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Truth Buried in Humor

Here's a humorous question that actually leads to a substantive answer, courtesy of The Straight Dope:
After watching Dawn of the Dead, I am left to wonder about one thing: If we were to suffer an apocalypse where most of the living became flesh-eating zombies, how long, assuming I survived, would I continue to receive hydroelectricity from my power company? Is it a mean-time-before-failure situation, or would the system automatically shut itself down after a few days?
Silly? Of course. But what follows is an excellent basic primer on how North America generates its electric power.
Power plants are incredibly complex facilities with an enormous number of controls, and consequently an enormous number of things that can go wrong. The level of complexity and reliability of the plants is a function of the type of power plant, the control systems installed, and the plant's age and condition. In addition to the possibility of unplanned events causing shutdowns, there is also the problem of maintaining a fuel supply without human intervention. Given all these variables, coming up with hard and fast numbers is difficult. To address your question as well as I can, I'll break down power plants by type (coal, nuclear, hydro, and natural gas) and discuss each one separately, focusing on the U.S. and Canada, since their electrical systems are closely tied.
Like I said, silly question followed by informative answer. Check it out.

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Comments

Norris McDonald said…
FUNNY. Check out our take on Dawn of the Dead:

http://aaea-la.blogspot.com/2005/11/dawn-of-dead-environmentalists.html

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