Monthly Archives: February 2014

Our responsibility to know “reality” has never been more important.

Witnessing extreme changes to our environment within our own lifetime is a new phenomenon. Not just the changes from season to season but some years where seasons seem to shift. It used to be that such changes occurred over, thousands, if not, millions of years. We know a lot about our past. We know enough to conclude that the rapid changes occurring over the last 50 years is caused by humans? We are a busy species. This is old news. Scientists like Alvin Weinberg were predicting this forty years ago. Societal changes were being predicted further back by authors like Aldous Huxley and and poets like T.S. Eliot. Futurists like Buckminster Fuller and Marshal McLuhan saw big changes long before most of us saw it coming. So why are we so slow act or seek out solutions never mind prepare and plan for the drastic changes predicted?

We all compromise

We have, too easily, learned to accept lower than ideal standards at every level in our lives. Everything we buy these days has built-in obsolescence. It’s allowed in the name of capitalism. Aluminum cars will not rust yet we rarely see any aluminum cars on the market. Gadgets, cameras, and numerous devices like remotes all depend on keeping the battery companies making huge profits. Printers and computers are designed with one-of-a-kind adapters making replacing lost or damaged adapters costly. We throw out items like cell phones and other gadgets because of the release of newer and sexier versions of what is already good enough. We are compromised because of operating system compatibility and so-called out of date hardware that is not modular. You can’t replace one component you need to replace the whole device.

Knowing that we are willing to compromise so often because we have no influence over the outcome is what these companies want you to feel.

Your role as activist. A new way of thinking

First a congratulations to you if you try to make your voice heard in our time of apathy and anonymity. Time is running out. Is it? I mean can you feel it? See it? We don’t know if climate disasters are man made but we are pretty sure. Right? Then how much of that uncertainty feeds our inaction? It is helpful to remember that we do live in a volatile world. The wrong decisions based on irrational fear can cause severe hardship and struggle. Look at how Japan reacted to Fukushima. Their nuclear reactors are finally expected to start going back online this summer after irrational panic over not-so-hard-to-live-with levels of radiation. Germany is achieving the opposite of it’s goals by increasing the CO2 emissions due to building more coal plants to replace the shut down nuclear plants. Intermittent wind and solar is not enough to keep the economy going and, unlike in the US, natural gas is more expensive in the EU.

We need to start forging a new way of thinking. Not every decision needs to be based on profit. We don’t have the luxury to pick and choose our focus without investigating all sides to the issues. It is possible that the populist sentiment in a specific region can influence change for the worse. Look at Germany causing more emissions and Japan’s suffering economy and it’s violation of environmental standards due to an irrational fear of nuclear plants.

So in what ways can our thinking change? Is their a new marketing angle in the Tesla. Selling a car that lasts and outperforms traditional gas-driven cars. Bucky Fuller said

“We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”

Fuller had it right. Those inspectors come in the form of the NRC and the EPA. Over managing the potential threats is ruining our society. This is part of the problem with big government. On the homefront, for many families, newlyweds who both need to work while leaving their child at a daycare and then let their adolescent older children disappear to their rooms with their game consoles without any life lessons is becoming a serious issue leading to mental illness, depression, addiction and poorly prepared young adults for employment. Fuller also spoke about how ordinary things like home appliances could be so much better if the same kind of efforts were made as they spend on weapons or space exploration.

What if all your hard work actually influenced change to improve the quality of life?

The most misunderstood topic with the most impact on society is energy and it’s relationship to global warming. Choosing a low emissions energy source makes sense only if it contributes “significantly” to replacing carbon emitting sources such as coal and natural gas. What good is supporting renewable if the energy created by wind and solar cannot possibly hope to replace the power from the shut down nuclear plants?

Are we a cliche?

We’ve all heard the expression “bleeding heart liberal.” Choosing an allegiance with being liberal means typically choosing to defend some cliche values. The notion that we are all going to die from radiation or believing you’ll get cooties if you kiss the wrong person are based on fears that we grow up with and never lose unless we decide to get our feet wet (excuse the cliche) and explore the facts ourselves. We don’t have real elders or chiefs to show us what’s true or not. The critical thinking that is needed is to understand that science is a gift and a method of inquiry that guides us to better decisions.

The media and extreme right have had some success with their campaign against science. The growth of Creationists and their fundamentalist thinking is producing a number of non-scientific and non-creative problem solvers or a shortage of entrepreneurs.

What was T.S. Eliot “Wasteland” about?

He was warning us that we were giving in to a deterioration of our values. Without appreciating the finer things it all starts to become meaningless. The world will become a wasteland if we just stop caring what becomes of it. Who has more survival awareness a Creationist or a scientist or engineer. Being both a Creationist and an engineer seems incompatible.

So after we realize that we’ve lost our moral compass and been led astray by media hype and fake evangelists and that our belief in ourselves to make change diminished by the constant chipping away at our integrity by the compromise we constantly face daily what do we do? The world has been knocked off balance. Our jobs are getting more difficult to keep. We simply need to wake up to our responsibility to be aware that to know reality has never been more important. Start by learning about energy.

Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers #196 – Feb-14-2014

Welcome to the our first hosting of the Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers. The subjects this week are quite a mixed bag that include fusion, wind, solar, SMRs, space exploration, the true value of electricity and more.


