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Energy Discussion

Discussion in 'Chit-Chat' started by wilfredlgf, Mar 27, 2011.

  1. wilfredlgf

    wilfredlgf Regular Member

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    With permission from one of the mods (thanks), I shall start this topic to talk about energy in general, be it nuclear, hydroelectric, fossil fuels etc - the current, future, pros and cons etc.
     
  2. wilfredlgf

    wilfredlgf Regular Member

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    Let's begin with the hottest topic as of now in relations to energy: nuclear.

    What spurred me into thinking about starting this discussion was due to the variety of reactions to nuclear energy after the tragic tsunami event in Japan that rendered the TEPCO plants hazardous - some remained strongly for, others very adamant against it, many in between - all opinions shaped by all sorts perception and even bias, be it knowledgeable or not. Governments are reconsidering their atomic energy plans, technologists doing firefighting whilst skeptics found currency to support their views.

    So what do you think?

    What is nuclear energy?

    FOR


    • Economy
      The economic value of nuclear power can be viewed in two possible interpretations, now and later. Currently nuclear energy is the cheapest out of all the other forms of power generation in the sense that its overall production costs are 1.76 cents/per kilowatt-hour. The next cheapest form of power is coal which is 2.21, while the next form of semi-clean energy, natural gas registers at 7.61.
    • Efficiency
      One uranium pellet, can deliver over 17 MBTU of heat energy, which is equivalent to 1780lbs of coal, 17,000 cubic meters of natural gas, or 149 gallons of oil.
    • Environmental
      The only real external product is excess water that gets released into the atmosphere as steam. In comparison, to a coal burning power plant, more radiation is released from the burning of coal then from a nuclear plant over 50 years with the inclusion of a minor leakage of radiation from the nuclear plant. Furthermore, all of the water used in the nuclear plant can be recycled (when a sufficient quantity of heat has been removed first) either back in the plant or ejected back into the environment with minimal damage incurred in the process.


    AGAINST



    • Safety
      A common analogy to describe nuclear power in relations to traditional fossil fuels is air travel vs driving; the risks of dying behind the wheel far higher than on a flight, but the level of damage varies in a car crash in comparison to pretty much certain death from flight equivalents. Nuclear plants that work properly are cleaner and cheaper than fossil fuels in the long run but are far more devastating when something does go wrong - regional/national level contamination for long period of years.

      Exhibit A: Three Mile Island Incident
      Exhibit B: Chernobyl Reactor 4
      Exhibit C: Fukushima Nuclear Plants

    • National/global security
      The final downturn to nuclear power is the speed and ease that a peaceful power producing nuclear program can be turned around to making plutonium which is predominantly used in making nuclear warheads. Typically depending on a countries access to scientists and amount of money a government is willing to spend, a the average expected turn around time of a civilian program to producing weapons grade plutonium is about six months.
    • Nuclear waste
      The half-life of Uranium 235 is about 713 million years long and the half-life of Plutonium 239 is over 20 thousand years long. Due to such large half-lives, much time and money go into making sure that nuclear waste is safely disposed away from civilization. Waste disposal tools usually include containers that are made from multiple layers of lead and steel and rigorously tested to avoid waste leakage. There are also many underground waste disposal sites throughout the United States that have been constructed only to be filled within months.

      So much of the space that cannot be used anymore of a very, very long time.
    • Cost
      A nuclear reactor cost billions to build and millions to decommission. The values vary from reactor to reactor size and type but common production units can range from US$1.5b to US$20b in a quick Google search. The upfront costs are very expensive.
    References:
    Summaries from Florida State University - College of Engineering, Nuclear Power Pros and Cons
    World Nuclear Association The Economics of Nuclear Power

     
  3. wilfredlgf

    wilfredlgf Regular Member

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    Statistics, arguments aside - I'm still for nuclear energy as I believe the plants will get safer and safer due to technological advances as well as cheaper and cheaper. There is concern regarding the wastes though, where are we going to store the waste products.

    By the way, Bangi hosts a non-power generating TRIGA Mark II reactor at the Malaysia Nuclear Agency used primarily for testing and research purposes.
     
  4. wilfredlgf

    wilfredlgf Regular Member

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    Hydroelectric
    What is hydroelectricity?

