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Thread: Energy Discussion
03-27-2011, 11:32 AM #1
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.
03-27-2011, 11:37 AM #2
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Summaries from Florida State University - College of Engineering, Nuclear Power Pros and Cons
World Nuclear Association The Economics of Nuclear Power
03-27-2011, 11:39 AM #3
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.
03-27-2011, 12:15 PM #4
What is hydroelectricity?
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.
- 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).
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.
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
United Nations - The Issue of Greenhouse Gases from Hydroelectric Reservoirs : From Boreal to Tropical Regions
03-27-2011, 12:21 PM #5
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.
03-27-2011, 01:29 PM #6
An alternative that's been around for a long, long time
Here is some information on coal-fired power plants.
More than 159 million Americans live in communities with unhealthy air. Air pollution from power plants alone contributes to an estimated 30,000 premature deaths, hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks, and tens of thousands of hospitalizations for respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses each year. Everyone deserves air that is safe to breathe.
The 25-page report is based on research conducted by Abt Associates, a consulting firm regularly employed by the US Environmental Protection Agency to assess the health benefits of the agency’s programmes. The firm developed a model using health studies which link changes in soot concentrations in the environment to changes in risks of death and illness. Using pollution information made publicly available by the power plants themselves - as required by law - Abt Associates then employed this model to estimate the number of probable deaths from exposure to fine particles emitted from power plants. Besides 30,000 annual deaths, fine particle soot from power plants also causes an estimated 603,000 asthma attacks nationwide, according to the study.
03-27-2011, 06:40 PM #7
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...
03-27-2011, 09:04 PM #8
Wind farms are gaining in popularity in many places around the world. Holland is famous for having adopted this technology a long time ago.
Denmark has been a serious producer of wind energy and turbines for more than 3 decades.
Wind power provided 18.9% of electricity production and 24.1% of generation capacity in Denmark in 2008
An excerpt that shows its not just green energy, but plain good business sense:
Wind farms provide lease income to landowners and new income for rural municipalities through property taxes and often through additional amenities agreements. A typical 100 MW wind farm can generate several hundred thousand dollars in tax revenue for municipalities and a similar number in annual lease payments for rural landowners. For rural communities that depend on natural resources with volatile markets and commodity prices, wind farms can be an important source of economic stability.
03-27-2011, 09:12 PM #9
Here is an article I found online that gives us a really good overview of the path for renewable energy, specifically wind farming.
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.
03-27-2011, 09:21 PM #10
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.
"The cost of producing and installing PV cells has been steadily dropping for some years," he said. "A PV system now costs about half of what it did in 1998." The average price of a PV module in 2010 was $1.50/kW and by mid- year that figure is expected to drop to a maximum of $1.10kW
03-28-2011, 12:21 AM #11
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''.
Last edited by RSLvictorSOTX; 03-28-2011 at 12:23 AM.
03-28-2011, 12:28 AM #12
Let's be clear, not all places are viable for wind turbines installation. The lack of wind obviously is the reason.
03-28-2011, 12:31 AM #13
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)!
03-28-2011, 01:00 AM #14
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.
03-28-2011, 07:38 AM #15
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.
03-28-2011, 08:46 AM #16
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 48.5km˛ 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.
CIA World Factbook - https://www.cia.gov/library/publicat...orld-factbook/
Last edited by wilfredlgf; 03-28-2011 at 08:49 AM.
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