Wind Farms May Harm Your Health

Living near a wind farm may blow a host of health problems in your direction, including migraines, rapid heartbeat, and vertigo, according to a five-year study.

The so-called wind turbine syndrome (WTS) may even affect children to the point that it triggers nightmares and interferes with brain development, New York Dr. Nina Pierpoint’s study found.

“There is no doubt that my clinical research shows that the infrasonic to ultrasonic noise and vibrations emitted by wind turbines cause the symptoms which I am calling wind turbine syndrome,” the pediatrician said in an interview with the United Kingdoms’s The Independent. “There are about 12 different health problems associated with WTS. These range from tachycardia, sleep disturbance, headaches, tinnitus, nausea, visual blurring, and panic attacks with sensations of internal quivering to more general irritability.”

The turbines generate little noise, wind turbine manufacturers and wind farm operators say, and sound level measurements in the audible range generally show this to be true. However, some people who live close to wind farms say easily heard sounds are not the problem.

For instance, Dennis Stillings, who bought a farmstead in North Dakota, told Minnesota Public Radio that a wind farm was set up in a neighboring field soon after he moved in. He was told the turbines would be no louder than 55 decibels. “Which is about the same level as your refrigerator running, or the same level as my conversation right now,” Stillings said. What is bothersome, he said, is the pulsating, low-frequency sound like a “giant dishwasher.”

The low-frequency sounds are the ones Pierpoint zeroed in on as the source of health problems. Her study, which involved 38 people, shows that low-frequency sounds and vibrations affect humans through the bones in their ears, in the same manner as fish and amphibians. This sensitivity has been documented in new research by scientists at Manchester University and New South Wales.

Pierpoint told The Independent, “It has been gospel among acousticians for years that, if a person can’t hear a sound, it’s too weak for it to be detected or registered by any other part of the body. But this is no longer true. Humans can hear through the bones. This is amazing. It would be heretical if it hadn’t been shown in a well-conducted experiment.” Although Pierpoint recognizes that not everyone suffers from these sounds, she says wind farms should be built no closer to homes than 1.2 miles.

If there are plans to build a wind farm close to you, how can you tell if you might be affected? Information on Pierpoint’s Web site says that, if you get seasick, or if you got carsick as a child, you are at high risk of harm from wind farm noise and vibration. You are also at high risk if you suffer from preexisting migraine disorder, which is found in 6 percent of males and 18 percent of females.

Not everyone agrees with Pierpoint’s research, and some experts are quick to note how small the study was. In England, which has 219 wind farms and plans for 4,000 more turbines to be installed, a spokesman for the British Wind Association said, “An independent study on wind farms and noise in 2007 found only four complaints from around 2,000 turbines in the country. Wind turbines are quite safe and sustainable. It is not surprising that, according to a recent report, 94 percent of people who live near wind turbines are in favor of them. There is no scientific research to suggest that wind turbines are in any way harmful.”Windpowerfarm

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Turning ourselves green

By J. Dwight

There has been much press and advertising lately about “green jobs” being, or about to be, created by construction of wind farms and other renewable energy sources. President Barack Obama, in fact, has used Spain as a model for pursuing sustainable energy projects. But for every four green jobs created in Spain, less than one was made permanent, according to a study released by Spain’s Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in March 2009. Spain’s experience also shows for every permanent green job created, nine permanent jobs were destroyed.

Creating green jobs, then, is touted as a “Bridge to the Future,” but it looks like a “Bridge to Nowhere.” Maine faces a similar, if not more tenuous, situation than Spain. A report released last week by the American Center for Capital Formation noted that Maine could face an additional 6,000 to 9,000 job losses if federal “cap and trade” legislation is passed, the mechanism by which many of these green jobs will be created.

Cap and trade, essentially, would tax emitters of carbon dioxide, and use the revenue — about $15 billion — to fund renewable, sustainable energy development. Maine’s most recent unemployment figures say there are about 59,000 now, up from 37,000 a year earlier. There are approximately 700,000 people total in Maine’s workforce, for an unemployment rate of around 8.4 percent. Passing cap and trade could drive Maine’s unemployment rate above 10 percent, adding about 7,500 to the ranks of the unemployed. To do this in a deliberately destructive government policy would be simply unacceptable.

