Friday, May 08, 2009

Nuclear reactor realities

An email from DuPree Moore []:

From 1968 to 1973, I was an engineering officer aboard U. S. nuclear submarines. The chief engineer would routinely sneak back into the engineering spaces and trip some piece of equipment off the line. These were not computer simulations. The equipment really would be in an emergency condition. We would be sitting in the reactor control room, and suddenly alarms would go off. We would have to figure out what had happened, and recover from it. The equipment is designed to survive such accidents. After many decades of operation under those conditions, the Navy has had zero deaths from nuclear power. You are more likely to drown in your bathtub than to die from operating a nuclear reactor.

A coal-fired electric power generating plant uses 120 railroad cars full of coal every day. A nuclear plant uses one semi truckload of nuclear fuel rods every few years. All the spent fuel from every nuclear reactor in the United States could be stored on one football field, a pile nine feet tall. Recycle it as the French do, and the pile shrinks to three inches. In 500 years it will be less toxic than coal ash.

It is preposterous to talk about nuclear waste remaining toxic for tens of thousands of years. It is preposterous to talk about tens of thousands of deaths from a nuclear accident. Those analyses are based upon a laughable error. If one person eats 200 aspirin, he will die. These people figure that if 200 people eat one aspirin each, there will be one death. If two million people are exposed to a dose rate of one aspirin per person, there will be 20,000 deaths. In fact one aspirin is beneficial, and low levels of radiation are beneficial. Geographical areas with higher background radiation have lower levels of cancer.

Chernobyl proved just how safe nuclear power is. There was no containment vessel. All radiation was released to the environment. There were less than 200 deaths, all among on-site personnel. An exhaustive international inquiry under the UN found no documented health damage beyond the immediate vicinity (except for a slight increase in thyroid cancer among children, which can be completely prevented by taking inexpensive iodine supplements in the event of a nuclear accident). The area around Chernobyl has been declared a radioactive dead zone at radiation levels about the same as downtown Warsaw, Poland, and five times lower than Grand Central Station in New York City. Plants and animals flourish in the region, showing no ill effects. It is stark raving mad.

Three-Mile Island nuclear accident caused zero deaths, zero injuries, and zero radiation release to the environment. And it was not a close call. It might have been a close call from having much more extensive equipment damage, but the worst possible accident would still have been kept entirely within the containment vessel. There would have been zero deaths, zero injuries, and zero radiation released to the environment. If terrorists flew an airplane into a nuclear reactor, it would not rupture the containment vessel.

During the 1970's there was an anti-nuclear campaign, similar to the global warming campaign today. It was based on grossly inaccurate information, but it prevailed politically to impose onerous regulations which killed nuclear power as a source of electricity. I have seen a comparison of two nuclear power plants in the United States which began construction at about the same time. One finished up before the new regulations went into effect. It came in on budget, and generates to this day the cheapest, safest, and cleanest electricity on this planet. The second reactor ran afoul of the new regulations. It ran into massive cost overruns, and never was completed.

Lawrence Solomon was part of the anti-nuclear campaign during the 1970's. Today he has done some excellent research disproving the global warming theory, especially disproving the assertions of a scientific consensus about it; but to this day he is wrong about nuclear power. To this day he says, "Nuclear reactors run flat-out 24/7", and cannot be adjusted to match power demand. He is simply wrong. The reactor remains critical 24/7, but a reactor can be critical at zero power. The power output automatically matches the power demand. I have personally operated nuclear reactors, and I know for a fact what I am talking about. That is the kind of misinformation which has destroyed nuclear power, the greatest scientific advance in the history of the world.

The Climatically Saturated Greenhouse Effect

Feedbacks prevent any significant temperature rise. Only the sun can alter that

By Christopher Game

IN recent years, a major advance in our understanding of the physical dynamics of the climate process has come from the work of Ferenc Miskolczi. For the present note I am calling his discovery the ‘climatically saturated greenhouse effect’. I use these words to mean that the ‘saturation’ of which I speak is not the classical static saturation of an isolated system, but is ‘saturation’ in a specially extended sense for an open system in a thermodynamically-non-equilibrium dynamic steady state.

