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Thread: fuel problem

  1. #1 fuel problem 
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    We are now using fossil fuels which cause a lot of pollution and contribute to global warming. In India the people have been given a more dangerous option for energy production. Atomic reactors of high throughput are being set up in some parts of the country. India is taking help of some countries which are responsible for producing and dumping toxic radioactive waste. I have given hope. It seems humanity will have to live (and die) because of harmful pollutants.


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    Atomic energy is demonstratively MUCH less dangerous than fossil fuel economies. Most of our resistance to atomic energy is based on irrational fear.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Most of our resistance to atomic energy is based on irrational fear.
    Yeah, I have an irrational fear of disasters like Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima Daiichi, etc..
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  5. #4  
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    Atomic energy is demonstratively MUCH less dangerous than fossil fuel economies. Most of our resistance to atomic energy is based on irrational fear.
    It is a bit unrealistic to lump all fossil fuels together like this. It is fair to say that power generation from coal, considered from mine to atmosphere, is highly dangerous to the miners in the first place and to the population at large from its atmospheric and ground pollution. Natural gas is less dangerous, although still responsible for huge amounts of atmospheric pollution. Compare nuclear with coal and you may be right that nuclear is far less dangerous. Compare nuclear with natural gas and the case is harder to make.

    I work for an engineering firm that is involved in fossil, nuclear and alternative energy projects. We recently opened an office specifically designed to take advantage of the expected boom in nuclear construction in the USA. I am certain that any nuclear projects we win in the future will be performed in complete compliance with all regulations, and to that extent will be safe.

    What concerns me is that the regulations are subject to political will and in a future where deregulation is seen as a vote winning strategy by some politicians we have no certainty at all that apparently robust regulations to ensure nuclear safety will always remain in place. In fact a streamlining of regulations on nuclear power is already being proposed in the Kerry/Lieberman American Power Act. This might be (for all I know) a harmless removal of red tape; but others more knowledgeable than I have deep concerns about it.

    Peter Bradford, former commissioner, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and former chair of both the New York and Maine state utility regulatory commissions, said: “It is both astonishing and shameful that – when evidence of the consequences of lax regulation and lax oversight washes ashore on tides of oil in the Gulf states and tides of red ink in housing and financial markets – Congress would consider cutting regulatory corners for new nuclear power. Regulatory delays are not causing nuclear power’s problems today. Instead, investors and lenders will not provide capital because of the high risks of reactor cancellation, cost overruns, and cheaper energy alternatives. Putting deregulation provisions for nuclear power in any climate/energy legislation will not save significant licensing time, but it will send the Nuclear Regulatory Commission exactly the wrong message from Congress – speed over safety.
    http://www.psr.org/nuclear-bailout/r...10-release.pdf
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    Fair point about the lumping.

    As for the danger things though, even including obsolete atomic energy tech like Chernobyl to modern designs are sort of like comparing 21st century mining to 19th century mines. Even considering the entire history of atomic energy and relative direct and indirect deaths, atomic energy was orders of magnitude safer? How many directly died at Three-Mile-Island....zero; two cancer deaths are attributed to the long range effect. Meanwhile coal is responsible for hundreds of mining deaths across the whole nation, 48 in 2010. Long term effects of coal use are much larger, one EPA
    estimate at more than 20,000 per death from coal burning emissions per year. I haven't verified the data, but it's included in this persons stunning visual the shows relative deaths per energy use from atomic, oil and coal.Seth's Blog: The triumph of coal marketing
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    As for the danger things though, even including obsolete atomic energy tech like Chernobyl to modern designs are sort of like comparing 21st century mining to 19th century mines.
    21st century mines are safe? Compared to what? Swabbing out reactor cores? I read about mine deaths every other week.

    I'd live next to a coal-fired electric plant any day. I do, actually. You can go and live next to your nuke plant. No thanks.
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    And was waiting on some kind of coherent counter argument.... (sigh).

    Given a choice I'd not want either and put that money into improving efficiencies like building homes that are actually insulated and designed for their climate etc. which would delay building anything new for more than a decade.

    If forced to decide between an atomic and coal power plant, I'd choose atomic without batting an eye--its a lot safer and less damaging to the environment by a long shot.
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    not all coal mines are of the modern 21st century type :

    Welsh mine deaths: Church services for Gleision miners

    this was a drift mine + a very small set-up, working in conditions that weren't too far off from 19th century conditions
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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  10. #9  
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    So how bad is nuclear?

    Look at the data.

    The following comparison is between the four main methods used to generate electricity, which make up more than 97% globally. Numbers of deaths per terawatt year of electricity produced, based on accidents, including Chernobyl.

    Coal 342
    Natural gas 85
    Hydroelectricity 883
    Nuclear 8

    Environment, Health and Safety in Electricity Generation: Education: World Nuclear Association

    The reason hydroelectricity is so high is due to several nasty accidents with dams bursting. eg. Banqiao in China that killed directly and indirectly about 200,000 people. This is just one of a number of such accidents. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Chernobyl killed or will kill, directly and indirectly an estimated 2500. This makes nuclear way safer than hydroelectricity.

