Does Nuclear Power have a future?


It might be reasonable to assume that a big question mark hangs over the future of nuclear power following the damage to four separate reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. This complex has a total of six reactors all fitted with failsafe safety devices and controls. Unfortunately words like failsafe and foolproof are not part of Mother Nature’s vocabulary. Mother Nature is also well-known for throwing unexpected and unpredictable thunderbolts out of a clear blue sky. In north-east Japan this came in the form of a magnitude 9-0 earthquake and the consequent reactor damaging tsunami which destroyed the electrical power supply that many of the safety features relied on.

Clearly this incident has demonstrated that no matter how much safety planning and features are built into the design of a nuclear reactor, there can no longer be a guarantee of 100% safety. Although Fukushima  will now join the well-known names of nuclear accidents like Three Mile Island and Chernobyl the list of incidents is much larger. Others include the Mayak or Kyshtym nuclear complex in 1957, Windscale also in 1957, Idaho National Engineering Laboratory in 1961, Severesk, formerly Tomsk-7 in 1967, Tokaimura nuclear fuel processing facility in 1999 and Mihama power plant in 2004 although apparently no radiation leak occurred at this incident.

It is the insidious fear of the potential lethal or genetic mutational effects on the unborn, of radiation that causes such alarm in the world populace. Radiation can be like an invisible and unheard wraith casting its deadly cloak like an unseen shadow over land, people, animals and vegetation with effects of contamination that can last for years.

The only realistic solution to avoiding future nuclear incidents is not to have nuclear power stations at all. However a no nuclear option also requires realistic alternatives. It would be possible to return to fossil fuel based power stations like coal or oil but these raise environmental and cost issues and well as objections on global warming issues. It would also only be a matter of time before fossil fuels become exhausted.  Wind, solar and tidal power are possible alternatives but wind turbines are unsightly and blot landscapes. Although wind and tide have a contributory input to national power requirements, at the moment they only provide a fraction of the ever-growing demand for more and more power. It is questionable if alternative sources will ever fulfil the power need currently supplied by nuclear power.

I expect once the dust, (hopefully not radioactive), has settled over Fukushima, politicians will come to the only foreseeable conclusion that if the world wants power then it will have to accept nuclear power despite its inherent dangers.

Global Warming – Fact or Fiction?


For the last several years on an almost daily basis, the international public ear has endured a constant tirade of warnings about global warming. Most of these warnings come from scientists and the governments that are advised by them. There are few people who would disagree global warming is actually occurring. The debate however falls into two groups, those that argue global warming is caused by CO2 emissions created by mankind and those that argue global warming is part of a natural cyclic process that we are going through.

Those that argue the cause is CO2 emissions say the burning of fossil fuels, coal petrol etc., in turn releases additional carbon into the atmosphere which acts like a thermal blanket. This they say traps heat within the earth’s atmosphere instead of allowing it to dissipate naturally into outer space. Those that argue it is a cyclic process are in essence saying that if mankind did not exist on this planet, global warming would still occur naturally followed by a spell of global cooling.

With such opposing viewpoints it is not difficult to understand that many people may be confused with who is right or even if there are other factors not being taken into account by either side.

While governments who favour the CO2 emission argument may appear to have the authoritative voice on the issue, many people are both sceptical and distrustful of the argument. I think most people understand that governments do not earn money, they only spend or borrow money raised by the earners in society. Governments are always looking for new ways to raise money to either reduce they amount they borrow, or to spend even more money on pet projects and grandiose ideas.  It can come as no surprise that once the global warming argument was raised, governments suddenly introduced a raft of new taxation measures under the pretext of reducing the amount of fossil fuels burned. Some of these taxes being directly imposed on the travel industry. The public can be excused for being sceptical about these new taxes. Not one mile less will be travelled as a result of them, as people still have to go where they have to go, and do what they have to do.

The real truth is that no one really understands what the cause of global warming is. Although scientists will produce data that accurately shows the warming increase, this data is just a symptom and not the cause.

Although it sounds a reasonably plausible argument that mankind’s burning of fossil fuels is causing an increase in  levels of CO2, and as these levels increase, more heat is being trapped within the atmosphere. There is one powerful argument with supporting evidence against this which is frequently ignored, some might say because it’s an inconvenience.

In 2007, an article in the magazine New Scientist reported on the analysis of ice core samples taken from Antarctica. The core samples are like a physical history book due to things like gases trapped within these cores at known time periods. It was possible to determine the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere as the earth began to warm after successive Ice ages. It was found that CO2 gases only increased 800 years after the earth began to warm. The consequence of this discovery is that CO2 did not cause initial global warming at the end of the last ice age. This tend to belittle the theory that CO2 gases are the cause of global warming as the earth began to warm for entirely different reasons. It would be fair to say that once present in the atmosphere CO2 contributes to global warming but it certainly was not the cause.

One only has to look at the continuous voluminous discharge of gases from just one active volcano to realise that gases created from burning of fossil fuels is laughably small by comparison. No one is certain of the exact number of active volcanoes in the world but at least 500 have been recorded on land and there are a further 1,500 estimated volcanoes below the surface of the oceans.

In the pandemonium that is being created about the global warming issue, the element carbon has gained something of a bad name. However burning fossil fuels does not create carbon, it simply releases existing carbon that was already locked into the fuel. Carbon is also essential for life to exist. Everything living from vegetation to mammals including human beings are composed of carbon. Of the two main elements that the human body is composed of 65% is oxygen followed by 18% carbon.

Carbon also has a geological cycle. Carbon in both the soil and air is absorbed by vegetation and mammals during growth. Each blade of grass, tree and human being is like a little deposit bank of carbon. In time as everything dies this deposit of carbon is returned to the ground and in processes over geological time will form new rocks and strata. As the tectonic plates of the earth continue to expand due undersea volcanic action the edges meet and clash against each other. One of the tectonic plates will slide over the other with the lower plates being forced deep into the earth by a process known as subduction.  The subducted plate gets hotter the lower it sinks due to heat from the earth’s molten core until it eventually melts into a magma. As molten magma, underground pressures will eventually force it back into the atmosphere  through erupting volcanoes releasing CO2 gas to once again begin its geologic cycle.

Other theories forwarded as to the cause of global warming include solar winds created from sun spot activity, and the variance of daily sunlight received on the polar regions of the globe caused by the slight wobble in the earth’s axis. Whatever the cause of global warming only one thing is certain, politicians will continue to find excuses to impose ever-increasing taxation on whatever global warming theory becomes the flavour of the month.

I wonder just how are they going to tax the wobble of the earth?

 

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