Dr Miskolczi’s discovery arose from his regular work for NASA, examining the data measured by radiosonde balloons. Studied and analyzed under the microscope of the radiative transfer computer program that he had written, the large data set turned out to be a previously only partly tapped reservoir of a wealth of physical facts. From the reservoir of numerical data, Dr Miskolczi abstracted mathematical formulae that expressed new physical understanding.

Dr Miskolczi showed that the true physical dynamics of the climate process is that the present rate of change of amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is dynamically determined, amongst other factors, largely by the present amount of greenhouse gas. A second dynamical factor is the fluctuating temperature of the atmosphere. There are also other dynamical factors that are mostly ignored in this present note.

On the other hand, for its doctrine that man-made CO2-emissions cause harmful global warming, the IPCC speaks in terms of its mathematical formalism of “radiative forcing” and “positive feedback by water vapour”. But, sad to say, this formalism is fatally flawed and cannot describe the true dynamical structure of the climate response to CO2.

The IPCC’s mathematical formalism admits just one dynamical internal state variable, the climate temperature. That formalism expresses the climate temperature as a static mathematical function (or sometimes as a dynamical effect) of the “radiative forcing”. The formalism mathematically partitions that mathematical function (or dynamical effect) into components that it calls “feedbacks”. But these “feedbacks” are not dynamically distinct from the climate temperature. The formalism expresses them simply as static mathematical functions of the climate temperature. Consequently, the dynamical factors that govern the real climate system cannot be expressed in the IPCC’s formalism because of its mathematical inappropriateness for the problem.

Miskolczi did not set out to make his discovery of the climatically saturated greenhouse effect, but it turned up as something that he accidentally noticed in the course of his regular work for NASA. In this respect his discovery is like the fundamental discovery made by Australian Garth Paltridge, who ‘accidentally’ noticed in his examination of climate data that the facts are described by a principle of maximum rate of entropy production. Along with the earlier work of plastics technologist Hans Ziegler, Professor Paltridge’s discovery was a stepping stone on the path to understanding how the second law of thermodynamics is naturally extended, from its classical form for isolated systems in thermodynamic equilibrium, to deal with thermodynamically-non-equilibrium dynamic steady states in diabatic systems. This was a radical advance at the deepest level of scientific understanding. Its present relevance has been mentioned above. (A helpful review article is listed below.)

This kind of fortuitous observation of empirical fact is at the heart of many of the historical radical advances in natural science. It is a kind of ‘accident’ that happens only to the prepared mind. Like Professor Paltridge, Dr Miskolczi had a prepared mind.

The Miskolczi discovery of the climatically saturated greenhouse effect describes a climate process that is dynamically pinned at a thermodynamically-non-equilibrium phase transition. This means that the climate is in a stable stationary dynamical régime.

The overall effect is to keep a constant ratio of solar energetic driving to long term climate temperature. We might call this the climatic response ratio, but let us here refer to it just as ‘the ratio’. The ratio is independent of CO2 emissions, which therefore cannot increase the long term climate temperature. Only increased solar energetic driving can increase the long term climate temperature. Changes in solar energetic driving can be caused only by changes in the heat radiated from the sun and by changes in the earth’s distance from the sun. Other extraterrestrial solar system external drivers of the climate process can perturb it, but not alter the long term climate temperature. Such perturbations include many various and diverse mechanisms, such as increased admission of galactic cosmic rays, and the deterministic chaotic tidal effects of gravity of the sun, the moon, and the planets.

A main dynamical effect in maintaining climate stability is non-linear cooling through the atmospheric window discovered by George Simpson in 1928. After heat has been absorbed from the sun by the earth, the infrared radiative waveband carries the heat back out to space. Water vapour is the earth’s main greenhouse gas. Its wide and strong infra-red absorption spectrum has a fair number of deep gaps. Radiation from the surface of the land and the sea escapes readily to space through these gaps, collectively called the atmospheric window. The escape is governed non-linearly by the Planck radiation law. The non-linearity means that the hotter the earth gets, the more efficient is the window at cooling the earth. Simpson also discovered another potent climate stabilizing property of water. Water can form clouds, which Simpson noted potently tend to cool the earth by reflecting some of the incoming sunlight, so that it is not even absorbed by the earth. This is called increase in albedo.

