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Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Environmental Guardian



Some really interesting stories in The Guardian recently, some of which I've already posted below. However, while my partner is engrossed in the television drama Silk I find myself with the perfect opportunity to hop onto her Macbook and examine the news.

First up, no real surprise to read that the Japanese may very well have lost the race to save the Fukushima nuclear plant. Apparently, the radioactive core in one of the reactors may have already melted down through the bottom of its containment vessel. A meltdown in other words. This information follows readings taken from outside Reactor 2 and analysed by a US nuclear expert. Richard Lahey, who was head of safety research for boiling water reactors when General Electric installed the units at Fukushima commented that "At least part of the molten core, which includes melted fuel rods and zirconium alloy cladding, seem to have sunk through the steel lower head of the pressure vessel around Reactor 2". The major concern is that the melted fuel reacts with the concrete at the bottom of the vessel, but at Fukushima this was flooded with seawater, cooling the fuel and this may reduce the amount of radioactive gas that is released. This is still bad news for the environment, but it seems, luckily, that comparisons with Chernobyl are likely to be far from realistic.

Meanwhile, Sir David King writes that nuclear is still the safest form of energy despite what has happened at Fukushima. That may or may not be so, however, I still am not convinced, primarily because, so I have read so far, it takes about ten to fifteen years to build a nuclear plant, such plants are usually built near to the coast and also because currently nuclear only supplies about 3.6% of the UK's electricity demand. I read somewhere in the scientific literature that some scientists consider that we may only have ten to fifteen years left before climate change becomes irreversible, which means that relying on nuclear to save us from such a fate is clearly unrealistic, and thats without the dangers from rising sea levels. I'm also sure that any passing would-be terrorists would consider nuclear plants as a number one target, especially with all those spent fuel rods stored outside.

Google is currently investing in CoolPlanetBiofuels attempts to produce biofuels from grass and woodchips in non food producing areas. Normally I find myself opposed to biofuels because of the competition for space with agricultural land. This however looks quite inviting, so a note to myself to check this out in greater details over the next few days.

According to Andrew Simms, Shell has recently confessed that 'We're entering a zone of uncertainty over oil supplies'. In other words, Simms says, they haven't a clue whats going to happen. Start praying everyone....

Source: The Guardian environment pages, March 2011

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