Category: energy

Worst Power Plant Disaster?

March 25th, 2011 — 2:35pm

It’s not nuclear. Quoting Annalee Newitz, at i09:

“[W]hen accidents happen, the deadliest and costliest source of energy is water — especially when it’s held back by poorly-designed dams. The Chernobyl disaster doesn’t come close to the damage done when a dam at a hydroelectric plant bursts.”

Here’s her rundown:

1975: Shimantan/Banqiao Dam Failure
Type of power: Hydroelectric
Human lives lost: 171,000
Cost: $8,700,000,000
What happened: Shimantan Dam in China’s Henan province fails and releases 15.738 billion tons of water, causing widespread flooding that destroys 18 villages and 1500 homes and induces disease epidemics and famine

1979: Morvi Dam Failure
Type of power: Hydroelectric
Human lives lost: 1500 (estimated)
Cost: $1,024,000,000
What happened: Torrential rain and unprecidented flooding caused the Machchu-2 dam, situated on the Machhu river, to burst. This sent a wall of water through the town of Morvi in the Indian State of Gujarat.

1998: Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Jess Oil Pipeline Explosion
Type of power: Oil
Human lives lost: 1,078
Cost: $54,000,000
What happened:Petroleum pipeline ruptures and explodes, destroying two villages and hundreds of villagers scavenging gasoline.

1944: East Ohio Gas Company
Type of power: Liquified natural gas (LNG)
Human lives lost: 130
Cost: $890,000,000
What happened: Explosion at LNG facility destroys one square mile of Cleveland, OH.

1907: Monongah Coal Mine
Type of power: Coal
Human lives lost: 362
Cost: $162,000,000
What happened: Underground explosion traps workers and destroys railroad bridges leading into the mine.

Compare these to:

1986: Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant
Type of power: Nuclear
Human lives lost: 4,056 (Source for this number: United Nations Scientific Subcommittee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation)
Cost: $6,700,000,000
What happened: Mishandled reactor safety test at Chernobyl nuclear reactor causes steam explosion and meltdown, necessitating the evacuation of 300,000 people from Kiev, Ukraine and dispersing radioactive materials across Europe.

A lot of this research was based on public policy professor Andrew Sovacool’s extremely informative monograph “The Accidental Century,” which looks at power plant disasters in the twentieth century in great detail.


8 comments » | energy, Nuclear

Nature Spills More Oil Than Man — By Far

July 29th, 2010 — 2:17pm

A good reader (click on his name to read another interesting article) sent me a link to the following:

Mighty Oil-Eating Microbes Help Clean Up The Gulf

In response to which, I would also point out what too few people know: namely, that nature alone, apart from man, spills far more oil than all the world’s oil companies combined. To wit:

Natural Oil Leaks Equal To 8–80 Exxon Valdez Spills

Oil residue in seafloor sediments that comes from natural petroleum seeps off Santa Barbara, Calif., is equivalent to between 8 to 80 Exxon Valdez oil spills, according to a new study by researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).

Oil content of sediments is highest closest to the seeps and tails off with distance, creating an oil fallout shadow. The amount of oil in the sediments down current from the seeps is the equivalent of approximately 8 to 80 Exxon Valdez oil spills, the study said.

WHOI marine chemist Chris Reddy said Chris Farwell, the lead author of a paper on the subject and at the time an undergraduate working with UCSB’s Dave Valentine, “developed and mapped out our plan for collecting sediment samples from the ocean floor. After conducting the analysis of the samples, we were able to make some spectacular findings.”

There is an oil spill everyday at Coal Oil Point (COP), the natural seeps off Santa Barbara, where 20-25 tons of oil have leaked from the seafloor each day for the last several hundred thousand years.

Earlier research by Reddy and Valentine at the site found microbes were capable of degrading a significant portion of the oil molecules as they traveled from the reservoir to the ocean bottom, and that once the oil floated to sea surface, about 10% of the molecules evaporated within minutes.

“One of the natural questions is: What happens to all of this oil?” Valentine said. “So much oil seeps up and floats on the sea surface. It’s something we’ve long wondered. We know some of it will come ashore as tar balls, but it doesn’t stick around. And then there are the massive slicks. You can see them, sometimes extending 20 miles from the seeps. But what really is the ultimate fate?”

Read the rest of the article here.