Why is the climatic response ratio constant? It is because water dominates the climate dynamics.

Perhaps a homely analogy may help. The climate process is like a saucepan of saturated salt solution boiling on a stove. Turn up the gas on the stove and the boiling point is not affected. Add more salt and the boiling-point is not affected, because the salt solution is already saturated....


NYT wrong on permafrost - 'If It Makes People Believe, Is It Okay To Lie About Global Warming?'‏

While reading an article on Gather, something struck me as odd. The piece described how global warming was destroying a native village in western Alaska called Newtok. The article cited a CNN report lifted from the Warming Trends section of The New York Times. See Victim of Climate Change, a Town Seeks a Lifeline. The same story was repeated in Discover Magazine, The Nation and across the blogsphere.

What I found odd is there is nothing odd about what's happening to Newtok and certainly nothing that qualifies a New York Times environmental reporter to declare its residents "the first climate refugees in the United States". Here is what the NYT said:
"The earth beneath much of Alaska is not what it used to be. The permanently frozen subsoil, known as permafrost, upon which Newtok and so many other Native Alaskan villages rest, is melting, yielding to warming air temperatures and a warming ocean."

That's what got my attention. Anyone who knows anything about polar regions knows that change in permafrost across an area as vast as Alaska is better seen by squinting through statistics than looking out your front door - and if per chance you see melting permafrost out your door, your house is in the wrong place.

Even the usually environment friendly news source Far North Science, shredded the NYT article. They cited the world's foremost experts on permafrost monitoring, Vladimir Romanovsky:
The latest Alaska data suggests local permafrost has hardly changed during the past five years, despite warmer air temperatures and weather patterns. And these changes are measured on the scale of inches per half century -- not anything you would notice.

So what is happening to Newtok? The scientific consensus is clear as northern light: the swift flowing and bank eating NingLick River south of town has taken a liking to the place. In other words, what is happening to Newtok is the same geological force that happens everywhere on the globe, if you build a house where a river wants to go, you better move it.

So what is The New York Times babbling on about? Here is one clue, the article quotes resident Frank Tommy:
"I don't want to live in permafrost no more. It's too muddy. Everything is crooked around here."

and further down the column:
Erosion has made Newtok an island, caught between the ever widening Ninglick River and a slough to the north. The village is below sea level, and sinking. Boardwalks squish into the spring muck. Human waste, collected in "honey buckets" that many residents use for toilets, is often dumped within eyeshot in a village where no point is more than a five-minute walk from any other. The ragged wooden houses have to be adjusted regularly to level them on the shifting soil.

Studies say Newtok could be washed away within a decade. Along with the villages of Shishmaref and Kivalina farther to the north, it has been the hardest hit of about 180 Alaska villages that suffer some degree of erosion.

So what does all this melting, mud and erosion have to do with global warming?

Not a thing. Coastal erosion is natural and has been happeing since the time of the glaciers, but the erosion in town is caused by something else entirely: European construction methods and land-use practices completely unsuited to polar regions.

In the Arctic, if you do not raise your suburban split-level on pilings sunk deep into the permafrost, it will instantly begin to melt its way through a thousand feet of frozen mud in the general direction of Australia.

And oh yeah, another thing -- and guys, this is for you. After a beer party, don't even think of strolling out onto the tundra to tinkle. For one thing, your pee will remain stinky fresh for a couple of thousand years which means drinking out of local streams is discouraged. For another, the very act of walking out to pee will squish down the natural insulation causing the permafrost to melt and the next time you wander off, you may stumble into a gigantic sink hole you never knew was there. The technical term for this is Therokarst, remember that. And that's what is happening to Newtok.