Cap and trade legislation that uses Spain as a model for the United States will be considered this fall by the Senate. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud have already voted yes on such legislation, earlier this summer.

Heavy electricity users like L.L. Bean, National Semiconductor, Fairchild, IDEXX, and others could face steep increases in energy costs in the near future, if this legislation is passed. Their employees would face further downsizing, or cuts in benefits, as new rules are implemented. These companies already are dealing with higher than average electricity costs, because of legislation like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative passed a few years ago.

The United States could also face a situation where much of our steel, aluminum and metallurgy — which takes a great deal of electricity — would be outsourced to countries like Brazil, China and Australia, which are opting-out of such economically destructive policies.

The report on Spain’s experience noted that tax credits, government debt, and electricity rate increases were used to spur development of renewable or sustainable energy sources. This is just like the Obama administration and organizations like the Natural Resources Council of Maine are pushing in Maine.

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The intentional misallocation of societal resources in the form of tax credits for construction, higher utility costs, and government debt, have put Spain behind in the race for new and innovative ways to solve the energy demand, and in the ability to recover from the current recession. For every megawatt of wind-power constructed, permanent back-up power sources are needed. Wind and solar power are not reliable electricity producers. They are kind of like alcoholics in the workforce — always calling in sick just when you need them, forcing more reliable workers to pick up the slack.

Spain’s experience also showed that spending societal resources on wind power actually increased its carbon-footprint. Ironically, Spain’s annual emissions of carbon dioxide have increased by nearly 50 percent since the launch of the subsidized “green jobs” program, as noted recently by the Institute for Energy Research, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Conventional fossil fuel energy sources were needed to keep electricity flowing when the wind abated.

Groups like the NRCM claim, “Wind power emits no mercury, no air pollution, no carbon dioxide, no need to mine coal, and alleviate the demand for natural gas!” But the experiences of countries that have actually invested heavily in wind power like Spain, Germany, and Denmark prove the opposite. The National Post has reported, “Denmark, the most wind intensive country with 6000 turbines generating 19% of electricity from wind power, they have not been able to close one fossil fuel plant and to their dismay, 50% more electricity was needed to cover wind’s unpredictability, and CO2 emissions rose 36%.” “Niels Gram of the Danish Federation of Industries says, “windmills are a mistake and economically make no sense.” Aase Madsen, the Chair of Energy Policy in the Danish Parliament, calls it “a terribly expensive disaster.”

“The German experience is no different,” reported the National Post. Der Spiegel reported that “Germany’s CO2 emissions haven’t been reduced by even a single gram,” and additional coal and gas-fired plants have been constructed to ensure reliable delivery.” So, if wind power does not decrease the use of coal or gas, does not decrease CO2 emissions, does not produce permanent job gains, and in fact destroys jobs, increases electricity costs, and increases CO2 production, what does it do?

One begins to wonder if cap and trade is the equivalent of economic self-mutilation. See post here.

CO2 is Green… and Green is Good!

More CO2 in the air means more plant growth. Earth’s current atmospheric CO2 concentration is almost 390 parts per million (ppm). Adding another 300 ppm of CO2 to the air has been shown by literally thousands of experiments to greatly increase the growth or biomass production of nearly all plants. This growth stimulation occurs because CO2 is one of the two raw materials (the other being water) that are required for photosynthesis. Hence, CO2 is actually the “food” that sustains essentially all plants on the face of the earth, as well as those in the sea. And the more CO2 they “eat” (absorb from the air or water), the bigger and better they grow (see table below).

Adding more CO2 to the air also benefits plants in other ways:
They generally do not open their leaf stomatal pores as wide as they do at lower CO2 concentrations, and they tend to produce fewer such pores per unit area of leaf surface.  Both of these changes tend to reduce plant transpiration or water loss; and the amount of growth they experience per unit of water lost (water-use efficiency) therefore rises, greatly increasing their ability to withstand drought.  And with fewer and smaller stomatal openings, plants exposed to elevated levels of atmospheric CO2 are also less susceptible to damage by noxious air pollutants, including ozone and oxides of nitrogen and sulfur, that gain entry into plants via these portals.  Higher CO2 concentrations also help plants by reducing the negative effects of a number of other environmental stresses, such as high soil salinity, high air temperature, low air temperature, low light intensity, low levels of soil fertility, oxidative stress, and the stress of herbivory.

