impractical on the scale required to satisfy our energy needs.

The Heart Of Our Power Generation

I have written often enough on the practicality of these alternatives and will therefore not go into detail again here. I just refer to you to a previous post on the subject, but suffice it to say, the alternatives listed are not a workable solution as a replacement for nuclear power:

https://floroy1942.wordpress.com/2010/11/09/germany-the-nuclear-dilemma/

Our biggest problem is the ever increasing demand for more and more electricity, and we have reached the stage where there is little or no spare capacity in many western countries. Our consumption rates are at an all-time high and increasing year on year. There has to come an end to our greed!

London’s Wasted Gigawatts

Take a look at the world’s major cities for example, and see how many office blocks and shop fronts are lit up at night like christmas trees, even though they are empty. Take another look at all the neon signs and advertisements that festoon our cities and ask yourself, can we continue in this way? It may look nice, but in real terms it is sheer unadulterated waste. Should this wastage be outlawed we could probably shut down several nuclear plants based purely on the energy savings. The problem is not nuclear power itself, but the selfish, arrogant use we make of what is generated!

Times Square New York- Watts In An Advert!

Now a new energy ‘gobbler’ is emerging on the market in the form of all-electric cars. For sure, they will help to solve the climate change problems but they are a hidden menace in the form of the demands they will make on our power generating capability. Can you for one second imagine the energy requirements of tens of millions of electric cars plugged into the net every night? On top of our ever-increasing demands for everything else, such an addition would overload our power grids within seconds. I have also covered this topic in a previous posts as follows:

https://floroy1942.wordpress.com/2009/12/19/future-transport-electric-hybrid-hydrogen-or-bio/

We have a saying in England: “You can’t have your cake and eat it!” Not very practical because what is the point of having cake if you can’t eat it, but never-the-less it makes a point. As a species, we cannot continue expanding our power requirements ‘Ad Infinitum’ and not expect a backlash. The fact is, we have to make good with what we have, and at the moment that is nuclear power, and distasteful as that is, we have no alternative! There is no quick fix for our energy needs until scientists unlock new forms of power generation, and that will take years.

Chernobyl- One Disaster Is Enough

Considering the risks attached to nuclear power generation it is perhaps more prudent to improve safety measures at the plants. No-one wants a repeat of Chernobyl, which was caused by human error and not an inerrant fault in the design, but as the Japanese situation has indicated, better safeguards are required to ensure a nuclear reactor can be quickly and safely shut down in the event of a natural disaster before over-heating becomes a factor.

The USA At Night From The ISS Station

The risk of a real atomic explosion is minuscule, but the possibility of the escape of radioactive material still causes concern. This needs to be addressed by the scientific community as an urgent priority. The general public should not be put at risk under any circumstances, for as we see at the moment, any incident involving nuclear power brings out the protesters. It would be nice if they could come up with a really workable alternative, but to date they can’t!

Each and every one of us can do our bit towards reducing the energy drain. Switch off the lights and other electrical appliances like the TV and video recorder when not needed, and use low energy bulbs wherever possible. In every home it may be a small thing, but collectively, it all adds up.

The World Hot Spots

Governments need to introduce laws that prevent entire office blocks and shops from being lit up at night when they are empty, and a curb on all the neon advertising could be introduced. Sounds impractical, and many will say a bit daft, but just for one moment imagine how much power would be saved. It will boggle your mind! If we continue to put so much pressure on our electricity generating companies, we may well be left with no choice but to take such measures.

Roy.

The Mighty Vulcan – Fond Memories

Posted in Britain, England, Nuclear, Nuclear Weapons, UK, Uncategorized, USA with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 06/03/2011 by floroy1942

I was extremely happy to read that the last surviving Vulcan bomber has once again received its certificate of air worthiness. As the only survivor of the RAF cold war bomber fleet of Vulcan, Victor and Valiant bombers, it is without doubt a truly magnificent sight when seen flying over the green fields of England that it protected so well.

Britain’s Nuclear Deterrent – Victor, Valiant, Vulcan

The fact that it can fly at all is due solely to a group of Vulcan enthusiasts who, with donated money, spent their free time working on the aircraft to get it airworthy. A truely Valiant (excuse the pun) achievement. My compliments Gentlemen!

There follows a video showing the history of the Valiant and Victor Bombers:

There is little doubt that despite the deterrent of the American Strategic Air Command, our V Force was a potent weapon manned by dedicated airmen who gave the Russians pause for thought. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed during this time of  world crisis, and eventually the world was no longer living in fear of the Russian menace.

This was all due to the far-seeing Mikhail Gorbachev who alone could see the perils of continuing the nuclear stand-off. The people of the world owe this man a great debt.