    In addition, nuclear generates the least greenhouse gases of these four. It is cost competitive also, unlike the more fashionable wind, wave and solar power methods.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    And was waiting on some kind of coherent counter argument.... (sigh).
    If you can't see the inherent danger of a nuclear power plant and the LONG-term deadly waste produced, which has to be "stored" somewhere (you should volunteer your neighborhood), then that's a problem.
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    Meanwhile coal is responsible for hundreds of mining deaths across the whole nation, 48 in 2010. Long term effects of coal use are much larger, one EPA
    estimate at more than 20,000 per death from coal burning emissions per year.
    I don't doubt that this figure is in the ballpark, and in no way am I defending coal. The coal industry propaganda about "clean" coal is appallingly dishonest. My point was about regulation of the nuclear industry. Nuclear power can be and has been relatively safe, but only because of government regulations. Regulations are political football. Usually one side wants to regulate and the other side wants to deregulate. Recently, as suggested by the APA, a Democrat authored piece of proposed legislation, both sides seem to be moving the ball in same direction, toward more deregulation. No doubt corporate money is behind this, and it is dangerous. Say we build a number of nuclear power plants and then the congress passes legislation to limit inspections and operator examinations by the NRC; or suppose the control of nuclear wastes is left up to individual companies and some gets into the wrong hands and ends up in a dirty bomb? It is my opinion, probably shared by most people, that the nuclear industry should be closely regulated, but there is an anti-regulatory segment of the population whose emotional thinking overwhelms its rational thinking, and this is exploited by politicians and corporations.
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    It is my opinion, probably shared by most people, that the nuclear industry should be closely regulated,
    I share that opinion as well.

    You pitch it as tension between the irrational fear, not based in evidence (thread opener), versus the irrational anti-regulation folks, who ignore the evidence and that think atomic industry will always do the right thing to keep us safe.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    It is my opinion, probably shared by most people, that the nuclear industry should be closely regulated,
    I share that opinion as well.

    You pitch it as tension between the irrational fear, not based in evidence (thread opener), versus the irrational anti-regulation folks, who ignore the evidence and that think atomic industry will always do the right thing to keep us safe.
    The fear that something very bad could go wrong is not irrational just because it hasn't happened before.

    Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., says in a memo to his fellow Republicans that as soon as Congress returns to Washington next week he will start bringing up bills to repeal or restrict federal regulations.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury View Post
    The fear that something very bad could go wrong is not irrational just because it hasn't happened before.
    That logic could be applied to a person's fear preventing him from going outside because a meteorite might kill him--yet most of us would consider him irrational because of dis-proportionality between the risk and the fear.

    I'm half kidding to make a point.

    We're not dealing with a small sample here. World wide, there are over 400 reactors that have been running for many decades with only one mass-killing or severe-contamination incident by a very old design who's inherent vulnerabilities were well known at the time. Measured against the considerable history of this industry its proven itself to be very safe, the safest of all, when measured against over energy producing technologies.

    So long as we're not stupid enough to build them in cities and continue to follow rigorous construction and inspection standards there's not reason to think they'll be anything other than safer in the future.


    Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., says in a memo to his fellow Republicans that as soon as Congress returns to Washington next week he will start bringing up bills to repeal or restrict federal regulations.
    Don't know enough to evaluate what he's referring to. There might well be a lot of unnecessary or obsolete regulations. I hope there's considerable science and reasoning behind his bill.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PumaMan View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    As for the danger things though, even including obsolete atomic energy tech like Chernobyl to modern designs are sort of like comparing 21st century mining to 19th century mines.
    21st century mines are safe? Compared to what? Swabbing out reactor cores? I read about mine deaths every other week.
    Please provide support for the statement that there are mine deaths every other week, or admit you just made that up as pure hyperbole.
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    What history does show us is that it's really hard to keep people from being greedy, once they think they've found a big cash maker. The least safe nuclear plant that is getting the most favorable cost - to - payout ratio right now by cutting corners will always be the one paying the most money out to politicians (because it will always have the highest cash flow available to give them). Unless we plan on changing our entire system, it's a good idea to plan with the expectation that that system will remain in place, and do what it's always done in the past with other industries.

    Got to ask yourself, why was Chernobyl so badly run? Probably some guy somewhere was earning a lot of points with the Politburo by telling them a fairy tale about exceptional efficiencies that traced back to his "amazing leadership and initiative". Of course it turned out that it was being run very badly, but the Politburo was kind of infamous for letting itself be told what it wanted to hear. Such is the nature of all politicians and business people who are trying to get ahead. Ignorance can be bliss, even if it's only a temporary bliss.
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    Those who are serious about climate change and favour the nuclear solution should be strong supporters of putting a strong price on emissions. It won't result in rapid and widespread adoption of nuclear and will see a transition period where energy costs overall rise higher than what nuclear can theoretically deliver but without it the economics will continue to favour fossil fuels over low emissions alternatives and the costs of the climate change debt will grow, with accruing interest and no default option.

    I fear unrestrained emissions growth more than I fear nuclear power but I fear that any great nuclear renaissance is still a long way off and the groundwork for a shift away from fossil fuels can't wait on it. It's unfortunate in my view that the consequence of the endless nukes vs renewables argument is delay that further entrenches fossil fuels. I also think that the apparent greater acceptability of nuclear to people 'in the business' - the people who run coal plants - than renewables is illusory; they are not pro-actively working to establish nuclear, they are pro-actively seeking to delay a firm commitment to any low emissions alternative, nuclear or renewable. Entrenching the current model is their agenda; at the lobbying level they remain staunchly opposed to all and any measures that would - could - replace that model or that attempts to incorporate the climate costs into the economics of their activities. That almost certainly includes supporting campaigns against emissions reduction/emissions pricing policies that promote and rely upon denial of climate science.

    Should a major shift away from coal (and gas) to nuclear actually look to be emerging as genuine policy across the industrialised world that apparent acceptance would fade away and the true opposition of fossil fuel interests to being replaced by nuclear would become more clear. Currently they are sitting back and letting pro-nuclear advocates lend their opposition to "expensive renewables' and are content to have anti nuclear 'greens' keeping a simmering opposition to nuclear alive in a game of divide and conquer. It's working.
    There will be no easy home run for nuclear.

