Thursday, June 23, 2005

One News tonight.

Nuclear Power back on the Agenda in the US. Yay, maybe now we will get reasoned rational debate. The only way to avoid greenhouse gases they say - they're onto it. That pillock of a US correspondent Tim Wilson? was (predictably) banging about the "terrible accident at Three Mile Island in the 70's" - Terrible? 1979 it was - No one died and no one was seriously hurt. The Nuclear power industry was seriously set back though. Clearly it was an industry that had safety problems - it must now be the most regulated in the world.

France that favourite of the Left and the anti-US groupings has >75% nuclear power. They are meeting their Kyoto obligations.

One cannot help but think the nuclear power debate in New Zealand has been hijacked by the Left for too long, using it as anti-US saw.

The delightful irony is that nuclear power is indeed a nil greenhouse gas energy source. All that's left is a grizzle about nuclear waste. Well in the UK, the entire waste of the nuclear power industry since its inception 50 years ago would just fill a house. Compare that pile to the ash/slag heaps behind any village in the Welsh valleys or the Midlands.

Adam Nicholson has highlighted the issues and talks of a clever solution to the waste problem.

"...Nuclear power is the only form of electricity generation that will keep us happy. It does not contribute to global warming. It does not spread itself in ugly swaths across remote hillsides. It is by far the safest form of power generation ever devised. It can satisfy large energy demands from an increasingly energy-hungry world. It reduces dependence on oil supplies from the Middle East. Its own raw material is enormously abundant.

Waste, though, is not a technical problem, or at least does not need to be. It is a political problem, founded on irrational fears of nuclear power. It is those political fears that have starved research into the technical solutions of the necessary money.

An English geologist has come up with one of the most ingenious ideas yet suggested. Dr Fergus Gibb, a specialist in igneous rocks at Sheffield University who has done mould-breaking research into the beautiful columnar dolerites of the Hebrides, has suggested that the really high-grade nuclear waste should be returned to the earth and allowed, in effect, to melt itself back into the rocks from which the nuclear ores were originally mined.

Gibb's idea has a brilliant circularity about it. The very heat that nuclear material generates, which is at the heart of much of the difficulty of storing the waste at all, could actually be put to use. His idea is to drill enormously deep holes right into the granite of the continental crust, perhaps 5,000 metres down, at the bottom of which it is quite hot anyway: about 900C. Add some canisters of high-level nuclear waste and the whole bottom of the shaft turns molten. The waste is then "engulfed", in Gibb's word, by the surrounding rock, which would resolidify in a matter of weeks. The waste would be entombed for millions of years until erosion would again expose it. By then the nuclear material will have lost its potency. Gibb calls his solution "the granite coffin"..."

Another irony - tragic this one - the thermal coal industry has an annual death rate 1000's of times larger than the life of the nuclear industry.

There were 6,702 deaths in mining accidents in 2003 in China

The average amount of coal produced by each mineworker in China per year is 321 tons, 2.2 percent of what a mineworker produces in the U.S. However, when producing 100 tons of coal, in China, the death rate is 100 times higher than that of the U.S.

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