Archive for Bio-Fuels

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.

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.

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