A visual example of the benefits described above is portrayed in the figure below, where the results of growing a common house plant (Devil’s Ivy or Golden Pothos) at about 200 ppm below (left) or 350 ppm above (right) the atmosphere’s current CO2 concentration is shown. 

 As you examine this figure, ask yourself in which direction would you like to be heading if you were a plant: toward higher or lower atmospheric CO2 concentrations?

Yes, CO2 is green; and a wealth of research has shown that more of it in the air is a very good thing.  To learn additional facts about why we need more CO2 in our atmosphere — and definitely not less —

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read more here.

Wind Farm May Violate Endangered Species Act

By Penny Rodriguez

Environmentalist groups have filed a federal lawsuit to require operators of a proposed West Virginia wind farm to obtain a “takings” permit under the Endangered Species Act before they can begin operations.

According to the Animal Welfare Institute and Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy, the proposed Beech Ridge Energy wind farm in Greenbrier County will disrupt the habitat and likely kill an unacceptable number of endangered Indiana bats.
Road Building Has Begun

Beech Ridge Energy received approval for the project from the state Public Service Commission after four years of government study and community opposition. The company has begun clearing brush and building roads to haul turbine parts to the site of the proposed wind farm.

Beech Ridge Energy plans to construct 124 turbines—each 390 feet tall—along a 23-mile stretch of mountain ridge tops.

Few Bats Remain

According to the Animal Welfare Institute and Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy, the proposed wind farm will injure and kill scores of Indiana bats that live in caves near the wind farm.

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The groups say Beech Ridge Energy will be violating the Endangered Species Act by failing to obtain a federal “incidental take” permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This permit is required if an otherwise-lawful activity results in the incidental death of or harm to an endangered species.

Beech Ridge Energy conducted two studies to count bats in the area, but opponents say the surveys are inadequate. A proper bat count and estimation of resultant bat deaths is necessary, the lawsuit states, because the Indiana bat is one of the most endangered land mammals in the world.

Turbines in Critical Habitat

According to the environmental groups, a local cave expert has identified 27 caves within five miles of the project site, and another 113 caves between five and 10 miles from the site, that serve as Indiana bat habitat.

In addition to deaths caused by wind turbine blades directly striking bats, the lawsuit alleges the whirring of gigantic turbine blades will create low-pressure zones that cause bats’ lungs to hemorrhage, killing them almost instantly.

‘Largely Discarded Technology’

The environmental groups claim they are not seeking to stop wind power projects completely, but they believe developers must choose a more-suitable location and better mitigate environmental damage.

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Tom Stacy, president of Save Western Ohio, has long opposed similar wind farms in neighboring Ohio.

“Sacrificing anything, especially endangered species, to enable one of the dumbest modern energy ideas imaginable is anathema,” Stacy said.

“Wind is an ancient and largely discarded energy technology that can only provide volatile, sporadic energy, not the modern power performance and effective capacity we rely upon for affordable, secure electricity,” said Stacy. “Massive wind projects sited throughout West Virginia’s ridge tops will not close one coal plant.”

See post here.

Spain is tilting at windmills

President Barack Obama has praised Spain as a global leader in renewable electricity generation and has lauded its success at creating so-called “green jobs.” However, a recent Spanish university study concluded that Spain’s mad rush to meet overly aggressive renewable standards has destroyed jobs and driven up the real cost of electricity, without cutting carbon emissions.
April 30, 2009 by Dr. Robert Peltier, PE in Power Magazine

President Barack Obama has praised Spain as a global leader in renewable electricity generation and has lauded its success at creating so-called “green jobs.” However, a recent Spanish university study concluded that Spain’s mad rush to meet overly aggressive renewable standards has destroyed jobs and driven up the real cost of electricity, without cutting carbon emissions.

