Too Hot for Nuclear

Chernobyl was a disaster of human error, Fukushima a natural disaster worsened by human error, but this is a whole other situation. The water in Long Island Sound is so warm that even with emergency rules that loosen the safety standards, the Millstone Nuclear Power Station had toshut down one of its units…

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut’s nuclear power plant has shut down one of two units because water from Long Island Sound used to operate the plant is too hot following the hottest July on record.

Just 2 days ago ‘The Day’ reported that the NRC juggled the numbers to allow the plant to continue operating…

Waterford – Because water temperatures in Long Island Sound have been averaging 1.7 degrees above normal this summer, the Millstone Power Station has been granted an emergency amendment to its license related to cooling water used for Unit 2.

The amendment, issued Friday by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, gives Millstone permission to use an average of three temperatures from three locations to ensure that the water drawn into the plant to cool instruments in the nuclear reactor building and the emergency diesel generators is no higher than 75 degrees. Previously the company was required to use a single measure of the highest temperature.

NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said the agency agreed that taking an average would be a valid way to ensure the temperature was within safety limits. If the water exceeds 75 degrees, Millstone would be required to scale back operations, and if the water reaches 77 degrees, the plants would be required to shut down.

Water that is 77 degrees or higher does not sufficiently cool the plant to keep it within the margin of safety, Millstone spokesman Ken Holt said.

I’ve seen online arguments that a few Chernobyls may be the price we have to pay for stopping the carbon pollution inherent in other forms of energy production. That’s more honest than pretending that human error, acts of nature and unforeseen events will somehow bypass nuclear.

We are in a crisis, I’m feeling three days of exhausting heat and humidity as I write this. But in this crisis we have tools we did not have in the 20th Century, and denial is running out. Conservation, a smart grid, diverse power sources and questioning a ‘lifestyle’ based on geometrically increasing demand for manufactured needs are where we need to start. I don’t see so many Hummers on the road these days, and I’m doing more teleconferencing to save us time and fuel. I’m not very confident in our leaders from either party, this change will have to come from the people.

They’re So Beautiful

The wind turbines seem to be offline, but the blades were rotating gently in the morning breeze. The light reflecting and changing on the bright white surfaces was fascinating, and the clean, aerodynamic look– contrasting with the rusty rail cars and low buildings.

In between taking care of two generations of family, I had time just before sunrise, and then around noon. I took those few minutes to get pix of the windmills, from as many angles as possible.

The view of the windmills at the tops of the little streets off Allens Ave is amazing, but I was unable to get the right perspective– and also people were looking at me like I might be up to something. I decided to go back another time, and maybe capture that picture with a paintbrush– which is often more true than a camera.

How Did That Happen?

Dawn on Providence Harbor

The windmills seemed to appear overnight. Mary, Kmareka’s Environmental Science consultant, says they are going to supply 85% of the electricity for the Fields Point waste treatment plant.

They’re pretty amazing, especially looking down the streets named after states on Allen’s Ave. They loom over the triple deckers, but screened by trees, they may not be so visible when the leaves come in.

How did something so big sneak up on us?

Brighter Days

By the middle of this week we will have eleven hours of daylight, and we are just about a month away from the vernal equinox.

In honor of the sun, here is some good news on the solar energy front from Scientific American…

The energy benefits of solar photovoltaics will only improve as the technology continues to boost its efficiency at converting sunlight to electricity or proves to last longer than the 30 years anticipated by manufacturers. “There is no reason for this not to last a lot more than 30 years,” Fthenakis says.

If solar energy begins to power its own production—a so-called PV breeder cycle, in which PV-generated electricity goes to produce more PV cells—the outlook is even sunnier. “I think 30 percent of the energy consumption in the [manufacturing] facilities is easily met from the land they have available [on] the roof and in the parking lot,” Fthenakis says.

Wow! Can’t you just feel the singularity coming? Of course, with all that energy production, we’ll need some big batteries to store it. Good news there too…

VRB will start mass production this year of a longer-lasting rival to the lead acid battery currently used to store energy for example produced by solar panel, Hennessy said.