    More expensive power with greater variability of supply are still better choices than failing to put the brakes on emissions. An effective price on emissions capable of making renewables competitive would favour nuclear too. When strong advocates of nuclear line up in opposition to carbon pricing, demanding that cheap dirty energy continue until cheap nuclear can move in to replace it I can't help believe that more reliance on fossil fuels will be the result, not a huge growth in nuclear.

    I also think renewables will do better than the critics are willing to admit - PV production costs are down to US$1.50/W peak, something, IIRC, considered impossibly optimistic not so long ago. Not quite cheap enough yet in a market where externalities are ignored, but there's good reason to think that price trend will continue and that carbon pricing will become part of the economic equation. A near doubling of PV production capacity and 40% cost reduction in a single year is seriously impressive. The turnaround on new coal, gas and nuclear technologies is decades - IFR will take decades to prove itself and enter the picture - but improved solar production methods can be introduced in only a few years. The well of innovation is a long way from dry. Rectenna's for example could both undercut silicon PV and solve the intermittency issues for solar and wind by providing ways to convert waste heat and thermal storage as well as sunlight direct to electricity. Whilst I wouldn't like to see IFR lose R&D funding, it would be a great shame and deep regret to fail to fund developments like rectennas.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MeteorWayne View Post
    Please provide support for the statement that there are mine deaths every other week, or admit you just made that up as pure hyperbole.
    BBC News - The dangers of mining around the world

    While industry experts say the number of fatalities has decreased considerably since the early 20th Century, there has been no shortage of tragic mining accidents in recent years.

    Although there are no accurate figures, estimates suggest such accidents kill about 12,000 people a year.

    According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), while mining employs around 1% of the global labour force, it generates 8% of fatal accidents.
    That's just one source (BBC). There are hundreds of others. Search for yourself. Hey Wayne, you can call the "every other week" poetic license. BTW, do you ever contribute to a discussion? Looking at your posts, you seem to just enjoy swooping in with your one-liners, many of them ad hom attacks.
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    Globally, humanity uses about 15 terawatts of energy per year. 1 terawatt comes from nuclear, and 4 from coal. Does not take much looking to see an excellent way to cut greenhouse gas emissions!

    Nuclear waste is not a technical problem, so much as a political one. That is : numerous methods exist for coping with nuclear waste, but the moment one is seriously proposed, all the protestors come out of their holes and start jumping up and down. Over the past few decades, perhaps the worst possible 'solution' technically has been used. "Temporary" storage on the nuclear power plant site. Yet, even though this is the worst possible method, no significant problems have arisen, and no loss of life from the nuclear waste. Imagine how much better if a decent solution was implemented.
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  21. #20  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury View Post
    The fear that something very bad could go wrong is not irrational just because it hasn't happened before.
    That logic could be applied to a person's fear preventing him from going outside because a meteorite might kill him--yet most of us would consider him irrational because of dis-proportionality between the risk and the fear.
    I'm not denying that people have irrational fears. I'm simply saying that trying to predict hazards based on no evidence of them occurring previously is not irrational. In engineering projects we perform a hazards analysis to predict what could go wrong and thereby design in safeguards against it. Sometimes we have to wade through sections of CFR40, a morass of regulations that from a narrow perspective might seem excessive, but we don't know everything.

    I'm half kidding to make a point.
    OK, but my point still stands.

    We're not dealing with a small sample here. World wide, there are over 400 reactors that have been running for many decades with only one mass-killing or severe-contamination incident by a very old design who's inherent vulnerabilities were well known at the time. Measured against the considerable history of this industry its proven itself to be very safe, the safest of all, when measured against over energy producing technologies.
    That one mass killing occurred in a country that was corrupt and if there were regulations covering design and operation they were either not enforced, or they were based on political expediency rather than the safety of the population. It's a good example of where we could go in some not-too-fantastical future. (No, I'm not saying we're going communist. I'm suggesting we don't know where we will be politically ten years from now, let alone a hundred or two hundred.)

    So long as we're not stupid enough to build them in cities and continue to follow rigorous construction and inspection standards there's not reason to think they'll be anything other than safer in the future.
    I agree. But who will decide if rigorous engineering, construction, operation, maintenance, inspection, monitoring of fuel supplies, and storage and handling of wastes will be carried out by all parties involved in the next several hundred years? Will it be left to the markets to decide?


    Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., says in a memo to his fellow Republicans that as soon as Congress returns to Washington next week he will start bringing up bills to repeal or restrict federal regulations.
    Don't know enough to evaluate what he's referring to. There might well be a lot of unnecessary or obsolete regulations. I hope there's considerable science and reasoning behind his bill.
    He's referring to environmental regulations, which is awful in itself, but could just be the nose of the camel under the side of the tent.
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  22. #21  
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    To Bunbury

    Re nuclear hazards.

    Certainly nuclear power has its hazards, and certainly it is vital to guard against them.

    However, if you want a balanced opinion on this, it is important to keep in mind that all hazards are relative. In this case, the hazard of nuclear power can only be judged in a rational manner if it is judged relative to the other main methods of generating electricity. Coal, gas, and hydroelectricity.

    The current situation is ridiculous. We have large numbers of anti-nuclear agitators who are saying that nuclear power is too dangerous, but accepting hydroelectricity without a murmer, in spite of the fact that hydro dam bursts have killed over 300 people for every single person killed in any accident relating to a nuclear power plant, including Chernobyl.

    Rationally, those agitators should be pushing like crazy for more nuclear power, and less hydro and coal power.
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  23. #22  
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    I'm not concerned about agitators; not sure what that has to do with the discussion.

    I'm concerned about standards and regulations. There is at least one current proposal in congress to expedite licensing of nuclear projects. What's next? There is a promise by Cantor to introduce multiple environmental deregulation bills; what's in his bills? What will politicians decide is best for their clients? We already subsidize the cost of nuclear power to the tune of 70% to 200% of the market price of electricity. This is untenable. How can the cost be brought down? Deregulation of course.


