Like many of you, I’ve been closely following the developments at the Fukushima reactor complex. Below is a set of links to articles I’ve written for the Stranger, as the events have unfolded. 3/12/2011 Explosion at Fukushima Nuclear Plant, Cesium Detected 3/14/2011 Don’t Panic Geiger Counter Readings Rise in Tokyo 3/15/2011 What’s on Fire at [...]
The United States power grid is currently (get it? get it!?) split into three distinct chunks: an Eastern interconnection, a Western interconnection (of which Seattle and Washington State are members) and Texas. Why is Texas separate from the rest? Why indeed. Surplus power generated in one interconnection, at this time, cannot be transferred to another. [...]
We’re well past the point of being able to consider only the most pleasant energy sources. Looking at the number of people on the planet, and the increasingly dire reports of damage caused by the burning of fossil fuels, we need to be realistic. These steps, by the scientific community and the Obama administration, are heartening steps in what seems the right direction.
For wind power, consistency is everything. The rub is, all of the pollutants we’ve added to the atmosphere are changing how the atmosphere interacts with sunlight in difficult to predict ways. Our continued belching out of greenhouse gasses makes building a wind farm increasingly risky (and therefore less attractive) than building a fossil fuel plant.
If we’re going to replace fossil fuels, we should understand why they’ve become such a central part of human life and civilization. Because, fossil fuels are pretty damn amazing.
Adjusting to higher energy prices? You aren’t the only one. The insanity of shipping even the cheapest goods around the planet, to save a little on labor costs, is finally being recognized as insane: As the cost of shipping continues to soar along with fuel prices, homegrown manufacturing jobs are making a comeback after decades [...]
From the ominously titled European Space Agency press release, Even the Antarctic winter cannot protect Wilkins Ice Shelf: Wilkins Ice Shelf, a broad plate of floating ice south of South America on the Antarctic Peninsula, is connected to two islands, Charcot and Latady. In February 2008, an area of about 400 km² broke off from [...]
Nuclear power plants were first proposed at the dawn of the cold war. It was assumed the best fuels–enriched the most for atoms releasing the most neutrons per fissioning–would forever be reserved for military use. We had bombs to build. Hundreds, thousands, millions–enough to scare the Soviets (and the Soviets to scare us.) Military first, [...]
Let’s talk about Chernobyl. We enter our time machine, and roll ourselves back to the start of the cold war. We’re nuclear engineers in the Soviet Union charged with getting as many reactors operating as soon as possible. Every bit of enriched Uranium is going to bomb manufacturing, as is all the available heavy water. [...]
We’ve got our reactor up and humming. Our fuel is fissioning, splitting into smaller atoms and releasing neutrons. Our moderator is slowing down the neutrons, keeping them around long enough to fission the next fuel molecule. Our control rods are absorbing enough neutrons to keep the chain reaction in check. The coolant is transferring the [...]