Things have cooled down as we head into Autumn.
Now there's talk about there being insufficient natural gas to both
supply consumers and gas fired power stations next summer, meaning we
may see rolling blackouts again (not that we did actually get a blackout
this year). Did someone say "third world"?
Even more reason to get my generator running again.
Meanwhile, over here in the U.S. we have so much natural gas available
(largely because of widespread fracking), that the coal industry is in
dire straits. Maybe what Australia needs to do is to build some
coal-fired electric plants, and buy some of our surplus coal for them.
Coal is a very reliable source for electric production, not varying
with the weather, etc. Alternatively, if you have the sources, start
doing some serious fracking to get your own natural gas.
We have more than enough coal of our own - hundreds of years worth at
current consumption, and most of our current base-load supply uses coal.
But coal doesn't make economic sense for anything but base load - the
plant is too expensive.
Adding to the problem is that to appease the environmentalists, gas is
now being used for base-load, because it has lower CO2 emissions. Even
leaving aside the insufficiency of gas supply, the known gas reserves
are nothing like as big as the coal reserves.
We could, of course, process and use our huge uranium reserves in
nuclear plants, rather than shipping the ore overseas. But the NIMBY
effect applies, and in Australia BY seems to mean "within a couple of
Before all the fracking made natural gas so cheap, coal was the most
economical fuel over here. Many blame Obama's opposition to coal for
its decline, but the real cause is simple economics. At some point,
the natural gas supply will start getting more expensive, and coal will
be king again. With Australia having such supplies, I'm surprised it
doesn't burn more coal. Surely with rolling blackouts, there's a
That's the same over here, with hundreds of years of coal reserves, but
at the moment it's cheaper to burn natural gas. Of course, the
coal-fired plants are still operating, just at lower levels.
I'd like to see more nuclear plants, preferably of a better design than
is usual for the U.S. Canada's "CANDU" design seems like a good one.
Nuclear power has some serious advantages if treated properly. I for
one would much rather have a nuke nearby than a coal or oil plant. I
just checked, and it looks like we've only ever had one in Colorado,
and that's been shut down for years.
Rolling blackouts are caused by a lack of peak supply, for which coal is
singularly inappropriate. Such supply is traditionally provided by
either gas or diesel generation. The problem is that with solar and wind
taking the peak supply when it suits them, the economics of building
peak generation are seriously undermined. Essentially, the market has
been broken by government requirements that renewables be allowed to
supply when they can. So some government intervention is required to fix it.
Provided they don't leak, nukes actually release less radiation into the
environment that coal plant does, because there's a small amount of
uranium in the coal, and it ends up in the ash.
Governments get caught up in stupid political red tape and the
end result is something based on methods and technology that is
no longer optimal.
But when they do leak they can't always be controlled until
substantial harm is done to large geographical regions.
Just a personal observation, but it seems the nuke problems are
always in the larger facilities.
Yes, it sounds like the usual government screwup. Solar and wind
should never be counted on for supply. AIUI, here we always have
reliable backup to match any claimed production ability of those. We
have some large wind farms in areas that are fairly consistently windy,
but still don't count on them. Things like coal provides a solid,
dependable level of power (yes, not quickly adjustable) and things like
natural gas easily handle sudden need.
The biggest nuclear accident in the U.S., Three Mile Island, never did
any real harm. The highest radiation levels released were less than
the background radiation levels in places like my state, CO. The
disasters of Chernobyl and Fukushima did release a lot of radiation,
but it's hard to make any generalization from such a small sample set.
It seems to me the big problems are from poor designs that aren't
updated as we learn more. There isn't much accountability when a
disaster does happen, and the damage easily crosses political
boundaries. Then there's the problem of waste disposal.
You can't compare US nuclear reactors to soviet ones, as the latter
didn't even have a containment building, were boiling water reactors,
had a graphit moderator, the fuel elements were exchanged on the fly
(without shutting the reactor down, obviously).Also after the accident
on the 4th unit, the other 3 units continued in normal operation until,
I think 2000 when they were shut down for good. Also in Fukushima the
company who build the rector tried to cut corners to increase profits.
For a couple of bad apples we shouldn't denigrate peaceful nuclear
energy.IMHO I prefer nuclear energy than more nuclear bombs.
Nuclear energy is a billion year cleanup problem, and that is
assuming it can all be contained safely that long.
Environmental damage from coal, oil and gas can be recovered in
less than a century, usually a few decades. Recovery does not
include cleaning up mines, that is a separate issue.
If you want to help stop global warming, insulate in summer,
don't heat your home in the winter. Wear more clothing.
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