    PROS

    • Clean
      Using gravity, falling water causes turbines to turn and generate electricity. Gravity is free, clean and eternal. Water is also free, clean and eternal. The byproducts of hydroelectric generation is pretty much nothing.
    • Fuel costs
      Unless a river (or water) on which the dams are built becomes private property, the cost of fuel for hydroelectric is zero.

    CONS

    • Environmental impact
      The building of a hydroelectric plant requires daming a river, causing the submersion of large areas of land as well as destruction of downstream ecology - rainforests, marine life, human habitation. Furthermore the stagnation of dams causes anaerobic bacterial activities to increase, resulting in release of greenhouse gases in the form of methane (rotting vegetation, trees, organic soil etc).
    • Shortage
      Dependance on water meant that during times of drought the energy output could go down, causing disruptions to power supplies if it hits peak capacity. Severe droughts or changes in climate could render the dam permanently non-operational.
    • Safety
      Similar to nuclear power, when it runs fine the power generation is clean and safe. Cracks, malfunctions or damages from wear, construction or sabotage can wipe out large swathes of land downstream. Or a natural disaster.

      Banqiao Dam, China (1975) - 90,000 to 230,000 est casualties; 10 million lives affected


    References
    United Nations - The Issue of Greenhouse Gases from Hydroelectric Reservoirs : From Boreal to Tropical Regions
     
  5. wilfredlgf

    wilfredlgf Regular Member

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    So hydroelectric dams are not so environmental friendly either - there must be some destruction before there can be any construction and clean power.

    The Banqiao dam incident is quite similar to what hit Japan recently - Typhoon Nina hit South China, causing the collapse of dam walls and subsequently the damage of a large area of land and massive loss of lives or livelihood.

    The methane gas generation is actually a pretty interesting thing - considering that its a type of fuel that can be used, maybe the economic potentials of a hydroelectric plant can be increased from the recovery and storage.
     
  6. cobalt

    cobalt Moderator

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    An alternative that's been around for a long, long time

    Here is some information on coal-fired power plants.
    http://healthandenergy.com/coal.htm

    An excerpt:
    http://www.twnside.org.sg/title/plant.htm
    An excerpt:
     
  7. extremenanopowe

    extremenanopowe Regular Member

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    For god sake. Do something with least repercussions. Is the money worth it when lives are lost? Think hard. It will only take a simple mistakes to break it. Can lives be bought with economical output? ;)

    Solar is the best. Its the time and brain power to get it done. Not the cost. ;) Must jail those greedy fellas. It's all in ROI. ;)

    Imagine if indonesia or malaysia gets one??????? I'll migrate for sure... ;)
     
  8. cobalt

    cobalt Moderator

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    Wind farms are gaining in popularity in many places around the world. Holland is famous for having adopted this technology a long time ago.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_the_Netherlands

    Denmark has been a serious producer of wind energy and turbines for more than 3 decades.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_Denmark
    Excerpt:
    The province of Ontario in Canada also has also aggressively advocated green energy.
    http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/February2011/24/c5759.html
    An excerpt that shows its not just green energy, but plain good business sense:
    Canada currently has 4,155 MW of installed wind energy capacity. Ontario is the provincial leader in installed wind energy capacity with 1,598 MW of wind energy development.
    windfarmont.jpg
     
  9. cobalt

    cobalt Moderator

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    Here is an article I found online that gives us a really good overview of the path for renewable energy, specifically wind farming.
    http://www.peopleandplanet.net/?lid=29750&section=36&topic=27

    Obviously, there are many powerful vested interests that will not allow dependancy on fossil fuels as a source of energy to fade away. Nuclear energy is also a statement of power for countries, but like all power, it can be abused/misused or itself hijacked. The fact is that renewable/green energy is becoming more efficient and cost-effective to produce, and this will be more true as technology and R&D advances in this field.
     
  10. cobalt

    cobalt Moderator

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    The same online source also provides information on solar energy. With recent developents and strides in PV technology, solar energy can achieve consistent parity with fossil-fuel and nuclear energy production costs within this years.
    http://www.peopleandplanet.net/?lid=29628&section=36&topic=23

    An excerpt:
     
  11. RSLvictorSOTX

    RSLvictorSOTX Regular Member

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    Originally Posted by wilfredlgf

    I'm still for nuclear power.

    Let's have a debate on a separate thread! :)

    ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬

    And why is that? I think safety first is the ultimate priority in generating nuclear power!