Dig a Little Deeper

While visiting an Ohio company that provides parts for wind turbines in mid-January, President Obama presented his vision of a nation that is more energy efficient and more reliant on renewable energy. “Think of what’s happening in countries like Spain, Germany, and Japan, where they are investing in renewable energy,” Obama said. He went on to describe these countries as surging ahead of the U.S., not “because they’re 

smarter than us, or work harder than us, or are more innovative than we are. It’s because their governments have harnessed their people’s hard work and ingenuity with bold investments…. there’s no reason we can’t do the same.” The truth is: Spain’s renewable leadership is more fantasy than fact.The Spanish government legislated goals for renewables a decade ago that have since made Spain the world’s third-largest wind power producer, after the U.S. and Germany. Spain’s renewable energy growth continues at a rate of 30% per year. Today renewables produce about 30% of Spain’s electricity. The country’s 2004 Electricity Act, requiring 20 GW of wind generation by 2010, subsidized a “Special Regime” for renewable plants that guaranteed grid access and long-term power purchase agreements paying premium prices for renewable electricity. For example, energy from a photovoltaic plant gets seven times the mean price from Spain’s power pool. Wind plants receive up to 209% of the market price.

Study the Statistics

Gabriel Calzada Álvarez, PhD, an economics professor at King Juan Carlos University in Madrid, completed Spain’s first comprehensive review of the long-term effects of Spain’s renewable energy policy on jobs and the economy. His report, “Study of the Effects on Employment of Public Aid to Renewable Energy Sources,” was released in March. Some of its most surprising findings include these:

The premium paid for renewable power in Spain that’s charged to consumers translates into $774,000 for each Spanish “green job” created since 2000. In an interview with 

Bloomberg, Álvarez stated: “The loss of jobs could be greater if you account for the amount of lost industry that moves out of the country due to higher energy prices.”The study calculates that the programs creating those jobs resulted in the destruction of nearly 110,000 jobs elsewhere in the economy, or 2.2 jobs destroyed for every “green job” created. The report notes that Obama’s estimates of job creation gloss over jobs lost due to lost opportunity in the private capital market or the higher efficiency of private capital employed in renewable energy investment. Álvarez concluded that each “green” megawatt installed destroys 5.28 jobs on average elsewhere in the economy: 8.99 by photovoltaics, 4.27 by wind energy, and 5.05 by mini-hydro.

The study also assessed the quality of green jobs created. Despite its hyper-aggressive (expensive and extensive) “green jobs” policies, it appears that Spain has created a surprisingly low number of jobs. Two-thirds of them came in construction, fabrication and installation; one-quarter in administrative positions, marketing, and projects engineering; and just one-tenth at the more permanent level of actual operation and maintenance.

Money paid by consumers for renewable energy from 2000 to 2008 amounted to approximately $10 billion more than what the market cost would have been. The government spent more than $36 billion to subsidize renewable projects. For perspective, Spain’s economy is roughly on par with California’s.

“The price of a comprehensive energy rate (paid by the end consumer) in Spain would have to be increased 31% to begin to repay the historic debt generated [by the subsidies],” the report says. This is an important point: Direct government investment in power generation infrastructure hides the real cost of generated electricity because the government debt does not appear in the utilities’ books and keeps rates artificially low. Álvarez called these “self-inflicted economic wounds.”

“The high cost of electricity due to the green job policy tends to drive the relatively most energy-intensive companies and industries away, seeking areas where costs are lower.” Spain’s average electricity rate for a medium household was 15.2 cents/kWh in 2008, according to Eurostat – among the highest in the European Union (EU). The average U.S. residential price of electricity is less than 10 cents/kWh.

Not a Policy Model

The irony is that Spain’s entire renewable industry was built on the promise of creating millions of new, high-paying “green jobs” while simultaneously meeting EU requirement for reducing carbon emissions – the same policies now promised by President Obama.

Spain’s renewable energy policies have failed on both measures: Jobs have disintegrated, and Spain’s CO 2 emissions have increased 50% since 2000, according to data from the European Environment Agency, forcing Spain’s purchase of allowances from Eastern Europe to meet its EU-mandated carbon limits. Let’s not repeat these mistakes.  Read story here and here.