During my time with the Royal Air Force I had the pleasure of working with both Victor and Vulcan bombers, and as an armourer was responsible for loading the nuclear weapons.

Blue Steel Stand-Off Missile

At the time this was the Blue Steel stand-off bomb that would have devastated any city it was dropped on. Loading these weapons was a long and complicated business, as first we had to fuel the missile with its liquid propellant before actually loading it into the bomb bay.

It was dangerous work, but thanks to the professionalism of all involved, no accidents ever happened. When loading the propellant we had to wear what would be described today as chemical suites to ensure we never came in direct contact with the fuel.

On the Victor aircraft, the missile was only half embedded in the bomb bay and half of it hung below, it was that big. Great care had to be taken when loading this aircraft because it was so low to the ground and there was little clearance between the weapon and the fuselage. The Vulcan on the other hand was very high off the ground and caused no problems.

The greatest part about working with these fine aircraft was to watch a squadron scramble. Within a matter of minutes the whole squadron would be airborne and heading for their targets. Considering Britain had but a four-minute warning of approaching Russian missiles this was of the utmost importance, for nobody wanted our number one deterrent to be caught on the ground.

Scramble!

To see these great aircraft thundering down the runway only seconds apart was a sight to captivate any audience. The most spectacular was always the Vulcan due to its ability to enter an almost vertical climb immediately after leaving the ground. This aircraft was overpowered and had limiters on the throttles to prevent over-stressing the airframe, but excess power made it capable of almost impossible maneuvers with such a huge aircraft.

The standard takeoff pattern was for the first aircraft to stay low and straight ahead after leaving the ground while the second and third would peel off left and right. But the fourth was the most spectacular, for it would enter an almost vertical climb once the wheels left the ground. This takeoff pattern was to minimise the effects of air turbulence on following aircraft, while allowing all to get off the ground in the shortest possible time. It’ s an understatement to say it was spectacular!

The flight characteristics of the Avro Vulcan were akin to those of a fighter as can be amply seen in the following video where the test pilot, Roly Folk rolls the aircraft immediately after takeoff at the Farnborough Air Show in 1955:

During my two years with the Victors we had at one time been operating from a dispersal base that also had Vulcan’s, and one would assume some of the Victor crews had decided to emulate the takeoffs of their Vulcan brethren. The Victor of course did not have the sheer raw power of the Vulcan and this became obvious as the ground crew watched the takeoffs.

Victor Conventional Bomb Load

The first two got off OK but the third pilot had been a little too ambitious, for as he pulled back on the stick and dropped his right wing for the sharp turn to starboard, the wingtip touched the ground, and as we found later, left a scour mark in the grass alongside the runway running for several metres. Thankfully he managed to correct it and got away safely.

After the exercise sortie, the aircraft came back to the base and the airfield became a scene of frantic activity as the ground crew got the aircraft ready for their next flight. Due to the constant tension between east and west all aircraft had to be ready for an immediate scramble should ‘the balloon go up’.

A rather amusing set of incidents occurred during ‘Exercise Skyshield’ in the 60’s which was to test the North American radar defences (NORAD).  Two flights were made by RAF Vulcans and American B52’s against the supposed impregnable radar shield and the result was all B52’s were intercepted while only one Vulcan was detected and intercepted by an F111. This was no doubt due to the sophisticated electronics counter measures (ECM) developed by British scientists and fitted to the Vulcan.

The New Threat

In their role as strategic bomber the V Force excelled, but unfortunately with the advances in anti-aircraft missiles, and their new ability to reach high flying aircraft, a different approach was necessary. For this reason, the V Force became the new generation of ultra low-level bombers. The white skin paint disappeared to be replaced with camouflage paint on the top surfaces.

It was of course necessary for the crews to practice their new low-level role, and this was done amid the peaks and valleys of Scotland. What a magnificent sight it must have been to see a Victor or Vulcan skimming through the valleys at 100 ft!

I remember when one of our Victors took a couple of reporters up to witness their death-defying skills during a low-level flight. When the aircraft returned they were as white as sheets and had just about filled their sick bags. One was heard to mutter “These men are stark raving lunatics” as he stumbled off in search of a stiff drink.

The Victor – Now Just A Tanker

I have many fond memories of my time with Britain’s V Force and was extremely sad when I heard they were to be scrapped. The Victor lingered on as a tanker aircraft and did valuable work , and of course the one surviving Vulcan was among those that dropped bombs on Stanley airfield during the Falklands conflict.

I guess we all have our time, and that of the V bombers is past and condemned to history, but as with the Spitfires, Hurricanes and Lancaster of WW2, it’s fitting that at least one of the old war horses survives.