    The nuclear power industry is seeking billions in
    new subsidies and other incentives (through federal
    climate and energy legislation) that would shift
    massive construction, financing, operating, and
    regulatory costs and risks from the industry and
    its financial backers to U.S. taxpayers. If adopted,
    these new subsidies will only further mask nuclear
    power’s considerable costs and risks. They will also
    put more cost-effective and less risky carbon-reduction
    measures—measures that could be implemented
    much more quickly—at a disadvantage.
    http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documen...ies_report.pdf
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    There will always be a problem regarding Global Energy Deficit. When we learn how to make fuels and harness energy on a scale that makes it worthwhile, the World's population will have exceeded the limits of supply again. The only solution is to reduce or curtail the rise in population.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny_Pencilface View Post
    The only solution is to reduce or curtail the rise in population.
    Reducing the world's population is our only long-term hope unless some energy source, such as nuclear fusion, supplies us with almost unlimited energy. Until that occurs, population growth is literally going to kill us back to an equilibrium state. It's depressing but I really think this will happen in the next 100 years. If the world's population growth was halted now, today, we (the world) could probably cope. Those that say that the US doesn't have to worry about this and that it's the other, more densely populated nations that need to slow their growth, they are only partly correct. They are not looking at the "energy footprint" of the average American -- it is 70 times that of a person living in Bangladesh, say. That puts our 300M population at the equivalent of 21B low energy users. And many under-developed countries are now wanting and some are starting to live the "western" energy-using life style.

    I hate to sound like a doomsayer but I think we're heading for some very hard times ahead: food shortages, water shortages, energy shortages, global warming/climate change, disease, pollution of fresh water, pollution of land, pollution of the sea, etc.. Wars will inevitably start, first in the under-developed countries and then spread to all. It won't eliminate us, but it will push us back to a correct equilibrium population level.
    Last edited by PumaMan; September 20th, 2011 at 10:15 AM.
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    I share much of your pessimism, don't agree with some of the way you've framed it. Population isn't as much the problem as population combined with modernity's high use of natural resources. At average American consumption levels, this planet is way past a sustainable population. What that means in practical terms is population is going to have to flatten, which seems to be the trend anyhow, AND modern economies are going to forced to be MUCH more efficient and sustainable. It's not helping that a combination of cumbersome intellectual property rights laws and disproportionate fear of proven technology dramatically limits access to the most promising advances such as GM-crops and atomic energy.

    Getting back to atomic energy, much like evaluations of renewable energies, those subsidize need to be evaluated as part of a total life model. What's the real cost of atomic energy compared to the rest?

    I think we should relook breeder reactors as well, something we turned away from almost 40 years ago, because it simultaneously makes fuels much more renewable and reduces the disposal problem.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    What that means in practical terms is population is going to have to flatten, which seems to be the trend anyhow,
    Flattening? Yes, since 1962. Flat? No where near. Projected world population by 2050 is 9.3B -- approx 50% more than today.

    People, nations, the world -- we only change when we have to. We're almost always reactive. Almost never are we proactive. It will take a few heavy-duty catastrophes for us to change. When we pollute the seas enough to kill off the plankton, which produces 50% of the atmospheric O2, then we'll change.
    Last edited by PumaMan; September 20th, 2011 at 11:26 AM.
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    On population.
    We can engage in assorted intellectual onanism exercises by complaining about population. The simple truth is that it is already coming under control, and we aint about to change that any further. The United Nations has determined the most likely future scenario for population growth, which is a levelling off at about 9 to 10 billion by about 2040 to 2050. After that, global population will grow only very slowly or (more likely) start to fall.
    United Nations Population Information Network (POPIN)

    On energy
    There is no clear limit on how much energy humanity can generate. Beyond today's nuclear power, there is the probability that thorium will be used as nuclear fuel, which is more than 100 times as abundant as Uranium 235, and the potential electricity production is at least 100 fold greater. This is sufficient for many centuries of energy needs at reasonable (or even quite unreasonable) levels.
    Thorium

    Beyond that, there is the possibility of nuclear fusion. If this can be done, using deuterium as fuel, energy is nearly limitless to within any realistic point of view. (I once calculated that, at present day energy needs, there is enough deuterium in the world's oceans for a billion years of electricity production - assuming the technology is developed, of course.)
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    If thorium is so good as a fuel perhaps we should invest in thorium R & D and hold off on existing nuclear technology. I know nothing about it except what I just read in your link. It appears to say it can be used in a closed cycle thorium - uranium - thorium ad infinitum, which suggests a solution to the hazardous waste issue. Is this correct? Actually it can't be correct since we have that bothersome second law.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    I share much of your pessimism, don't agree with some of the way you've framed it. Population isn't as much the problem as population combined with modernity's high use of natural resources. At average American consumption levels, this planet is way past a sustainable population. What that means in practical terms is population is going to have to flatten, which seems to be the trend anyhow, AND modern economies are going to forced to be MUCH more efficient and sustainable. It's not helping that a combination of cumbersome intellectual property rights laws and disproportionate fear of proven technology dramatically limits access to the most promising advances such as GM-crops and atomic energy.
    Even if you remove modernity completely, people still need fresh water, food, and heat in the Winter. There's no way around that. Perhaps the people of Arizona could do without air conditioning, though.