Low carbon-emitting renewable energy is in vogue, driven by fears over climate change, spiraling oil prices and fears over energy supply and security.

While the supply of the wind and sun far exceeds humanity’s needs it doesn’t necessarily match the time when people need it: the sun may not be shining nor the wind blowing when we need to cook dinner or have a shower.

Soaring production of solar panel and wind turbines is now spurring a race to develop the winning energy storage technologies which will drive the electric cars and appliances of the future.

Wouldn’t it be great to tell the rest of the world, especially those nations that don’t like us, that they can keep their oil, we don’t need it. Remember when a young, visionary and daring president led our country to put a man on the moon? Now we just need a battery. We can do it. Now is no time to build more nuclear power plants — that’s so 20th century. We need to invest in solar.

And if you are thinking local as well as global, check out Natural News Network for what is happening in a neighborhood near you. Today’s headline is an amazing photo of last week’s lunar eclipse, by Kathy Hodge who braved the cold to take it.

Whitehouse Votes to Pass Clean Energy Act of 2007

The bad news is that large chunks of icebergs in the Antarctic are breaking off and starting to float away. The good news is the US government is finally paying attention to global warming, at least in some limited, lukewarm way. But it’s a start. From the Environmental News Service:

WASHINGTON, DC, June 22, 2007 (ENS) – The U.S. Senate passed energy legislation late Thursday night that mandates a 40 percent increase in fuel economy standards by 2020 and calls for a massive expansion of renewable fuels production. But the final bill is far less ambitious than Democrats had originally hoped for, as Republicans successfully derailed a plan that would have funded $32 billion in renewable energy tax breaks by increasing taxes on oil companies and blocked a measure requiring utilities generate more electricity from renewable sources.

The vote, 65-27, came after more than a week of intense debate that demonstrated deep partisan and regional divides over the nation’s energy future, as well as the pervasive lobbying power of electric utilities, auto manufacturers and the oil industry.

The White House has voiced concern over the mandated increase in fuel economy and threatened a veto because of language in the bill imposing stricter penalties on oil companies for price gouging.

The House is also working on energy legislation, with the goal of considering a bill after the July 4th recess, but has thus far avoided tackling the fuel economy question.

Fuel economy is a tricky political issue for U.S. lawmakers, and the Senate bill only passed after a compromise was reached over the fuel efficiency provision. The original language called for raising standards to 35 miles per gallon, mpg, by 2020, with four percent annual increases from 2021 to 2030.

Current standards require automakers to meet an average of 27.5 mpg for cars and 22.2 for sport utility vehicles and small trucks. Other than a very small increase in requirements for SUVs and trucks, the standards have not changed in two decades.

The compromise eliminated the mandated annual increases, instead calling on federal regulators to increase the standards “at a maximum feasible rate.”

“Our message to the domestic auto industry is, ‘You can do this,'” said Senator Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat. [full text]

They can, but they won’t. The auto industry continues to effectively avoid the full-scale shift to alternative energy fuels for cars. It’s a sad case of how corporate influence limits the ability for innovation and expansion into alternative resources. For more on this, I refer you to a movie that David posted a while ago called, “Who Killed the Electric Car?”

Regarding the passage of the Clean Energy Act, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse provided the following statement:

“Last night, the Senate took a dramatic step toward reducing our reliance on foreign oil, conserving more of the energy we use in our homes, cars, and businesses, and investing in new technologies that will help in the fight against global warming.

“Our energy bill will require more of our energy to come from sustainably-produced biofuels; raise fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks for the first time since 1975; incentivize the production of fuel-efficient vehicles; create new standards for appliances and lighting to help conserve electricity; and take a closer look at ways to trap carbon emissions before they reach the atmosphere. It will save tens of billions of dollars for American families.

“I was especially proud to support legislation, which passed as part of the energy bill last night, that will make the federal government a leader in energy-efficient, environmentally-sound building standards. Buildings that use less energy, and keep our air and water cleaner, will help preserve our environment, save taxpayers’ money – and take us one step closer to curbing the threat of global warming.

“To keep our economy strong and our people and environment healthy, we must lead the world in finding innovative ways to produce and use energy. This bill moves us closer to that goal.