Roy.

Electric Cars a Viable Alternative?

Posted in Britain, England, Environment, Europe, Insanity, Modern World, Nuclear, Radioactive Waste, Toxic Waste, Traffic, Travel, UK, USA with tags , , , , , , , on 15/01/2011 by floroy1942

Are electric cars a real alternative to the internal combustion engine? The short answer is no! The truth is, we are still a long way from replacing ‘old faithful’.

A Renault Concept Car: Z17

Various car makers have started (or will soon) introducing new models onto the market, among them Renault amid a lot of hype about industrial espionage. What a free promotion gift that was!

In general, they fall into three basic categories based on range. The ‘city’ car has a range of up to 100 miles, the ‘intermediaries’ with 100 to 200 miles, and the ‘top’ class which can supposedly reach 350 miles like the ZAP-X. The one thing that stands out is the price. You pay through the nose for extra mileage! The estimated cost of a ZAP is $60,000.

Range is the driving factor for any electric vehicle i.e.: How far can I drive before recharging, and how long does it take to recharge?

The BBC’s Brian Milligan and Mini

I read with some interest an article by a BBC reporter, Brian Milligan, who made a journey from London to Edinburgh in Scotland, a distance of 484 miles, in an all-electric Mini. It took him four days! “Well”, the pundits might say; “at least he made it”. It’s interesting to note that he did return to London by train, and the car was returned on a trailer.

While his vehicle was not perhaps the optimum for such a long drive it does highlight many of the problems associated with electric cars.

The Mini is advertised with a range of “155 miles under ideal driving conditions** (104 miles estimated under normal driving conditions)” with a charging time of “Approximately 4.5 hrs (240 volt, 32 amps outlet)”. In reality, the intrepid reporter was faced with a somewhat different scenario.

First and foremost, the trial took place in winter, which automatically reduced battery power by up to 25%, giving only 70 to 80 miles per charge. Secondly, charging times were between 6 and 8 hours and not the 4.5 as advertised.

Also, you will not find anything in electric car brochures telling you that running the heater or radio will significantly reduce battery life. Driving at night, when you need headlights, drains the battery even quicker. During his journey North, Brian Milligan spent many cold periods in the car because he was forced to sacrifice warmth for range.

Route Details

Upon completion of the journey, taking into account charging times, his estimated speed over the 484 miles was just 6 m.p.h. Not exactly mind-boggling! He was however sensible, for he made sure he had plenty of reading material with him in the form of thick books with which to while away the endless hours of recharging the batteries every 70 to 80 miles.

You can read first-hand an account of the journey on the BBC website under:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-12138420

Zapa – 350 Miles?

Not what I would call an inspiring advertisement for the use of electric cars. There are of course other alternatives on the market that may fair better than the Mini, but I wouldn’t bet on much of an improvement.

If you need a car just to get around town then it is feasible to invest in electric, for short journeys are within the capabilities of an electric vehicle, but that means you would also need a ‘normal’ car for longer journeys, which makes it an expensive business. Oh! And don’t think about taking much luggage with you when you go to visit mother-in law, for just about every nook and cranny in the car is reserved for storing the batteries!

Apart from the obvious frustration of not knowing if you will reach your destination on an ‘electric’ journey and maybe freezing in the process, there is also another serious problem if we all ‘Go Electric’.

Millions of Vehicles?

No-one seems to have thought about how our power sources are going to survive thousands, maybe millions of cars being plugged in to feed their power hungry batteries!

It seems to me we are slowly staggering from one major problem to an even greater catastrophe!

There can be little doubt in anyone’s mind, that the current power output in all countries could not possibly handle the huge demand for electricity when everyone drives battery powered cars. It’s a logistical impossibility!

It would mean a huge increase in the number of power generating stations, which would either accelerate the use of the world’s valuable resources, or require a massive expansion in the number of nuclear generators. This is turn would increase the nuclear waste.

It is certain that ‘Road-Side Assistance’ companies would see a large increase in workload rescuing drivers with dead batteries. If you are thinking of starting a business that would be the way to go!

Other alternatives like bio-fuels and hydrogen are not worth thinking of, for they too have serious drawbacks. To run bio-fuels we need land to grow the crops from which it is made, and experience has already shown that we cannot, for we need the land to grow food.

Volatile and Dangerous

Hydrogen is considered by some to provide an alternative, but by its very unstable and volatile nature, we cannot use it unless some means of safely storing and transporting the gas is found.

So far as I can see, the only viable alternative to our current crisis is the Hybrid.