So why is it happening while New York Times reporters are scouring the Arctic for dramatic signs of climate apocalypse? Like in the last couple decades?

Good question. You see, the Yup'ik people have lived in the area of Newtok since before the Romans built the open air stadium called the Coliseum, but the Yup'ik were migratory people who knew what happened when you tinkled in one place for too long and they didn't go in for European things like sports stadiums. So for two thousand years, they wandered around, studiously avoiding the bank munching Ninglick River.

Then came a gaggle of bureaucrats from the State Of Alaska who went to college and knew a thing or two that the Yup'ik didn't. These guys built a town because it was where they could land a barge for all the heavy construction equipment needed to create a real spiffy European style town, called Newtok.

I hope after reading the above, you can kind of figure out what happened next. So now the town has to move. This time, the Yup'ik elders said, "We'll pick the spot" and they have, a nice site with a much better climate. So how far did the first climate refugees in the United States move? A whole nine miles. To Nelson Island. The place where their ancestors spent the summer.

So what about The New York Times and all that Climate Refugees stuff? New York Times? Enough said.

More HERE (See the original for links, graphics etc.)


More of the world's electricity was generated from coal last year, reveals a new industry report, pointing at the futility of unilateral EU moves to cut down CO2 emissions. The 2008 market report of EURACOAL, the industry association representing the European coal industry, shows that global hard coal production increased by at least 200 million tonnes (Mt) last year, most of which was mined in China. Higher energy prices and technological advances make it even more profitable to use already abundant coal resources, the report published this week said. The EU contrasts markedly with the rest of the world as it is the only region where coal production is decreasing, according to EURACOAL.

A EURACOAL representative told EurActiv that one reason European production was down compared to 2007 was the fact that EU regulations governing state aid for the coal industry were set to expire in 2010, forcing some plants to close down. Over the past decade, European coal consumption has declined slightly. But EU production has fallen by 35% in EU 25 and by 50% in the EU 15. The result is a 40% upsurge in coal imports in just ten years.

According to the European Commission, over €80 billion of state aid for the coal industry was approved over the decade 1994 to 2005. The Commission is currently engaged in discussions to decide upon the post-2010 legislative framework, which could see the coal industry treated according to standard state-aid rules.

Another major reason for the EU decrease is the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), which obliges some 10,000 energy-intensive plants to buy and sell permits to emit CO2, EURACOAL said. The revision of the scheme for the third trading period, which starts in 2012, widened the scope of the applicable industries and capped EU industrial emissions at 21% below 2005 levels by 2020, in order to reduce emissions more quickly.

As coal emits approximately twice as much CO2 as natural gas, cap-and-trade regimes are expected to favour the use of gas in electricity generation in the long term (EurActiv 04/04/09). In the UK, EURACOAL observed a switch from coal to gas in 2008, with both indigenous coal production and imports decreasing.

EURACOAL pointed out, however, that the world's largest coal reserves are situated in the US, China and Russia, which are all increasing their production. It will thus be essential for these countries to participate in the post-Kyoto global climate deal to be agreed in December if any serious emissions cuts are to be expected, it argued. The association added that unilateral efforts to cut emissions by other countries would be "useless".

"I think Europe will start to look around to see that all over the world, coal production is increasing, while we are decreasing," a EURACOAL representative told EurActiv. "I think there might be a change, because we can't continue to decrease production. We need the coal produced in Europe," she added.

Nevertheless, cap-and-trade systems are now in the pipeline around the world as part of the international climate efforts, alarming the steel industry, which relies heavily on coal inputs. The EURACOAL report shows that the steel industry has already been affected by the economic downturn. Global steel production was down 22.8% in the first quarter of 2009, compared to the same period in 2008.

The prospect of regulating emissions via a trading scheme has also alarmed coal-producing states in the American Midwest, following the emergence of initial plans for a cap-and-trade system in that country. Last week, 19 US Congressmen from steel-producing areas addressed a letter to the House leadership, calling for free allowances for the steel industry. They argued that a cap-and-trade system should not put further burdens on an industry that has already been affected disproportionately by the recession.

