There was an error in this gadget

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Fukushima and beyond ...

Interesting following the reportage of the Fukushima Nuclear problem in the press over the last weeks, the hysteria whipping reports grew in intensity for the first few, but now seems to have tailed off. I think the clincher in this came with the BBC reporting in their usual "Oh my Gosh! We're on the edge of our seats tones!" that radioactive iodine from the plant had been detected in Oxfordshire. The actuality programme an hour or so later put it into perspective, with the scientist almost unable to contain his amusement during the interview as he explained, calmly and very sensibly that, yes, some isotopes had been detected, but the radiation they offered did not, in fact, approach anything like the levels of the normal background radiation from the Oxfordshire landscape. Unfortunately, this wasn't relayed on their "Oh gosh Oh Golly, What are we going to do ..." News Programmes.

A day or two later I read something else on a site I frequent when I have time. This time a poem written by someone with obvious fear of anything nuclear, but utterly lacking in any knowledge of the realities. Her poem went off about the "nuclear blasts" at the Fukushima facility and how the landscape had been turned into a nuclear desert where plants will never grow again and birds drop out of the sky from radioactivity. Yes, I did have to read it, and yes, I had to go and take a long walk and cool down before responding ...

Fukushima is probably one of the best examples since Chernobyl of where and how not to build a reactor.The design was taken from a typical US facility and apparently the builders/designers, never stopped to consider that placing the emergency generators underground, on a coast regularly hit by tsunami and shaken by earthquakes, might not be the best plan. Despite all the speculation around the source of some of the radiation currently causing problems, there is, as yet, no evidence that the containment surrounding the reactor itself, has failed, though clearly the fuel rods have undergone a meltdown. At least the front page speculations in the newspapers have stopped, it is now a little further down the paper and probably will shortly vanish altogether. I am sorry to say that most of the media reporting I have seen has not been balanced and tended to fuel the "Ban the Bomb" sentiments rather than deal with the facts.

Here in Germany, the government has, sensibly, decided to close down the older reactors on advice from the scientists who advise them. This is a sensible move, not because these reactors are dangerous, but because the design and the technology that controls them is extremely old and updating any part of it simply creates further problems. That leaves us facing the question, of course, of how to replace their capacity to feed the nations needs. Here we find an interesting conundrum. Germany does have the capacity to supply the 30% currently provided by nuclear, with wind power. The problem there is that wind power is, without the government subsidy, the most expensive power available. It costs roughly 10 cents a megawatt compared to 2 cents for almost all other sources.

Nor is wind power 100% reliable. The wind does not always blow, and when it does it may not be within the parameters needed for these generators...

The problem is far more complex than simply nuclear versus coal versus wind versus solar power. The first step has to be to determine how we use power more efficiently so we actually need less, but that also runs into a problem with human nature. If I use less, it costs less, so I save, so I can use more ...

Probably the better way forward is to look at combinations of supply, so that all new buildings are more economical in all their power requirements. An intelligent building could be developed which would include solar panels and possibly wind generators, even piso-electric generators on stairs or passageway floors could be included so that simple movement can generate power. Using new lamps and lighting systems such as LEDs could also reduce the need for power, as could monitoring and shutting off lights in spaces that are not occupied. How about 'Climate Control' systems using natural airflows and humidity generating features to maintain balance and air circulation? Why build all glazed buildings in very hot climates where you then have to run a massive air conditioning plant just to make and keep it habitable?

Solar generators do exist and are viable, so is wind, gas, coal and probably nuclear, in a properly balanced system of supply, but before we can get anywhere near sorting out the solution we have to get rid of some of the hysteria and hype the media and certain pressure groups love to promote. If we can't do this simple thing, we might as well get used to living in mud huts off fruit and berries, without clean water, without modern medicines and without transport.

And, while we're at it - let's stop all the garbage about 'Anthropomorphic Global Warming' being caused by 'Carbon.'

No comments:

Post a Comment