Congress Still Protecting You – From Lightbulbs!

By Chelsea Schilling, World Net Daily

An act sponsored by 25 representatives asking the government to reconsider its ban on incandescent light bulbs has been stalled in committee – and the leading sponsor is faulting Democratic leadership. The Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act highlights growing concerns over the safety and environmental impact of compact fluorescent bulbs, or CFLs. Before the sale of incandescent bulbs is banned, the representatives are asking the comptroller general to prove replacement with CFLs will be cost-effective, reduce overall carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent in the United States by 2025 and that the bulbs will not pose a health risk to the general public. However, the act has been delayed in the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality since March 14 – more than six months. U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., leading sponsor of the legislation, told WND Democrats are not concerned about pushing the act through.

“The Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act, H.R. 5616, is currently collecting dust in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, held up by Democrat leadership that refuses to make this legislation a priority,” Bachmann said. “The Democrat leadership fills the congressional schedule with naming post offices and ends the work week early rather than do the people’s business.” She continued, “They don’t want to take up the real issues that make a difference in people’s lives because those issues require them to make tough choices.”

As WND reported, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 was signed into law in December, phasing out the use of traditional, incandescent light bulbs in favor of CFLs beginning in 2012 and culminating in a ban on incandescent bulbs in 2014. Concerns about mercury in the bulbs and mercury vapor released when a CFL is broken led Bachmann and a group of legislators in the House to second-guess the government’s choice.

“Each light bulb contains between 3-6 milligrams of mercury,” Bachmann said earlier in an MSNBC interview. “There’s a question about how that mercury will fill up our landfills, and also if you break one in your home, you’ll have mercury that instantaneously vaporizes in your home. That poses a very real threat to children, disabled people, pets, senior citizens. And I just think it’s very important that Americans have the choice to decide, would they like an incandescent or a (CFL)?” Read more here.

Read how LEDs are a smarter way to go here.

The Carbon Sense Coalition called on the Australian Senate to reject the Renewable Energy Targets Bill if it is re-introduced next week

The Chairman of the Carbon Sense Coalition, Mr. Viv Forbes, called on the Australian Senate to reject the Renewable Energy Targets Bill if it is re-introduced next week.

Forbes comments: Two destructive bills were rejected by the Australian Senate last week: The carbon Ration-n-Tax Scheme (the RAT scheme) and the Renewable Energy Targets Bill (the RENT scheme).

The RENT scheme will force power companies to source 20% of their power needs from renewable sources such as wind and solar. Consumers will be forced to pay the extra costs. It is well named because it extracts unearned rent from the community to allow politicians to harvest green votes. It may have escaped the notice of our well-sheltered MPs that sometimes the sun does not shine, nor does the wind blow constantly. And at many times during the year (like calm winter nights), not one watt of power would be generated by any wind or solar plant over large areas of the continent.

Moreover, both are very dilute forms of energy, requiring large areas of land to collect significant power. Neither produces reliable, stable, predictable power. And when all factors are taken into account, they may not even reduce carbon emissions.

Solar power is good for hot water systems, remote properties, navigation beacons, recharging portable batteries, growing grass and drying the washing Wind power is good for pumping water, flying kites and racing yachts. Neither can be relied on to run the trains, the factories, the smelters or the hospitals. Any society foolish enough to rely on these medieval energy sources deserves to freeze in the dark.

Naturally, if enough money is extracted from consumers or taxpayers, we could build enough storage capacity or backup generating capacity to provide continuous power from these intermittent power sources. But the cost is prohibitive because the backup facility needs to cope with 100% of the Green Power capacity.

This duplication doubles the capital cost of Green Power, but neither the Green Plant nor the backup plant is used efficiently: one or the other is always idle. If Australia is stupid enough to mandate 20% of the electricity market for Green Power, electricity costs will escalate, backup gas prices will soar, industry will emigrate and jobs will disappear. If the market is unwilling to build Green Power facilities without mandates or subsidies, there is a good reason for it.

