Archive for the Radioactive Waste Category

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. 

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!

Future Transport: Electric, Hybrid, Hydrogen or Bio?

Posted in Environment, Modern World, Nuclear, Radioactive Waste, Traffic, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 19/12/2009 by floroy1942

In 2020 the number of cars in the world is expected to reach 1.1 billion, based on the current annual increase. For years the buzz has been about what will replace the petrol/diesel engine in the future. What will finally condemn them to history in this increasingly environmentally conscious world?

For many our current vehicles will be replaced with electric cars, and there are already some models on the market. Some experts believe the future lies in hydrogen-powered cars, which are infinitely cleaner. There are people who swear by bio-fuels and the hybrid, but what is the most realistic alternative?

In my opinion, electric cars are a non-starter for several reasons. Firstly, they do not have the range and sustainable speed of the current power plants, and the battery banks are large, heavy, expensive to manufacture and dispose of. World-wide, the national power grids could not hope to handle the huge demands made upon them by a billion cars that require regular battery charges. Imagine any country, where millions of electric cars would be plugged into the mains supply every night to charge the batteries for the following day. There isn’t a national system in the world that could cope with such a demand. It would require massive investment in new power stations all over the world, which in turn would cause more pollution. It is fairly certain that to minimise any environmental impact they would all need to be nuclear, which then provides a massive headache and poses the problem of what to do with huge amounts of spent nuclear fuel rods. No, I think our attention should not be distracted to this non-starter.

Many believe in hybrid cars where the vehicle has both petrol and electric power and doesn’t need an external electrical supply. This would go a long way to reducing the environmental emissions for a while, but it would not get rid of them. There are claims by the manufacturers that a 40/60% saving on petrol consumption is possible. These vehicles are still dogged by the battery manufacture and disposal problems mentioned earlier. They are not the answer, but could be a stop-gap until a real alternative comes along.

Another major commodity in the equation is hydrogen power, but this too has its drawbacks. It is clean, easy to produce and its only emission is water, but, it is highly explosive. When mixed with air, the result is a highly inflammable gas and when heated, say in an accident where the vehicle catches fire, the result is a major explosion. These traits do not really make it a safe candidate to replace the petrol/diesel engine either.

Bio-fuels have oft been quoted as an alternative, but they too are not practical. There are already areas of the world where a shortage of many crops exists because farmers have turned over their land to growing the plants required for bio-fuels. No, bio-fuels as a replacement would mean many having to choose between keeping the car on the road or eating.

There is however one alternative that is cheap to run, has no effect on the environment, and any and all waste is extremely good for the roses. The horse!

Whichever way it goes, not much will happen for a long time to come because most of the patents for alternative power sources seem to be owned by the petrol companies, and they are not likely to want to see advancement in this field until the oil runs out.

May your journeys be short, and safe!

Roy.

Swim in the Med, and Glow in the Dark!

Posted in Illegal Dumping, Mafia, Radioactive Waste, Toxic Waste with tags , , , , on 16/09/2009 by floroy1942

It never ceases to amaze me how low some people will stoop in worship of money. One of the most horrific cases of pure greed unfolded today, when it was announced that members of the Calabrian Mafia had been deliberately sinking ships full of toxic and radioactive waste in the Mediterranean Sea.

In response to a Mafia informant, who claimed to have set explosive charges to sink a ship loaded with toxic and radioactive waste, a robotic camera has been to the bed of the Mediterranean some 18 miles off the south west coast of Italy. The robot found and photographed yellow barrels clearly marked ‘Toxic Waste’ lying alongside the intact wreck.

The same informant stated he had personally blown up two other ships containing toxic and radioactive materials.

The disposal of these materials is, by necessity, a very tightly controlled business, but there are many who see bypassing these laws and dumping the material illegally as a lucrative business.

It has been rumoured for years that the Mafia had gotten involved in this filthy trade as a way of making easy money. Officials have said that should samples taken from the wreck prove positive, a search will be made for a further 30 vessels sunk with their cargoes over recent years by the Mafia.

I am well aware of what some people consider ‘acceptable’ practices to make money, you can’t get away from it these days, but to do this without a thought as to what they are doing to the environment is to say the least, unthinkable!

The fact that the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean have been used as a dumping ground for decades is bad enough, but in the ‘Med’, being a semi-closed sea, the results would be catastrophic for future generations.

Already the ‘Med’ has to absorb 650 million tons of sewage, 129,000 tons of mineral oil, 60,000 tons of mercury, 3,800 tons of lead and 36,000 tons of phosphates annually.

A 1994 study of the seabed around Spain, France and Italy using trawl nets, revealed an average of 1,935 objects of debris per square kilometre. Of this 76% was plastic, and of that, 94% consisted of plastic bags.

Pollution in the Eastern Med, which can be attributed to oil tankers using the Suez Canal, has already killed off all the coral reefs (and the life it supported) off the coasts of Egypt and Israel. Must we now do the same thing to the rest of the Mediterranean?

Has pure greed now reached proportions where we will deliberately poison the entire 2.5 million square kilometres of the Mediterranean? For What! An few thousand lousy Dollars?

Although the ‘Med’ is a semi-closed sea, through the Straits of Gibtaltar two mighty currents flow opposite each other. One flows from the Atlantic into the “Med’, and the other in the opposite direction. This ensures, over a very long period of time, that the water is refreshed. The only problem is, we are polluting it at a far greater rate than the Atlantic current can cope with.

If we continue on our present course, in a few hundred years you will not even be able to approach the shoreline because of the stink. And now, to top off all that, these senseless Mafia idiots are polluting the waters with radioactive waste.

If they have indeed sunk 30 cargo ships loaded with radioactive and toxic waste, that means we have literally hundreds, perhaps thousands, of tons of this deadly cocktail lying on the bottom waiting for the salt water to corrode through the barrels and release it into the water, where it will then be spread far and wide by the currents.

If that becomes a reality, your beach kit will comprise of, sunbed, towels, water bottle, sun tan lotion, book, and finally, Geiger Counter so you can measure your radioactivity dose after going for a swim! If at some time in the future we all start glowing in the dark after a swim, I am sure it will catch on as the ‘new vogue’ in the disco’s.

I hope all of these Mafia animals are caught quickly, so the Italian Government can start cleaning up the bed of the Mediterranean as soon as possible, hopefully before any of this waste starts leaking into the water.

As for punishment, if they are even caught, let them live their final days after being exposed to the core of a nuclear reactor! As their hair starts to fall out, and the radiation burns start to eat their flesh, perhaps it will be a warning to any other prospective polluters. The only problem is: There is no real justice in this world!

Heaven help our children, for we do not deserve this fine planet of ours!

Roy.

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