    Using more electricity generated from nuclear power plants even though leads to cleaner air by reducing the burning of coal IS NOT THE WAY TO GO! There must be alternatives. Neither coal nor ''nukelar'':).
     
    #11 RSLvictorSOTX, Mar 27, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2011
  12. RSLvictorSOTX

    RSLvictorSOTX Regular Member

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    Let's be clear, not all places are viable for wind turbines installation. The lack of wind obviously is the reason.
     
  13. RSLvictorSOTX

    RSLvictorSOTX Regular Member

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    Solar power seems the best and perfect way to go but it isn't perfected yet. Otherwise, we can all just store up and plug in. Sure, as the technology advances even further. We can all be investing in Plug Power (socket attached to the solar generator)!
     
  14. cobalt

    cobalt Moderator

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    Hydroelectric power is still relatively cleaner and safer than most other options. As for the environmental fallout, that is a political consequence of partial indifference and expediency. The most significant fallout is the dislocation of large numbers of people who used to live along the river banks etc. resulting in among other things, large tears in the cultural and sociological fabric of the region.

    One of the issues with HE power generation is the question of economics of scale versus the effect (also the ripple effects) of scale. Gigantic projects such as the 3 Gorges in China or the Sardar Sarovar Dam in India have created much environmental imbalance and strife for the predominantly agarian local popluation. The effects of both types of imbalance can only be properly measured after a decade or two, when the geographical change of the entire region affects industry, living conditions, forests and agriculture, weather patterns, animal and bird migration and the rest of it.

    Projects on a lesser scale have OTOH been able to maintain a fairly sensitive balance with the environment and the local human population.
     
  15. extremenanopowe

    extremenanopowe Regular Member

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    Next time, if someone proposes risky projects. They should show some leadership or examples by staying at those area like beneath the dam or nuke plant. See if they dares. All politics for their own benefits. ;)
     
  16. wilfredlgf

    wilfredlgf Regular Member

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    To be honest that is the actual post that prompted me to start this topic as I find the negativity towards nuclear power at the moment is kneejerk at best because of the incident that is currently plaguing Japan. Hindsight nonwithstanding, would you have felt any more negative about nuclear before the tsunami hit eastern Japan? What if the reactors did not fail as it did?

    Modern nuclear plants are built with failsafes over failsafes over more failsafes to ensure multiple level of control and containment should something go wrong, ensuring that any kind of mishap have contingency plans to complement them for the utmost in safety. The Fukushima Plants were built to withstand up to 7.9 Richter in magnitude of shocks. Not very good against a 9.0 earthquake. However, the key point here is that the thing that causes the entire mess right now for TEPCO were the problem of the massive waves washing away the backup generators that would have kept the cores cool enough from melting as designed. Furthermore the scale of 9.0 is at the epicentre, 130km from the nearest city of Sendai.

    Personally from the viewpoint of disasters of that scale, nothing will be able to withstand the rage of Mother Earth should she decide to unleash her fury upon the land - the Chinese dam example being one. The rest of the major nuclear disasters were results of poor design and build (Three Mile Island) and negligence (Chernobyl).

    To add, Malaysia is free of earthquakes and major disasters of that scale, barring the yearly monsoon floods - why build it at flood prone areas anyway.

    I agree that solar power is the most perfect power supply of all with millions of years worth of the sun's radiation from the process of hydrogen fusion. The problem however is that it isn't economically viable nor efficient enough. Solar power costs four times as much as coal power and an area of some 48.5km² of Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) cells to generate 1000MW worth of power on a good, sunny day. To power Singapore's energy demands in 2007, using today's technology a solar farm the area bigger than London is needed with uninterrupted sun and at peak efficiency.

    Other references:
    CIA World Factbook - https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/
     
    #16 wilfredlgf, Mar 28, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2011
  17. wilfredlgf

    wilfredlgf Regular Member

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    I-475-0101.jpg

    I'm buying that house. ;)
     
  18. kwun

    kwun Administrator

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  19. Fidget

    Fidget Regular Member

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    Even though the house is a stone's throw from the 'clean' nuclear power generator, it still has a dirty old chimney! :rolleyes:
     
  20. Pete LSD

    Pete LSD Regular Member

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    What's next? Fusion and anti matter?
     

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