    If natural fresh water supplies get over taxed to the point where we have to create it artificially, the energy consumed at that point would dwarf anything our widget factories are costing us right now. Either that, or we'd have to pump it in large quantities from the remaining fresh water reserves. Take your pick.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury View Post
    If thorium is so good as a fuel perhaps we should invest in thorium R & D and hold off on existing nuclear technology. I know nothing about it except what I just read in your link. It appears to say it can be used in a closed cycle thorium - uranium - thorium ad infinitum, which suggests a solution to the hazardous waste issue. Is this correct? Actually it can't be correct since we have that bothersome second law.
    The thing about thorium is that it is less radioactive than uranium 235. This makes it harder to use in a reactor, explaining why (along with government's desire to have U235 for atom bombs) it has not been used so far. India is the country most advanced in developing thorium.

    Being less radioactive means it cannot be used for nuclear weapons, and means it cannot do a melt down. Both make this much safer. Also, it produces far less waste than U235 in a reactor. It does, however, produce some. It is much cheaper than U235, and is currently a by product of mining, with no obvious use. Once the technology of using thorium to make electricity is perfected, which is not far off, it should become a very popular alternative.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Even if you remove modernity completely, people still need fresh water, food, and heat in the Winter. There's no way around that. Perhaps the people of Arizona could do without air conditioning, though.
    And they use less than 10% of the energy that Americans use. You find similar ratios for water use because they eat less meat and don't have lawns etc.

    The hard reality is the holding capacity for the planet is probably about a billion people if they all lived like Americans, while it's more like 15-20 billion living by primitive means.

    There are a few encouraging things such as American per capita energy use being relatively flat over the past 30 years, essentially trading and more efficient homes, appliances, cars etc, for larger of all three. Those efficiencies need to improve much faster and be passed to developing nations at affordable prices if we've got any hope of reaching sustainability this century.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    The hard reality is the holding capacity for the planet is probably about a billion people if they all lived like Americans, while it's more like 15-20 billion living by primitive means.
    There is a flaw in this logic, and that is the underlying assumption that, to maintain high standard of living in the future, the same techniques would be used. This is not going to happen. As time passes, and the rest of the world catches up in terms of standard of living, the methods used will change. The example I gave above is using thorium as a source of energy, which will be much less environmentally harmful than burning coal.

    Over the past 100 years, the western world has been slowly improving its techniques and, for example, currently plants more forest than it cuts down. It generates less air and water pollution to the extent that China is now the world's greatest polluter. It still burns too many fossil fuels, and that will continue for a time. But new energy technologies will gradually take over as we are forced down that road.

    We can expect battery electric cars, synthetic fuels, and other techniques to provide transport and energy, which are a lot less environmentally damaging.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    The hard reality is the holding capacity for the planet is probably about a billion people if they all lived like Americans, while it's more like 15-20 billion living by primitive means.
    There is a flaw in this logic, and that is the underlying assumption that, to maintain high standard of living in the future, the same techniques would be used.
    I guess that was an implied assumption, though I tried to put in the context of how things are now.


    This is not going to happen. As time passes, and the rest of the world catches up in terms of standard of living, the methods used will change. The example I gave above is using thorium as a source of energy, which will be much less environmentally harmful than burning coal.

    Over the past 100 years, the western world has been slowly improving its techniques....
    The last statement gets to the heart of the matter. It's been slow improvement. If you look at increased in energy use over the few decades it's modernity driving the increase much more the population gain while the most modern Western nations aren't reducing their per capita energy use hardly at all. A lot of that is willful resistance such as American's continuing desire to build inefficient homes only slightly better than the past generation's homes even when dramatically better designs are available, refusal to back modern and well-connected mass transit systems, or adopt mining to recycling life-cycle economic models and standards etc. If American is the model for all nations to strive for, than much of our world population is doomed because there isn't enough planet to share. Going back to your point, developing nations need to strive for a much more efficient model (optimistically some future American) and it needs to be affordable.

    ...China is now the world's greatest polluter. It still burns too many fossil fuels, and that will continue for a time. But new energy technologies will gradually take over as we are forced down that road.
    China is in large part American manufacturing pollution by proxy. They will get better for sure; they don't have a choice in some ways, their particulate outputs are literately choking their cities and creating a nightmare of counterproductive health problems.

    It's going to take revolutionary changes in how we thinking about and use energy, land and all our natural resources to avert a catastrophe at the rate we're going. We've had revolutions before, several in the past few centuries, but that's not very comforting.
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    Lynx fox

    I enjoyed reading your last post, which was very rational.

    Most of it I agree with, but would like to make one point.
    On energy consumption. Over the past few decades, there have been massive gains in energy efficiency on many fronts, and this will continue. Despite this, energy useage has increased. That is because, while some end uses become more efficient, we find ourselves using external energy for more and more end uses. Thus more energy outlets.

    I cannot see this changing. As standard of living increases, in the western world and in developing nations, more and more energy will be required. Sure, we need to continue to develop energy efficiency. However, alongside this, we need to develop a lot of ways of providing more energy as well.

    I tend to think that nuclear energy is the key. More uranium reactors in the short term. Thorium in the medium term, and (I hope) nuclear fusion in the long term. We will, of course, develop lots of other alternatives at the same time. However, most have practical problems which will prevent them becoming major providers of energy.

    If we have abundant electricity, then we can use it to make fuels for situations where electricity alone is insufficient.
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    The world is in a mess for sure. Some of the inventions I posted may help, especially the 'nuclear' battery. Dont give up hope on yourself.
    I am seeking supporters for a qualitative basis of science, not quantative. Quality: precision,shape, color, pitch. Quantity: power,size,brightness,volume. A quality can be found as a ratio of quantities. Mass is a quality.
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    Mining for Uranium has health risk too! You need to use alot of water during refinement (tonnes of fresh water which otherwise would be available for crops) and you need to quarantine the refineries for long time too (due to radioactive excess-pools). ie: Australia is a major Uranium exported and they could do this because: a) they have alot of ground water, and b) they have plenty of space.