11 comments » | energy, environmentalism, Fossil Fuel

The Green Jobs Racket Exposed (Again)

April 8th, 2010 — 8:16pm

Here’s an economic axiom which we’ve discussed here before, but which in this day and age is always worth repeating:

If something is economically tenable, it never ever needs to be subsidized.

The latest concretization of this fact comes from none other than the state-run Associated Press:

After a year of crippling delays, President Barack Obama’s $5 billion program to install weather-tight windows and doors has retrofitted a fraction of homes and created far fewer construction jobs than expected.

In Indiana, state-trained workers flubbed insulation jobs. In Alaska, Wyoming and the District of Columbia, the program has yet to produce a single job or retrofit one home. And in California, a state with nearly 37 million residents, the program at last count had created 84 jobs…

…”This is the beginning of the next industrial revolution with the explosion of clean energy investments,” said assistant U.S. Energy Secretary Cathy Zoi. “These are good jobs that are here to stay.”

But after a year, the stimulus program has retrofitted 30,250 homes — about 5 percent of the overall goal — and fallen well short of the 87,000 jobs that the department planned, according to the latest available figures.

As the Obama administration promotes a second home energy-savings program — a $6 billion rebate plan — some experts are asking whether that will pay off for homeowners or for the planet.


For more on the inherently toxic nature of environmentalism, please read this.

4 comments » | economics, energy, environmentalism

Nuclear Waste Doesn’t Exist

February 23rd, 2010 — 9:02am

There is no such thing as nuclear waste — and that’s just one of the many beautiful things about nuclear energy.

A nuclear reactor is refueled by its waste.

Quoting Dr. Pierre Guelfe, chief engineer of France’s main nuclear facility, in an interview he gave with William Tucker, author of an excellent book called Terrestrial Energy:

Pierre Guelfe: When the depleted fuel rods are removed, the reactors are shipped to La Hague for reprocessing. They let it cool down for a few years and then remove the uranium and plutonium. They ship the plutonium here. We take it and mix it with another stream of material, which is the scrap that is left over from uranium enrichment. The U235 content of this is very low … U235 is the fissionable isotope. But the plutonium is much more fissionable than the depleted uranium. So when we mix them together, you get a fuel that is very close to enriched uranium. It’s called ‘Mixed Oxide Fuel’(MOX). We have 20 reactors here in France running on MOX and there are ten more in Germany and two in Switzerland. So we’re pure plutonium, and we scrap uranium together. We use everything. We don’t leave any waste.

William Tucker: I’ve read this several times but I want to make absolutely sure: The plutonium that comes out of a commercial reactor, that you separate from the fuel rod, that cannot be used to make a bomb, right?

Pierre Guelfe: That’s right. You have four plutonium isotopes: Pu239, Pu240, Pu241 and Pu242. Of the four, only Pu239 can sustain a chain reaction. The others are contaminants. The PU241 is too highly radioactive. It fissiles too fast so you can’t control it to make a bomb. But you can use all of them to sustain fission in a MOX reactor (source).

And yet on the basis of some colossal misinformation, the United States now has fifty thousand tons of nuclear “waste,” because our government won’t allow nuclear plants to reuse it.

The stated policy of the Department of Energy (DOE) is “not to reprocess” a perfectly reusable by-product — and all for absolutely no good reason.

That, as I discuss in Chapter 12 of my book, is why Yucca Mountain is unnecessarily, and at great cost, being built in southwestern Nevada: to store a nuclear “waste” that could instead be simply and efficiently reused.

Nuclear “waste,” incidentally, is also used for medical isotopes. In fact, over 40 percent of medicine now is nuclear medicine. Currently, we must import all our nuclear isotopes because we’re not allowed to use any of our own.

This is not only profligate; it’s a kind of lunacy.

Just for the record: Barack Obama was opposed to nuclear energy before he was for it, presumably because, unlike wind and solar, nuclear energy actually works, and is more efficient by far than any other alternative.

It seems well worth mentioning also that as a direct result of environmentalism’s pathological antipathy toward nuclear energy, these same environmentalists have thereby brought the world 400 million more tons of coals used per year, ever since 1976, when the nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island melted down. Naturally, because environmentalists can’t be bothered by facts, it went completely unnoticed that the containment vessel at Three Mile Island had done its job and prevented any significant release of radioactivity.

18 comments » | energy

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