Hybrid – The Only Viable Alternative (for the moment)

It is true we will not be ridding our planet of its most contaminating influence, but going hybrid will give us a breathing space in which we can hopefully find a more satisfactory solution. Hybrid cars do not need to feed off our power grids but charge themselves when running ‘old reliable’, and judicious use of the system will reduce the output of dangerous gases considerably.

The evidence is here that it’s quicker by train.

May your batteries never run flat!

Roy.



Germany – The Nuclear Dilemma

Posted in Britain, Demonstration, England, Environment, Europe, Germany, Government, Modern World, Nuclear, Radioactive Waste, UK, USA with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 09/11/2010 by floroy1942

Germany hit the news this past week due to the demonstrations against nuclear power in the country, but what of the core question: Can we do without nuclear power?

The Gorlagen Express

It all centred around a train-load of nuclear waste being transported to the storage depot at Gorleben after treatment in France. Gorleben is the site of old salt mines that have been used for radioactive waste storage for the last three decades.

Throughout these thirty years, each successive train-load has met with demonstrations by anti-nuclear activists, but this year the demonstrations had a higher significance. The increased anger felt by the protesters was centred on the German governments recent decision to extend the life of the countries 17 nuclear power stations by a further 12 years to 2032, a reversal of a year 2000 decision to phase out all nuclear facilities.

Chernobyl - Nightmare Scenario

The German people have always been against nuclear power since the first experimental atomic power station was opened in Kahl-am-Main in 1960. Already nervous at the idea, this fear was heightened by the Three-Mile Island (Pennsylvania) incident in 1970, and more significantly, the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 which covered Germany in radioactive dust and required a massive clean-up operation.

Since the introduction of nuclear power to the world there have been accidents in many countries in which small amounts of radioactivity have escaped, all were due to human error and no-one in their right minds will ever be convinced that it is a 100% safe method of generating electricity. But there again, what is 100%  safe these days? I’ll tell you – Nothing!

The problem lies in the fact that we have become ‘power’ hungry, and since we entered the digital age the electricity requirements have jumped ten-fold in the industrialised nations. Coupled with this is the lack of a viable alternate method of supplying our energy needs. Our hunger for more power has become so great that to satisfy it with wind, sun, biofuels or hydro-electric power is utterly impossible, despite what their supporters say.

Another sticking point is the ever-increasing demands from developing counties such as India, China and the like as they take their first steps to becoming great industrialised nations.

It would appear that at present, no-one has a foolproof second option. If demonstrators were asked for an alternative, most would probably reply “wind”. There are already wind turbine ‘farms’ dotting the landscape in Europe and other countries, but the technology is afflicted by many problems.

Turbine Blade Convoy in UK

First and foremost is their size, which makes them expensive to produce and maintain, and they require specialists with special equipment to erect. They also have to be erected far away from cities and towns, therefore the construction of power lines to get the output where it is needed is costly.

Turbines have a limited life and need constant maintenance because they suffer from cyclic stresses, due to their sheer size and differing wind forces that fatigue the blades and bearings at a high rate.

Typical Wind Generator Construction

The most significant problem is blade stress, because as a blade reaches the top of its arc it is subject to more wind pressure than at the lowest point of its arc. The huge column on which the whole thing is mounted interrupts the wind flow and as the blade passes, it is subject to ‘negative’ stress (or momentary wind load relief). these two factors combined exert great strain on the blade, its mounting, and the bearings. This problem alone caused many of the earlier models to fail quickly.

Just as important is the fact they are unsightly, and do we really want to cover every high point on the planet with wind turbines?

The Enercon E-126

The highest output from a wind turbine (the Enercon E-126) is a mere 7.58Mw, and that’s on a good day, for as we all know, the wind is a fickle thing. Germany’s nuclear power stations generate 20,490Mw of power per year, that’s 26.1% of total energy needs compared with 6.5% fulfilled by wind power from its in excess of 21,163 wind turbines. No! I am afraid wind is not the answer, no matter what the pundits say.

Energy From the Sun?

The sun is a constant source of energy, at least during daylight, but to generate our needs from solar panels would require covering half the country, and then you wouldn’t be able to use the lights after sundown. No! I don’t think that is practical either.

There are those who say we should burn bio-fuels or resort to hydro-electric power sources but the fact is, bio-fuels have ready proven to be a dead duck because the ground required to grow them is also needed to grow food. The problem with hydro-electric  is, not all countries have rivers or coastline.

The Only Other Viable Alternative?

So the bottom line is, we continue to use fossil fuels that are slowly destroying our planet, or we go with the nuclear option, at least for the foreseeable future. Your choice!

%d bloggers like this: