Tuesday, December 29, 2009

They Want Us To Pay Them To Poison Us?

The nuclear power “renaissance” is a classic case of what has gone fatally wrong with America.

This is classic case of socialism for the rich, financed by the rest of us – to our own detriment. They want us to subsidize the construction of their nuclear power plants, pay them top dollar for power, and then deal with their nuclear waste (for them) for the next 100,000 years.

That's not capitalism. That's socialism for the irresponsible – or corporatism – which is what the American (military/industrial complex and banking/financial) subsidized economy has become.

It's become a damned free-for-all of corporate anarchy – with the goal of taking as much as they possibly can from customers, taxpayers, and future generations.

Scientific American has reported that “An analysis by economist Mark Cooper at the Vermont Law School claims that adding 100 new reactors to the U.S. power grid would cost taxpayers and customers between $1.9 and $4.1 trillion over the reactors' lifetimes compared with renewable power sources and conservation measures.”

Does the nuclear industry care? Of course they do. They're salivating over that kind of money. In fact, they'll tell us anything for that kind of money.

(I won't link to this next site because I don't want to promote their propaganda. You can search for the title Yucca Mountain is Dead – Just in Time for the U.S. Nuclear Revival.) In an online article in the Infrastructurist, it is argued that; “The cancellation of Yucca (Mountain) may not be nearly as bad for the budding nuclear renaissance as it might first seem. In fact, it may provide the opportunity to prove once and for all that, in reality, there is no such thing as nuclear waste.”

They want us to believe that there is no such thing as nuclear waste? WHAT?

They want us to believe that; “The whole concept of nuclear waste only emerged after President Jimmy Carter abandoned the reprocessing of spent fuel rods in 1977.” Oh... So they want us to believe that Jimmy Carter invented nuclear waste? Come on...

They want us to believe that all we have to do is restart our reprocessing programs, and everything will be just fine. However, the article didn't really delve into why President Jimmy Carter shut nuclear reprocessing down in the first place. Maybe because it wasn't working?

Rather than listening to this hack pundit, maybe we should consider what the Union of Concerned Scientists has to say? In their article Nuclear Reprocessing: Dangerous, Dirty, and Expensive, the Union of Concerned Scientists claims that:

  1. Reprocessing would increase the risk of nuclear terrorism

  2. Reprocessing would increase the ease of nuclear proliferation

  3. Reprocessing would hurt U.S. nuclear waste management efforts

  4. Reprocessing would be very expensive

Let's just cover one of their points. “After reprocessing, the material will be in several different forms, and the total volume of nuclear waste will have been increased by a factor of twenty or more... And to make a significant reduction in the amount of high-level nuclear waste that would require disposal, the used fuel would need to be reprocessed and reused many times with an extremely high degree of efficiency – an extremely difficult endeavor that would likely take centuries to accomplish.”

...But somebody could make a lot of money doing it. It just may be that these guys are thinking long term after all.

Either way, America still has to figure out what to do with over 55,000 tons of nuclear waste – that increases by 2,000 tons every year. I don't know what to do with it – and neither does anybody else. Which makes the thought of building even more nuclear power plants sound totally outright insane!

In the real world; physical and economic systems that cannot function efficiently, safely, and sustainably die out – period.

In the real world; the consequences of our actions cannot, CAN NOT be ignored.

In the real world; the bottom line is just a number on somebody's spreadsheet.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

I Hate Clean Energy Posers

They're baaack...

And they're willing to kill for money.

One would think that after Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the nuclear industry would be so disgraced that no-one would believe them.

...How soon we forget...

You probably didn't attend the Power-Gen International convention in Las Vegas. But guess who did. Guess who had conferences and round-tables. Guess who sponsored a show guide and ran numerous ads. Guess who threw money around like there's no tomorrow. That's right, that same industry that generally acts like there is no tomorrow (or more accurately, no problem they can create that people from tomorrow won't be able to fix) – the nuclear industry.

They want us to believe that nuclear power is as green as renewable energy. Can you say propaganda? Nuclear power is NOT renewable. In fact, today's nuclear plants use 60% more uranium than the world mining industry supplies. Michael Dittmar, from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology says; “without the access to the military stocks, the civilian western uranium stocks will be exhausted by 2013.” That's right, 2013.

Sure, we could mine in places like the Grand Canyon for uranium, but these mines will play out soon also.

Yes, we could build breeder reactors, but they have their own sets of problems. (Can you say weapons-grade plutonium?) Michael Dittmar states about breeder reactors; “Their huge construction costs, their poor safety records, and their inefficient performance give little reason to believe that they will ever become commercially significant.”

But the nuclear industry is not deterred. They smell money... I smell pork. And like the hideous PR campaign the pork industry tried to fool us with, the nuclear industry wants us to believe that they are the “other white meat.” Yeah... right.

The U.S. nuclear industry wants us to believe that France has it all figured out. But think about it. The U.S. nuclear industry is going to tell us France has it all figured out no matter how bad things are going in France. Think about it. The French don't have access to physics we don't have.

And about those new nuclear reactor designs: Can you say lipstick on a pig? They're trying to bait-and-switch us. They talk about new designs that may someday work. But if you check out what they have actually planned, it's just the same old reactors – made cheaper.

Nuclear power has three strikes against it:

  1. Nuclear power plants use more water than any other form of power generation. There isn't a place on the planet that won't have fresh water shortages in less than a generation. Here in the Western U.S., we already have water shortages. Why in the world would we want to exacerbate our water shortages when wind power and photovoltaic solar power generation use no water at all?

  2. Nuclear power plants and waste storage facilities are extraordinarily vulnerable to horrendous terrorist attacks, accidents, etc.. Not only are big generators subject to massive power failures, it makes no sense whatsoever to build as dangerous a target as this – when distributed power is so resilient and innocuous.

  3. And then there is the real deal killer; nuclear waste. One of Project Censored top 25 censored stories of 2010 is titled “Pools of Fire.” The article refers to a nuclear waste facility in North Carolina – one of the most lethal patches of ground in North America. Should the cooling system for the waste repository malfunction, the resulting fire would be virtually unquenchable and could trigger a nuclear meltdown. A recent study by Brookhaven Labs estimates that a pool fire could cause 140,000 cancers, contaminate thousands of square miles of land, and cause over $500 billion in off-site property damage. An MIT/Princeton report has stated; “The long-term land contamination consequences of such an event could be significantly worse than Chernobyl.”

    And, of course, this is not the only place at risk. There are a number of nuclear waste sites scattered around the country. With more nuclear power plants, there either will be more nuclear waste sites, or these sites will get even bigger. There is no ignoring the physics. More nuclear power equals more nuclear waste – and we don't have any reasonable idea of what to do with the tons that we already have.

Sure, there is the option of bringing back the nuclear waste repository at Yucca mountain in Southern Nevada. But that was a bad idea in the first place. That site was not picked for scientific reasons. It was picked for purely political reasons. Allison MacFarlane, geologist at George Mason University and a leading technical expert on nuclear waste disposal says about Yucca Mountain; “the area is seismically and volcanically active. More significantly, the repository would have an oxidizing environment – meaning materials would be exposed to free oxygen in the air. Neither spent fuel nor canister materials are stable in such an environment...”

Yucca mountain was simply an effort to force deadly materials nobody else wanted into the backyard of the least populated state. That's not leadership. That's not foresight. That's not an act of self-preservation. The nuclear industry and the nation's politicians just wanted to shove the nuclear waste problem under the rug – so that they could keep making more money.

Over 50 years ago, the nuclear power industry talked President Eisenhower and the American people into relying on power plants that would leave tons of extremely dangerous radioactive byproducts in the hands of future generations to deal with. The argument was; we'll figure something out. We didn't. Let's not make the same mistake again.

There is good news, however. For the first time, renewable power generation has exceeded nuclear power generation in the U.S. The price of renewable energy keeps dropping. We stopped the 150 coal-fired power plant construction fiasco. And even if they do build these nuclear power plants that they're planning, we can generate our own power – and without customers, they'll just have to shut them down.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

What Would W. Do?

It's been almost a year now, and I hate to say it; but not much has changed.

President Obama may have accomplished more in the past year than most of the presidents before him have in the past 50 years. However, nothing has really changed.

We're at war on three fronts now (add Pakistan).

The bailout has reached treasury busting proportions ($14 Trillion at last count).

And our government is still dragging its feet on climate change issues.

It's starting to look like the only real difference between the Democrats and the Republicans is merely on distractions – such as abortion and gay rights. (Apparently, there will always be a few sell-out Democrats who will temporarily join the Republican party if the money is good enough.)

The health care bill has been watered down so bad that there is no public option left.

There still are no new regulations on the banks gambling with our money (which led to the financial meltdown in the first place). And what “laws” that may pass will be so watered down it won't likely make a difference.

Congress, especially Republicans, have embraced capitalism so much that they are willing to sell their votes – wholesale.

America is looking less and less like a democracy and more and more like a corporatocracy.

And our biggest disappointment? Barack Obama hasn't been the president we had hoped for. As Naomi Klein pointed out in her article No Opportunity Too Big To Blow; the stimulus package could have been a green “New Deal,” the auto bailouts could have been an opportunity to dramatically re-engineer the failing industry for a green economy, and the bank bailouts could have been an opportunity to mandate the banks make loans to green industries.

Barack Obama is at serious risk of losing the support of those who elected him. We're beginning to lose faith. This president came to power with a clear mandate. And the Democrats have a super-majority in Congress.

Allow me to quote Barack Obama, candidate; “ENOUGH!!!”

It's time to fix things.

It's time to fix our political process.

It's time to get big money out of politics.

Unfortunately, it may already be too late for America. Our political system has been gutted. Our economy has been gutted. Our future is in the process of being gutted. (Hey, that's all that's left.)

It is a sad day when someone like Venezuela's communist leader, Hugo Chavez, makes more sense than our own president. But Hugo Chavez was right when he said that “if the climate was a capitalist bank, the rich governments would have saved it.” (Of course, communism isn't likely the answer either. Communist China is as much at fault for the collapse of the Copenhagen talks as the US.)

We've been living in a dream world – ignoring the real world. The real world isn't about lobbyists and loopholes. The real world isn't on TV. If you want to see the real world, go outside. The real world is the air we breath, the food we eat, and the water we drink. We've been neglecting the real world.

If ever there were a system too big to fail, it would be our ecosystem.

...If, or at the rate we are going, when our ecosystem fails; our dream world will collapse – and it won't matter whether you're a king or a pawn. No lobbyist will save you. And your TV will go blank. Nobody... nobody wants this. It's time to wake up and smell the air pollution. That's not normal. And it should not be acceptable.

To save our ecosystem, we must first save our country.

Because without rule of law, we are left with the law of the jungle.

And the first law of this man-made jungle is to make more money now – at any cost – ANY cost.

An old communist phrase once said; a capitalist will sell you the rope to hang him with. Let's not make that saying true.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It's Up To Us Now

Our Governments Have Failed Us.

The Copenhagen Climate Change talks have essentially collapsed. I guess it wasn't a surprise. If our governmental systems had had the ability to deal with this crisis, we would have long ago.

Of course, some national leaders are claiming a (hollow) victory. It was a sad day to see President Obama sounding like Bush Jr. as he announced the Copenhagen results. This was the biggest failure of his life – and he had to stand there and pretend that it somehow was a success.

Hey; we all got together and agreed there is a real problem that we really need to do something about...

We? ...Something?

I guess it all comes down to us. You and me. Our “leaders” have failed us. They couldn't even achieve too little, too late. It is up to us to save the world now.

The big question is; how long will we wait? Climate change has been happening at an accelerating rate for the past 40 years (that we, the public, have known there was a problem). We've allowed our systems to continue to get worse. And we've pretended that our actions don't really matter. But the truth is; our own actions are the most important. And our own inactions are just as important.

Reputable scientists (ones that actually win Nobel prizes) have warned us that the Arctic Ocean has a 75% chance of being completely melted during the Summer within five to seven years! That's not only unprecedented, it was unbelievable just a few years ago. A BILLION people are at risk of losing their fresh water from streams and rivers from mountain glaciers - that are melting. The unthinkable is happening! …on our watch.

We can blame Obama. We can blame China. There's plenty of blame to go around.

President Obama threw a monkey wrench in the talks, but the talks weren't going anywhere anyway. I guess we'll all have to wonder whether America's offer was real or grandstanding. I guess we'll all have to wonder whether Obama's advisors set him up or whether there was no genuine intent by America to build a relevant treaty.

Either way, the people of the world have been left with a task that our governments have failed at. Our future is at stake. The lives of our children are at stake. The fate of all life on our planet is at stake. And quite likely, the fate of humanity is at stake.

Extinction should be the common enemy to unite us. But our governments have shown the ugly side of humanity. They would rather fight over the scraps than create a world of abundance.

The people of the world don't have to be like that. And if we are not, maybe we can force our governments to do the right things.

It was rather surprising to me that Hugo Chavez, from Venezuela, was pressing so hard for real teeth in the treaty. He is from an oil producing country. Getting away from fossil fuels wouldn't be all that great for his nation's economy (at least in the short term). But there he was, trying harder than the oil consuming countries to stop climate change.

Ironically, climate scientist James Hansen is pleased the Copenhagen Summit has failed. We can now start off negotiating on a clean slate.

It makes me wonder; just how screwed up is our system, when our addiction to oil is more important than life itself? We've been lied to. We've been manipulated. We've been handed options that we don't like. Its time to take matters into our own hands.

I will be installing solar power on our family's home by Spring.

I will be expanding our garden (so that we will not have to buy as many vegetables from a thousand miles away).

I will will become an environmentalist – because that is what I have become convinced the ultimate survivalist needs to be.

I will become more of an activist – because voting isn't enough in a true democracy (and hardly matters at all in a corporatocracy).

I will continue to write this blog – in hopes of sharing what I have learned.

...And if I can find help; I would like to start an open-source design project for a human-powered hybrid car. The design goal will be to build an ultra-light, ultra-capable, ultra-efficient, and ultra-fun vehicle that would be a cross between a tandem mountain bike, a quad off road vehicle, a electric car, and a boat. Others may wish to design versions that could function as a snowmobile or even a blimp.

I call it the FAVcar – or Flying Aqua Velo car.

Since the design is open-source, people would be able to build it anywhere in the world to satisfy their own particular needs. In third world countries, these human powered hybrids could fill the need to upgrade to a car without nearly the environmental consequences. In cities, the FAVcar could be used for commuting. And here where I live, the FAVcar could replace gas guzzling ATVs.

But I need help to do this. If you are interested in working on the FAVcar design, developing an open-source website, promoting the idea, or making parts for - or assembling these vehicles for sale; please email me at rickspils@excite.com.