    In addition to mining you need to store the nuclear waste too. First you have a temporary storage (which is store waste in a containment facility, in a pool of water, under constant surveilance), and second: you have an underground city/cavern to seal the waste for at least 50,000 years. Both is an expensive project because of the long term comittment needed to manage the waste (50,000 years), ie: an underground cavern dug into the bedrock called Unkala (if I'm not mistaken) took an estimated 50 years or 100 years to dig out, but in the US the waste was proposed to be stored in a salt cavern.

    And...
    in case of reactor breach: the radiation from a reactor is much worse than being on the moon. Once a robot for a moon mission (Lunakhod, USSR) is sent to help with the radiation clean-up: but after few days it failed and human liquidator is sent instead, ironically in space this same robot could last for a month. I think we shouldn't underestimate the power of nuclear reaction; in Hiroshima the nuclear flash itself could vaporize a body instantenously and was once feared that nuclear explosion could even vaporize the atmosphere thru secondary chain-reaction... it is that powerful.



    P/S: An alternative to wind/tidal/solar energy is geothermal energy. You could dig deep down enough and the temperature difference in earth's crust would power a steam turbine. This is the same power that power nuclear reactor except that you tap it directly from earth's crust.
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    I'm all for fission power, especially if we perfect the Thorium reactor, that has a closed cycle of radioactive elements.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Even if you remove modernity completely, people still need fresh water, food, and heat in the Winter. There's no way around that. Perhaps the people of Arizona could do without air conditioning, though.
    And they use less than 10% of the energy that Americans use. You find similar ratios for water use because they eat less meat and don't have lawns etc.
    And don't shower every day.

    The hard reality is the holding capacity for the planet is probably about a billion people if they all lived like Americans, while it's more like 15-20 billion living by primitive means.
    Once we get to the point where we're talking about eating less meat, I think we're sacrificing too much quality of life, to be honest. There's nothing inherently "good" about having 6 billion people on Earth instead of 1 billion. It provides little if any meaningful benefit in the short term, and in the long term there will be infinity humans anyway (just spread out over a longer time frame), so a small population doesn't ultimately lead to less "human life" existing.

    The Sun won't burn out for a few billion years, so time is the one form of real estate that we have in effectively unlimited supply. It's really sad that people want to conserve that one at the cost of not conserving space, which exists in a much more limited supply. I chalk it up to all the really idiotic "end timer" religions that go around predicting an apocalypse.


    There are a few encouraging things such as American per capita energy use being relatively flat over the past 30 years, essentially trading and more efficient homes, appliances, cars etc, for larger of all three. Those efficiencies need to improve much faster and be passed to developing nations at affordable prices if we've got any hope of reaching sustainability this century.
    We'll still run into the 100% barrier. It's a matter of luck when we find that increased efficiency is possible. The increase is a one time thing. It won't keep increasing again and again and again, and what increases do come after the first initial really big spike are likely to be small incremental shifts. Engines will get closer and closer to the Carnot limit, but they won't exceed it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Atomic energy is demonstratively MUCH less dangerous than fossil fuel economies. Most of our resistance to atomic energy is based on irrational fear.
    Agreed, esteemed moderator. Volume of nuclear "waste" is much lower to begin with since fuel is more concentrated, plus, said "waste" contains many potentially useful isotopes and inevitably DOES decay over time. Accidents cited by PumaMan are anomalies and statistically he is in greater danger from many other causes, including automobile related ones- funny, nobody says CARS are too dangerous to live with. Three Mile Island death toll = 0, radiation related casualties from Fukushima also = 0 at last report. And in Japan, there is growing recognition that nuclear power is indispensable to the well-being of the nation: the recently elected Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, again emphasized the necessity of reopening of Japan's nuclear power plants, which were shut down in the aftermath of the Fukushima incident. "We must bring them back as best as we can, because if we have a power shortage, it will drag down Japan's overall economy," Prime Minister Noda said.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    I share much of your pessimism, don't agree with some of the way you've framed it. Population isn't as much the problem as population combined with modernity's high use of natural resources. At average American consumption levels, this planet is way past a sustainable population. What that means in practical terms is population is going to have to flatten, which seems to be the trend anyhow, AND modern economies are going to forced to be MUCH more efficient and sustainable. It's not helping that a combination of cumbersome intellectual property rights laws and disproportionate fear of proven technology dramatically limits access to the most promising advances such as GM-crops and atomic energy.
    Even if you remove modernity completely, people still need fresh water, food, and heat in the Winter. There's no way around that. Perhaps the people of Arizona could do without air conditioning, though.

    If natural fresh water supplies get over taxed to the point where we have to create it artificially, the energy consumed at that point would dwarf anything our widget factories are costing us right now. Either that, or we'd have to pump it in large quantities from the remaining fresh water reserves. Take your pick.
    Of course there are a lot of old people in Arizona who would perish in the heat, but as long as electricity consumption is down, small price to pay, right? After all, they ARE old to begin with, "useless eaters" as it were...and drinking water, most inconsiderate!
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post


    And don't shower every day.
    You need to travel a lot more. Some cultures shower more than Americans, such as in Central and South America. An average showers only takes about 20 gallons compared to nearly 600 gallons per day use per average American. So please stop reading neo-conservative literature. I'll assume you didn't realize that mention of giving up showers are often "code" for prejudice--against dark people, hippies and liberals etc. I realize you probably didn't mean it that way, but wanted to make you aware.
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    Our household (2 people) averages about 80 gallons per day (technically 77.7 for the last 365 days). I guess we're doin' pretty good.

    MW
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    It is my opinion, probably shared by most people, that the nuclear industry should be closely regulated,
    I share that opinion as well.

    You pitch it as tension between the irrational fear, not based in evidence (thread opener), versus the irrational anti-regulation folks, who ignore the evidence and that think atomic industry will always do the right thing to keep us safe.
    Nuclear industry IS highly regulated, to the point that very few new plants were built for decades. Banking industry used to be regulated, now look at it. It is a question of regulations based upon rationally serving public good.

