Bob Metcalfe has an interesting futurist editorial in the Wall Street Journal:
The good news is that the big names in nuclear energy -- like Areva, Hitachi, General Electric and Toshiba -- have recently been joined by a bevy of high-tech start-ups seeking to develop advanced nuclear-reactor designs for both fission and fusion energy production. So far, there are five fission and two fusion start-ups, among them Hyperion, NuScale and Tri Alpha.
We don’t want to quote much – too much on Metcalfe’s mind to paraphrase. He considers current nuclear technology too expensive, though he give a kind of indirect thumbs up to the kinds of mini-reactors Babcock & Wilcox recently introduced, and perhaps oversells fusion – still essentially a lab project.
Even as a peek into the future, we found ourselves quibbling a lot. But it tweaks the brain and is therefore worth a read.
Geothermal’s in town and shaking things up. While prospecting for heat in Basel Switzerland a few years ago:
the project set off an earthquake, shaking and damaging buildings and terrifying many in a city that, as every schoolchild here learns, had been devastated exactly 650 years before by a quake that sent two steeples of the Münster Cathedral tumbling into the Rhine.
That’s not good. Even worse:
… An American start-up company, AltaRock Energy, will begin using nearly the same method to drill deep into ground laced with fault lines in an area two hours’ drive north of San Francisco.
We have no brief on geothermal energy, but this does give us pause:
But because large earthquakes tend to originate at great depths, breaking rock that far down carries more serious risk, seismologists say. Seismologists have long known that human activities can trigger quakes, but they say the science is not developed enough to say for certain what will or will not set off a major temblor.
We vote for finding out what might cause a major “temblor” - in San Francisco – in a fault line riven area – before proceeding apace. The story has a lot of good material about geothermal energy, so do read the whole thing. You may or may not find yourself quaking.
Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann’s (R) statements sometimes zoom straight into the ideological ether - where the air can get a little thin, and her message, however valid, becomes easier to dismiss. But credit where it’s due, and in The Hill, Bachmann effectively brings nuclear energy down to the local level:
One of the current U.S. nuclear generators is in my district, in Monticello, Minn. Last year, as the Xcel Energy site celebrated 38 years as a good neighbor, strong business and excellent power source, they met with area environmental groups that were re-thinking their long-held opposition to nuclear power. In a Star Tribune article (“No Protests as Xcel Ramps Up Nuclear Plans,” by Heron Marquez Estrada, July 27, 2008), Bill Grant, Midwest director for the Izaak Walton League of America, a leading national conservation group, was reported as saying that “he would not be surprised if the group revises its policies to include a nuclear option in its vision of how to fuel the nation’s future energy needs.”
Well, we’ll see, but hope, it does spring eternal. Bachmann zings the Democrats a few times, rather mildly, but has some salient points to make. Have a read.
Basel, Switzerland. Those are likely the steeples near the middle of the picture the Baselians would like to keep upright.