Already those places who have been most enthusiastic in mandating or subsidising Green Energy, such as California, Denmark and Spain, are bleeding financially from the high cost and poor revenue generated by their political playthings. (The Government of California is paying its bills with IOUs). UK is heading down this same dead-end road. Green power may swing elections but it will not cook the dinner on a cold quiet winter night. The Senate should reject the RENT scheme if it reappears. Producers and consumers, not Parliament, should decide how much green power is sensible.

Cold in the dark prospects

By Thomas J. Pyle, Washington Times

Federal energy policies spell shortages, rising prices.

 “Energy prices certainly would surge under cap-and-trade. President Obama said so. His budget director said so. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said so. And most recently, the Energy Information Administration (EIA), an independent statistical government agency, said so.”

While the nation’s leaders focus on expanding government’s role in our health care system, they are working simultaneously to chew away at another foundation of America’s economic strength and our individual liberties – affordable, reliable energy.

The assault comes, as most rhetorical attacks do, cloaked in righteousness. The government, through the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade legislation, aims to save us from global warming by imposing arbitrary limits on domestic carbon emissions. This regime would enable its proponents’ Wall Street allies to trade and swap the allowances and offsets – the new currency under this system – among themselves. Think Bernard Madoff.

In doing so, the federal government would seize control of our energy use, rationing it to ensure it is both more expensive and less plentiful. The certain loss of manufacturing jobs to China and India that would result from this scheme, while unfortunate to some, is a side benefit to a group of ideologues who never really cared much for manufacturing anyhow – too dirty, too blue-collar, too old-fashioned, too capitalist, too American.

Of course, those who favor such a regime do not say they plan to ration energy. Rather, they talk about “efficiency.” This efficiency would require Americans to reduce their energy use by nearly 85 percent by 2050. On a per capita basis, that means each American would use about as much energy as did each American living in 1790.

Energy prices certainly would surge under cap-and-trade. President Obama said so. His budget director said so. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said so. And most recently, the Energy Information Administration (EIA), an independent statistical government agency, said so.

The legislation provides for amelioration of increased energy costs to lower- and fixed-income persons. Estimates of the increased costs have ranged from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars per year per household. Notably, no analysis or credible person has suggested that the legislation would not increase energy costs.

The legislation also would reduce our gross domestic product. Again, each study, including the one by the EIA, indicated that cap-and-trade legislation “increases the cost of using energy, which reduces real economic output, reduces purchasing power, and lowers aggregate demand for goods and services. The result is that projected real gross domestic product (GDP) generally falls relative to the [status quo].”

Cap-and-trade’s supporters don’t mention job destruction. In fact, they claim the legislation would be a boon to job creation. Why let the facts get in the way of a good argument? Numerous studies and real-world trials have shown that cap-and-trade and “green jobs” subsidies result in a net job loss. Those jobs that are created are temporary and unsustainable without continued government subsidies and mandates. While the figures of lost jobs vary, they all reach the same conclusion: Cap-and-trade kills jobs.

Read more of the commentary here.

A History of America’s Nuclear Power Experience: Part Two

By Jay Lehr, Ph.D. , science director of The Heartland Institute

Last month I promised to recount William Tucker’s excellent chapter on nuclear waste reprocessing from his outstanding book Terrestrial Energy. After considerable study of this issue, I can report Tucker did the job about as well as it can be done.

There is no simple way to explain the chemical engineering involved in nuclear waste reprocessing. It is elegant but by no means simple. Thus I can only paraphrase his exceptional effort to make the complex more understandable.
No Such Thing as Waste

In strict physical terms, there is no such thing as nuclear waste. Using a resource does not automatically turn it into waste. As environmentalists have long taught us, pollution is really just resources out of place.

The by-products of nuclear fission are so incredibly compact and potentially useful, none of them need to be thrown away. They are sitting there waiting to be processed. Almost 100 percent of the material in spent nuclear fuel rods can be recycled as useful material, and it is being done in other parts of the world today.

The very small amounts of material that cannot be reprocessed economically today can be stored safely until it becomes financially feasible in the future. There truly is no such thing as nuclear waste.