    Nuclear desalination is viable option for water shortage, readily able to produce large volumes of low-temperature steam for distillation, an effective method for recovering pure water from variety of contaminated sources.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MeteorWayne View Post
    Our household (2 people) averages about 80 gallons per day (technically 77.7 for the last 365 days). I guess we're doin' pretty good.

    MW
    Community showers, anyone? Conservation can go too far, though- in ancient Rome were communal baths and toilets with running water, but since no toilet paper, community sponges were used. Not likely to be adopted today no matter HOW "green" society gets.

    Mercifully.
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    South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak gave
    a speech strongly backing continued nuclear power development, at
    the High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Safety and Security held at the
    UN on Thursday, September 22nd.


    "The accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant
    last March dealt a hard blow to confidence in nuclear safety.
    However, I do not think that this accident should be cause to
    renounce nuclear energy; on the contrary, this is a moment to
    seek ways to promote the safe use of nuclear energy based on
    scientific evidence."


    "I am not saying that nuclear energy is the only option to
    solving future energy problems. Efforts should be stepped up to
    promote other alternatives such as renewable energy. Yet the use
    of nuclear energy is inevitable as there still remain technical
    and economic limits for alternative energy to meet the rapidly
    rising global energy demand or to tackle the problem of climate
    change."


    "Whilst nuclear energy has the advantages of being an
    inexpensive and clean energy source, it is with greater
    confidence in its safety that it can be more widely used. To this
    end, it is important that each country establish a rigorous
    nuclear safety framework. International cooperation and
    coordination led by the IAEA also need to be promoted."
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    Nuclear industry IS highly regulated, to the point that very few new plants were built for decades.
    NIMBY has a lot more to do with lack of building nuke plants for the past few decades than regulation.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    NIMBY has a lot more to do with lack of building nuke plants for the past few decades than regulation.
    I believe that power plants, especially nuclear power plants, should be integrated with neighborhoods. I'd love to live next to one.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MeteorWayne View Post
    Our household (2 people) averages about 80 gallons per day (technically 77.7 for the last 365 days). I guess we're doin' pretty good.

    MW
    In fact, that is almost exactly the average water consumption per person in the western world. I don't know where Lynx Fox got his 600 gallons per day. Normally the fox is much more reliable than this with his data.

    I live off rain water off our house roof collected in tanks, and have 57,000 litre storage. For my wife and I, that is nearly five months use, and we have had to go almost that long during one major drought. We use a simple charcoal/micropore filter system to purify it, and our drinking water is sweeter and safer that any city water I have seen anywhere. No place with even average rainfall should be short of water for showers. It is only a matter of good (and not too difficult) management.
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    Probably from here:

    Average Water Use Per Person Per Day

    Here's another estimate:

    (3) Q: How much water does the average person use at home per day?

    A: Estimates vary, but each person uses about 80-100 gallons of water per day. Are you surprised that the largest use of household water is to flush the toilet, and after that, to take showers and baths? That is why, in these days of water conservation, we are starting to see toilets and showers that use less water than before. Many local governments now have laws that specify that water faucets, toilets, and showers only allow a certain amount of water flow per minute. In fact, if you look real close at the head of a faucet, you might see something like "1.5 gpm,", which means that the faucet head will allow water to flow at a maximum of 1.5 gallons per minute.

    from : http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/qahome.html

    Here's another
    "Average water consumption in the US is approximately 101 gallons per capita (person) per day
    (gpcd), for both indoor and outdoor water use in a single-family residence. In multi-family dwellings,
    consumption varies between 45 to 70 gpcd, as these households typically use little or no water outdoors
    and often have fewer fixtures and appliances."

    http://www.cob.org/documents/pw/util...nservation.pdf
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    Quote Originally Posted by PumaMan View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    NIMBY has a lot more to do with lack of building nuke plants for the past few decades than regulation.
    I believe that power plants, especially nuclear power plants, should be integrated with neighborhoods. I'd love to live next to one.
    You would get less radiation dose. ORNL proved it.

    Coal Combustion - ORNL Review Vol. 26, No. 3&4, 1993

    Gasoline stations are integrated with neighborhoods for obvious reasons. Get a clue, already, dotcomrade.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by MeteorWayne View Post
    Our household (2 people) averages about 80 gallons per day (technically 77.7 for the last 365 days). I guess we're doin' pretty good.

    MW
    In fact, that is almost exactly the average water consumption per person in the western world. I don't know where Lynx Fox got his 600 gallons per day. Normally the fox is much more reliable than this with his data.

    I live off rain water off our house roof collected in tanks, and have 57,000 litre storage. For my wife and I, that is nearly five months use, and we have had to go almost that long during one major drought. We use a simple charcoal/micropore filter system to purify it, and our drinking water is sweeter and safer that any city water I have seen anywhere. No place with even average rainfall should be short of water for showers. It is only a matter of good (and not too difficult) management.
    And what of those who must live in arid areas? Must they then stink?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Nuclear industry IS highly regulated, to the point that very few new plants were built for decades.
    NIMBY has a lot more to do with lack of building nuke plants for the past few decades than regulation.
    Quite possibly so, but such fears are unrealistic, in view of regulation particularly. More people are injured by medication errors but you do not see outcry when new pharmacy or hospital is built, generally. Dotcomrade PumaMan is living testimony to persistence of irrational nuclear phobias. Oddly enough, not that long ago public enthusiastically embraced radioactive cosmetics and dentifrices.

    Amazing but true, just as people continue to smoke, a source of radioactive lead and polonium isotopes.

