Skip to main content

Happiness and the Pursuit of Energy

r234906_943939 Now, here’s the thing: if you go to a conference about some topic in your field, you’re likely to eat some bad food, catch up with colleagues you never liked and end up with a bag full of plastic from various widget vendors.

So cynical. Listen and you might well also hear some ideas that charm you, some statements that surprise you.

At the 2009 Scientific Forum in Vienna, we heard this from Mohamed ElBaradei of the IAEA, which sponsors the forum:

This year we have chosen a timely topic: without energy there is no development, and development is life.

Well, that’s not bad – poetic, in fact, a distillation of a truth. Still, it struck us as rather an odd if highly appealing utterance. Then, there’s this:

In his presentation, Ashok Khosla, President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), introduced the concept of Gross National Happiness, which underlies a fundamental shift in the approach to economic development.

And this:

The Forum’s opening session concluded with a presentation by Abeeku Brew-Hammond, Professor at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and Chairman of the Ghana Energy Commission, explaining a multi-track, innovative approach to addressing the technological and sociological aspects of the energy issue.

Hmm – still not bad, with a notably, shall we say, holistic bent. What about this Scientific Forum?

The two-day Scientific Forum, which is organized by the IAEA, coincides with its annual General Conference. Each year, the Scientific Forum concentrates on a different topic.

This year’s participants and speakers will be focusing on the lack of access to modern energy services in many parts of the world and debating whether energy access is the missing Millennium Development Goal.

We may dive deeper into this a little later – we expect the dish gets deeper as the poetry goes prose.

But for now, and on a Friday, we rather like leaving you with a bunch of nuclear scientists talking about happiness and millennial goals, sociology mixed with technology and poetic utterances from the outgoing IAEA chief.

Here’s some links, though: The Millennial Development Goal, Gross National Happiness (via IUCN, where Khosla works – this is derived from the Bhutanese idea); and hey, how about the Scientific Forum itself? Lots of links there for the presentations and other events.

Happiness – among the Bhutanese.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

Why Nuclear Plant Closures Are a Crisis for Small Town USA

Nuclear plants occupy an unusual spot in the towns where they operate: integral but so much in the background that they may seem almost invisible. But when they close, it can be like the earth shifting underfoot.

Lohud.com, the Gannett newspaper that covers the Lower Hudson Valley in New York, took a look around at the experience of towns where reactors have closed, because the Indian Point reactors in Buchanan are scheduled to be shut down under an agreement with Gov. Mario Cuomo.


From sea to shining sea, it was dismal. It wasn’t just the plant employees who were hurt. The losses of hundreds of jobs, tens of millions of dollars in payrolls and millions in property taxes depressed whole towns and surrounding areas. For example:

Vernon, Vermont, home to Vermont Yankee for more than 40 years, had to cut its municipal budget in half. The town closed its police department and let the county take over; the youth sports teams lost their volunteer coaches, and Vernon Elementary School lost th…