It is thus likely that any future US scheme will grant exemptions from full auctioning of permits to industries at risk of delocating to other regions with no carbon trading commitments, following the EU's example (EurActiv 12/12/08). This could give the coal-fired power stations some breathing space.

Nevertheless, it will be of utmost importance to get China on board for emission cuts, considering that the country produces the vast majority of its electricity from coal.


Global warming, common sense and expert opinion

I'm not entirely sure that global warming, common sense and expert opinion have much to do with each other, but let's try and establish a connection.

First, for global warming (or climate change, or whatever the accepted term now is), to be accepted as a scientific hypothesis, it must include details of how to prove it wrong--'falsifiability.' If it doesn't have these details, it's no more than an interesting idea or a dogmatic belief--but either way it has nothing to do with science. This is the definition of science, basically, but I have yet to see any proponent of global warming as a potentially serious problem for us offer a set of conditions which would lead him or her to say, 'Whoops--we've got it wrong.' And they need to do that.

The reason is that people with common sense are looking at what's coming out of the media and realise that the alarmists are changing the rules of the game and seizing on anything as evidence of global warming. They are radically over-hyping the issue, as acknowledged by those qualified to have an expert opinion, such as the UK Meterological Office, which called recently for the hyperbole to stop. But it hasn't, and whether it gets hotter or colder, it is offered as evidence of global warming. If Arctic ice decreases, it is evidence of global warming. But if it recovers, as it has recently... it is evidence of global warming.

What would it take to prove global warming is not following the course charted for it by computer models?

If ocean temperatures were not rising as fast as the computer models predict (and they are not), would that prove that climate change theory is either wrong or needs to be recalculated? And would it prove the theory wrong to experts, to people just using common sense, or both? In either case, it is a question that should be answered by defenders of climate change theory.

Climate change theory does not really cover what clouds contribute to the issue, but they gloss over this, as they cannot measure it accurately. So if evidence arises showing that clouds tend to counteract the effects of global warming, does this again prove the theory wrong? Is it something that needs to be addressed by experts, and should this be communicated to people trying to use common sense to evaluate the need for action?

These are two examples of areas where serious questions arise regarding climate change theory. There may be perfectly good answers to them--I don't know. I know there are more questions. But one reason that Americans care less about climate change than other issues is that when questions come up, they are not answered. They are just spoon-fed more cute pictures of polar bears.

If global climate change is a real problem, then the communication strategy of its advocates is pathetic, and may lose them all the good will built up over decades of environmental struggle. It is pathetic because it resembles in all its shotgun approach and hysterical pronouncements nothing more than a con game. It is reprehensible--almost criminal--in its attempts to demonize everyone who disagrees with them, to state that all skeptics are deniers in the pay of the energy industry.

Nobody is arguing that the greenhouse effect is controversial. Nobody is arguing that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and that we are emitting more of it. But only computer models are making the case that this will cause catastrophe--and the data isn't good enough for computer models to be accurate. Your case needs more, if you want people of common sense to believe you.

If it's real, get serious. If you don't know, just say so. And come forth now with a set of conditions that you agree would prove your theory wrong. Follow the rules of science.

Above post via Climate Change Fraud, a site worth bookmarking

Australia: Delaying Warmist laws not enough

AN old lesson all governments have to learn anew is that it is the election promises you keep that are likeliest to get you into trouble. It is a lesson Kevin Rudd is learning the hard way, with his ignominious retreat from his (always delusional) ambition to make Australia a world leader in its response to global warming.

It has been obvious for months that rushing ahead with a clearly flawed carbon trading scheme, one that would have serious adverse consequences for jobs and economic activity in the midst of what Rudd and Wayne Swan refer to, correctly, as the worst global recession since the Depression of the 1930s, was an act of national irresponsibility. However, the Rudd Government appeared to be living in a parallel universe.