    Radioactive Metals in Cigarette Smoke - Toxic Radioactive Metals in Cigarette Smoke
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    The data is from the UN and comprehensive, while the figures you quote only consider water use by the home. (Average Water Use by Country). Less than 20% of American water usage is for the home, and even that is pretty wasteful because much of it includes water wasted to water lawns. At the larger scale is nearly 350 gallons a person a day for agriculture alone, which is well above total use for most of the European nations. Add to it stuff like washing your cars, keeping your golf greens perfect etc and it adds up to the most water wasteful nation on the planet. And mind you this doesn't consider the non-potaable water withdrawal demands which are more like 1400 gallons a day per person once you factor in industrial demands (Summary of water use in the United States, 2000).
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    OK Lynx

    That makes sense. Agriculture has always been the biggest water user. I was talking of domestic use which comes to about 200 litres per day per person (just over 40 American gallons - see - I can use your primitive units too!).
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    Water for golf courses in most Arizona municipalities is recycled municipal wastewater. Arid climates induce thriftier water use on their own, and xeriscaping is quite popular in cities so situated. Indeed, not caring for a lawn is seen as a relief by many.

    Manned exploration of space can be expected to yield benefits in this area of closed ecological systems.

    With an abundance of power 324 million cubic miles of water are available to Earth dwellers.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    The data is from the UN and comprehensive, while the figures you quote only consider water use by the home. (Average Water Use by Country). Less than 20% of American water usage is for the home, and even that is pretty wasteful because much of it includes water wasted to water lawns. At the larger scale is nearly 350 gallons a person a day for agriculture alone, which is well above total use for most of the European nations. Add to it stuff like washing your cars, keeping your golf greens perfect etc and it adds up to the most water wasteful nation on the planet. And mind you this doesn't consider the non-potaable water withdrawal demands which are more like 1400 gallons a day per person once you factor in industrial demands (Summary of water use in the United States, 2000).
    Ok, so the site's breakdown was:

    48% Thermo-Electric
    34% Irrigation
    11% Public Use (Homes or Industrial Supplied by the public water company - Should include Golf Courses)
    5% Private Industrial (Not supplied by the public water company.)
    3% Livestock, Aquaculture, and Mining

    There must be some rounding or overlap or something, because the total sums to 101%.

    I don't know if it's fair to count irrigation, since irrigation is kind of necessary. If the third world ever gets its agriculture going full gear like it is in the USA, then I would think their water consumption in that area would rise proportionally, unless there are more efficient ways to deliver the water to the fields than the ones we're using.

    The thermal electric issue is a good argument in favor of solar/wind. Coal and Nuclear definitely require a steam engine, and natural gas is the most efficient if a steam engine is included in the process.

    The per capita total for Americans is actually 1,430 gallons/day. As for private consumption, 11% of 1,430 is 153.3 gallons/day. So, if third worlders really get by on 20/day, then we are definitely out consuming them. I guess I'm not going to feel guilty about showering if they're managing to shower as well. Do you think lawns are the big ticket item here then?
    Some clocks are only right twice a day, but they are still right when they are right.
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    I don't know if it's fair to count irrigation, since irrigation is kind of necessary. If the third world ever gets its agriculture going full gear like it is in the USA, then I would think their water consumption in that area would rise proportionally, unless there are more efficient ways to deliver the water to the fields than the ones we're using.
    It is necessary for sure, but can be also be efficient. Consider how much water used in America to irrigate water-thirty crop such as corn in otherwise arid parts of the nation, like Eastern Colorado how much that crop is used for inefficient and heavily subsidized bio-fuel production or to feed cattle, a comparatively inefficient source of protein. And there are efficient ways to deliver water, such as by drip irrigation.
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    If efficient systems are used, such as trickle field, then irrigation can cut water use at least ten fold. This system delivers water directly to the plant roots.

    I have a personal feeling that robotics will explode in the next few decades. If the fiddly work of setting up such efficient and directed irrigation systems is handled by robots, who knows how much more efficient this can become.
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    Finland Selects the Site for a New Nuclear Power Plant

    Oct. 5, 2011 (LPAC)--Finland earned the distinction of becoming
    the first nation after the earthquake- and tsunami-caused
    accidents in Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plants to name a new
    site for a nuclear power plant. The municipality of Pyhäjoki on
    Finland's western coast has been selected by Fennovoima as the
    site of the country's third nuclear power plant. Site
    preparations for the plant could start by the end of 2012.
    Fennovoima is a project company primarily owned by industrial
    power consumers and resellers, in line with the 'Finnish model'
    for financing nuclear power plant projects. German utility E.ON
    has a 34-percent stake in Fennovoima through its Finnish
    subsidiary.

    The reactor project, estimated to cost around 4-6 billion
    euros ($5-8 billion), comes as Finland tries to curb its
    dependence on Russian energy and help its metals and forestry
    businesses stay alive and well. Finland's parliament voted in
    July 2010 to back the building of two new nuclear reactors by
    Fennovoima and utility Teollisuuden Voima (TVO), raising
    Finland's total to seven. The Fukushima disaster prompted Finland
    to launch a review of nuclear safety.

    The site is due to provide energy to Fennovoima's
    shareholders, including stainless steel maker Outokumpu, retailer
    Kesko, and the local subsidiaries of Swedish metals firm Boliden.

    Fennovoima has short-listed two alternatives for the plant
    design: Areva's EPR, an advanced pressurized water reactor rated
    at about 1700 MWe; and Toshiba's ABWR advanced boiling water
    reactor rated at about 1600 MWe. In July 2011, Fennovoima invited
    Areva and Toshiba to bid for the delivery and construction of
    reactor and turbine islands for a new nuclear power plant in
    Finland. It expects to select the plant design in 2012-2013.
    The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding go out to meet it.- Thucydides
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