All Is Usable

More than 95 percent of a spent fuel rod is uranium-238, the same material we initially mine from the Earth. In nearly every other country in the world with nuclear power plants, this uranium-238 is reused to create more nuclear energy.

The remaining 5 percent is too intensely radioactive to be used for the fission process, but it has other uses. These radioactive isotopes have found broad implementation in medicine and industry. Forty percent of all medical procedures now involve some kind of radioactive isotopes, such as the tracers commonly used in diagnostics and the energy sources used to fight cancer.

Global Reprocessing

So why are we making such a fuss over the proposed and long-delayed Yucca Mountain repository for nuclear waste? The answer is that we stopped reprocessing nuclear fuel rods in the 1970s because we were afraid recycling would lead to proliferation of nuclear weapons in other countries. This concern has proven totally unwarranted.

While the United States gave up reprocessing, Canada, England, France, Japan, and Russia did not. All now have a recycling industry and very little waste storage problem.

Reprocessing Procedures

All commercial reprocessing plants use the well-proven hydrometallurgical plutonium uranium extraction process, called PUREX for short. This involves dissolving the fuel elements in concentrated nitric acid. Chemical separation of uranium and plutonium is then undertaken by solvent extraction steps, (neptunium, which may be used for producing plutonium-238 for thermal-electric generators for spacecraft, also can be recovered if required).

The plutonium and uranium can be returned to the input side of the fuel cycle—the uranium goes to the conversion plant prior to re-enrichment, and the plutonium goes straight to mixed oxide (MOX) fuel fabrication.

Alternatively, some small amount of recovered uranium can be left with the plutonium sent to the MOX plant, so the plutonium is never separated on its own. This is known as the co-extraction process (COEX) developed in France but not yet in use.

U.S. Plant Under Construction

President Ronald Reagan lifted the reprocessing ban in 1981, but Congress did not allocate the substantial subsidy that would have been necessary to start commercial reprocessing efforts.

In 1999 the Department of Energy signed a contract with a consortium of U.S. companies to design and operate a mixed oxide fuel fabrication facility at the Savanna River site in South Carolina, which began construction in October 2005.

I’ll present more on reprocessing and Bill Tucker’s marvelous book Terrestrial Energy next month. See post here. See part I here.

Cell doubles coal’s efficiency

A University of Queensland researcher has successfully completed a lab-scale test on a new technology which has the potential to revolutionise the way the world views and uses coal.

Chemical engineer Professor John Zhu from the School of Chemical Engineering is working on Direct Carbon Fuel Cells (DCFC) which will create twice as much power from coal as current methods and minimise greenhouse gas emissions.

Professor Zhu said that when coal reacts with air in the DCFC, it generated highly energy-efficient electricity.

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“The very high energy efficiency of the new technology will effectively halve the amount of coal required to create electricity,” Professor Zhu said.

“When applied, it will provide industry with very significant cost and energy savings, which could then be passed on to the consumer.”

In addition to saving cost and energy, the DCFC will also provide clean power.

Professor Zhu expects the DCFC will enable the byproduct of coal-fired power – the harmful greenhouse gas carbon dioxide – to be trapped and stored easily and safely.

“One of the major challenges for coal-fired power is reducing its impact on the environment by developing ways to separate carbon dioxide from other gases produced in the power generation process, and ensuring it is not released into the atmosphere,” Professor Zhu said.

“The DCFC produces pure carbon dioxide as a byproduct, making it much easier to manage.”

The next stage in development will involve consulting with the energy sector and securing industry and government funding to scale up the DCFC technology.

Executive Dean of UQ’s Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology, Professor Graham Schaffer said the new DCFC technology was one of a number of clean energy technologies being progressed by the University.

“UQ engineers are on the front lines in the battle to develop low emission coal technologies and deliver renewable energy sources such as hydrogen, geothermal and solar energy,” he said.

“Partnerships with industry and government have enabled our researchers to make significant progress towards these new technologies, which are vital if we are to meet the challenges of clean energy and climate change.”

With funding, the new DCFC technology is expected to be ready for implementation in about 10 years.  Read post here.  See original University release here.