The Treasurer likes to say that the world changed in September last year, when the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered a near meltdown in global financial markets and a precipitate decline in economic activity. Yet in December last year, when the escalation of the crisis was frightening governments and central banks across the world, Rudd and his Climate Change Minister Penny Wong were telling us it would be reckless and irresponsible for our economy and environment to delay the introduction of an emissions trading scheme.

So, what changed? Or as Rudd was asked at his press conference on Monday: "Why isn't today's decision reckless and irresponsible?" His reply was unusually short, perhaps indicating irritation at this impertinence. "Well, what we've had is a deepening of the global financial crisis, which has now become a global economic crisis and the worst recession in three quarters of a century. That's what happened." Oh, really?

Delaying the introduction of an ETS is a sensible decision but it should have been made months ago. Presumably it has been made now because the political risks of pushing ahead have become unacceptable. There has been a rising chorus of complaint from business and Labor's legislation faced certain defeat in the Senate.

The Government has resorted to heavy political spin and artful manipulation of interest groups to minimise the damage. At his press conference, Rudd helpfully identified the groups the Government spent a lot of time massaging ahead of its announcement, to give it political cover for its embarrassing backflip. These were, in order, the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group, the Australian Conservation Foundation, WWF, the Climate Institute, the ACTU and the Australian Council of Social Service.

The last five are obvious allies of the Government on climate change, if now somewhat disillusioned ones. But you may have thought the BCA and the AIG would have seen the opportunity to take a much harder line on the threat the Government's scheme posed for many of their members. But no, both rushed forth to compliment the Government on its decision and urge support for its proposal to push its (amended) legislation through parliament as quickly as possible.

A few months ago John Roskam, executive director of conservative think tank the Institute of Public Affairs, posed some interesting questions: What are business organisations for? Do they exist so their chief executives can sit on government advisory boards and have afternoon tea at the Lodge? Or is their purpose to represent the interests of enterprises and employers? Not the latter, it would seem. As Roskam also has observed, business is to blame for allowing the ETS juggernaut to progress as far as it has: "There's not a single significant business association in the country that has opposed the notion that Australia should have an ETS."

They will protest, of course, that they have succeeded in winning delay and cash handouts, and that their objective is to provide certainty for business about future investment plans. But there is no certainty in the Rudd Government's plans. Nor can there be, as the outcomes that really matter are out of its hands and have to be determined internationally.

To be fair, some business organisations have expressed considerable scepticism about the ETS, notably the Minerals Council of Australia and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as have leading companies. The MCA, for example, recognises the promised certainty as an illusion, "a temporary stay of execution for thousands of mining jobs and billions of dollars in investment". None has gone so far as the IPA in calling for the ETS to be scrapped in the absence of a comprehensive international agreement to reduce carbon emissions, and realistically there is not much chance of that.

But the Rudd Government's backdown gives the lie to all the hysterical claims by it and others that immediate action is needed to save the planet. Instead Australia should take the opportunity to have a comprehensive, independent, review of the Government's emissions trading plans, the alternatives, the Government's modelling of the economic effects, and challenges to the so-called scientific consensus on global warming.

The report on the Government's ETS by economist David Pearce of the Centre for International Economics for the federal Opposition exposes a range of serious problems and risks with the present scheme. In particular, the scheme fails to offer any rigorous assessment of the transitional costs of moving to a low carbon future. These transitional costs for an economy such as Australia's - with its abundant carbon-based energy resources, its energy-intensive industry structure, coal-based electricity generation industry and its coal and gas exports - are potentially large and the associated risks considerable.

Pearce suggests the Productivity Commission should be asked to examine the Government's scheme and alternatives, a suggestion taken up by Malcolm Turnbull and which industry should get behind. The terms of reference for such an inquiry should let the commission start with a clean slate and not have its hands tied by government-imposed policy assumptions. And no pre-emptive legislation should be passed ahead of the international climate change conference in Copenhagen at the end of the year.

If that conference fails to come up with a comprehensive agreement on emissions control that includes India and China, as seems likely, then it's back to the drawing board and the commission's inquiry can inform a new course for policy here.



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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