Thursday, January 15, 2009

ironies and Little Failures

paint-can In rummaging around the radiant news of the day, we often run into stories that not only don’t quite fit any particular theme that interests us, but seem determined to not fit any particular theme at all. We sometimes put these in a cold oven back near the pilot light to see if we can come back and make some sense of them later. For example:

Nathan Lewis, a chemistry professor at the California Institute of Technology, has spent three decades researching another option: harnessing solar power to create fuels that can replace oil and gasoline.

Well, that’s interesting and we do like to check in with our renewable cousins. But we realize that Lewis has a bit of sale to make:

N&O [News & Observer]: Tell us what you'll be talking about.

Lewis: I'm going to talk about where our energy comes from now. That gets at the scale of the energy problem. It's not fixing a few light bulbs in Fresno. It's not building 50 nuclear power plants. Even if you conserved energy at twice the level you need [it wouldn't be enough].

N&O: What would it take?

Lewis: Something like 10,000 nuclear power plants within the next 50 years somewhere in the world. That's a pretty stunning number to most people, but it's in fact the scale of energy.

We’d hate to tell Professor Lewis how many solar panels he might need to produce an equal amount of energy, but it’s really the 10,000 that caught our eye. A very stunning number indeed.

Here’s Professor Lewis’ idea:

Lewis: I work in technologies to capture, convert and store sunlight. Solar paint: stuff you can paint on your roof, and maybe ultimately make fuel directly. Artificial photosynthesis: How do you build a leaf? Nature built it. We know it works. We just gotta figure out a way to do it ourselves better.

We wish Professor Lewis a lot of luck.

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rolando This seemed a promising headline:

Peru needs a nuclear energy program.

We don’t disagree, and the story promises encouragement:

In an interview with reporters from El Comercio newspaper, [Rolando] Páucar affirmed that it was important for Peru to develop a nuclear energy program to seek the development and production of safe and clean energy.

But:

Even though nuclear specialist Rolando Páucar has pushed for Peru to use nuclear plants to produce energy, the Andean country’s Ministry of Energy has not paid this scientist or his requests much attention.

Hmm! Viva Rolando Paucar?

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AppleStrudel-thumb The Viennese are unhappy:

"We were really aghast when we heard that it's being taken back into use," was the angry comment from Herwig Schuster - spokesperson for the Austrian branch of Greenpeace - at the news that the Bohunice V 2 nuclear power station, located just 100 km from Vienna in neighbouring Slovakia, is to re-open.

And why are the Slovaks reopening the plant?

But now, because of the problems with the supply of gas from Russia, the Slovak government has indicated that it wants to bring the reactor back into use.

And why should this bother the Viennese?

All in all it's no wonder that - as research has shown - Vienna comes in third place behind Saint Petersburg and Kiev as the European city most under 'threat' from nuclear power stations, despite Austria's own nuclear-free status.

Love to see that research! We suspect it proves precisely what the Viennese want it to prove. We suspect the Slovaks roll their eyes at the Austrian research. We really suspect the Viennese have not been as affected by Russia’s mischief as the Slovaks.

The Austrians claim that the gas problem with Russia is just an excuse, because only eight percent of Slovakia's energy actually comes from gas.

Or maybe the Slovaks want the benefits of nuclear energy despite the “threat” to Vienna. We suspect – well, we just do.

4 comments:

Joffan said...

The research on European cities under threat was no doubt a report on how people feel, not on real threats. If you tell a population often enough that they are in immediate danger (of whatever) it would be only natural for some significant propotion to start believing it. The Viennese have been stampeded into worrying about nuclear, so now they feel under threat.

Marje Hecht said...

Nathan Lewis is right on one thing: To keep up with demand, the world will need 6,000 nuclear plants ( of 1,000-MW equivalent) by the year 2050. Jim Muckerheide explains how to do it at http://www.21stcenturysciencetech.com/Articles%202005/Nuclear2050.pdf .

Matthew66 said...

I suspect that the Czechs an Slovaks like to take any opportunity to annoy their former imperial overlords. I imagine that any new plants built in the Czech Republic or Slovakia will be sited near the Austrian border, not just for spite, but to sell electricity to Austria and others in the EU.

Joffan said...

Interesting article Marje, thanks, bookmarked... and I assume that's you writing the "nuclear waste" info box at the end of that article.