Forbes
Post from Jim Conca
    What has been happening in the world of fusion recently began to heat up. A breakthrough occurred for which the significance seems to be only understood by scientists and engineers. The Lawrence Livermore National Lab succeeded in producing more energy than it uses for a millionth of a second. Jim Conca take us through it.

4Factor Consulting
Two Posts from Margaret Harding
    A review of the first ½ day of the Platts conference. In this post Margaret reviews speeches by Dr. Lyons of DOE, Dr. Allison MacFarlane, chair of the NRC, and Chris Mowry of mPower. We got some old news, some self-congratulation, and some hyperbole, all in a morning.

    A modern retelling of an ancient fable, Margaret tells the story of the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg using the Vermont Yankee reactor. This first appeared in FCW #550, 1.3.14.

Vermont Digger (vtdigger.org)
Post from Meredith Angwin
    Meredith Angwin of Yes Vermont Yankee wrote an op-ed encouraging people to support the signed agreement between Vermont Yankee and the state. Governor Shumlin has said that “one-time payments from Entergy” ($40 million dollars from the agreement) will help balance the state budget this year. However, the Public Service Board (PSB) still has to rule on the agreement. The post includes a link for supporting the agreement before the PSB, and a lively comment thread.

Nuke Powertalk
Post from Gail Marcus
    Gail Marcus reports in NukePowerTalk on the latest fusion breakthrough reported by the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore. She was particularly struck by a quote from one expert that “In 30 years, we’ll have electricity on the grid produced by fusion energy — absolutely.” While this quote may be out of line with the more cautious statements from the rest of the fusion research community, she notes that it will be the sound bite that will be remembered. As evidence, she notes that she remembers hearing the EXACT same prediction when she was in grad school–more than 30 years ago.

ANS Nuclear Cafe
Two Posts from Paul Bowsersox
    DOE Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Peter Lyons last week voiced Administration concerns about a scenario involving premature nuclear plant closures in the US – while Exelon Corporation noted that some nuclear generating stations operated by the company remain at risk of early closure for profitability reasons. Rod Adams at ANS Nuclear Cafe asks, what can nuclear energy advocates do about pressures that threaten to shutter well-maintained and licensed reactors?

    Concrete has been poured at the construction site of what is arguably the world’s first small modular reactor (SMR) project – the CAREM 25 prototype in Argentina. Will Davis at ANS Nuclear Cafe with the story and details.

Next Big Future
Three Posts from Brian Yang
    Transatomic Power is developing a molten salt reactor. They are using a zirconium hydride moderator instead of graphite. They also use a different salt. They presented at Google Solve for X 2014. They would use 75 times more of the uranium than a conventional reactor. They could use current high level nuclear waste for energy at about the $500/kg cost that has been set aside by the US laws on nuclear waste management.

    Yomuri Shimbun reports that the Japanese government aims to restart
    about 10 of the nation’s idle nuclear reactors by this summer, when
    electricity demand is expected to increase.

    A NASA NIAC (Nasa innovative advanced concepts) project has determined a conceptual solution to asteroid impacts.


Hiroshima Syndrome
2 posts by Leslie Corrice
    What is Tritium? How hazardous is it? Can it cause cancer? What about Fukushima’s waste water? Existing limits on Tritium exposure are entirely arbitrary, predicated on assumption, and devoid of conclusive supporting evidence.

    Japan’s Press fails to make nuclear energy a major election issue… again!
    Nuclear-neutral Yoichi Masuzoe won decisively in the Tokyo governor’s election. Try as they might, the Japanese Press failed to make nuclear energy the deciding issue in the election. Instead of admitting they were wrong, the Press has come up with numerous, albeit empty, excuses for the Masuzoe victory.


Atomic Insights
1 post by Rod Adams
    Rod Adams points out the numerous incentives piled on to assist the completion of the solar plant, costs that get added to the consume


Canadian Energy Issues
1 post by Steve Aplin
    Steve Aplin explains through some comparisons how the fee structure and incentives for energy producers are backwards. The rewards that go to wind and solar are indirectly adding CO2 to the atmosphere. Natural gas is required to offset the missing power that is the nature of the renewable energy plant. Yet Nuclear produces reliable, plentiful and carbon free.

The power of truth.

I could say it in several different ways. We already have “Reality” in our name. We have witnessed how the extreme right has tried to give “science” a bad name. No target is too sacred for the greedy. So what about “truth?” You will notice that is carries with it a momentum.

In a recent discussion about the name “Energy Reality Project” and going non-profit we agreed that branding was important. So much of the appeal lies in the fact that “reality” equals “truth.” We don’t need to be caught up in the shroud of prejudices, myths and fear-induced stagnancy.

You will notice that we are getting closer to a comprehensive set of tasks for our Energy Reality Project to proceed. Some changes will be happening over the next few months that will enable us to go official. I have seen support locally and in the US.

So keep up the good work and continue to participate. Discussion is welcome and essential. Let’s not shy away from nuance. It will make us stronger to have reviewed our various topics from every angle.

Interesting blog from David Brin called “A Plague of Outrage”

http://davidbrin.blogspot.ca/2014/02/a-plague-of-outrage.html

This post discusses “how political disagreements unfold in American media, the authors (refers to book “The Outrage Industry: Political Opinion Media and the New Incivility” by Jeffrey M. Barry and Sarah Sobieraj) suggest that our current Era of Outrage is rather unprecedented and driven by deliberate incitement in media that are out of all proportion or control.”

I say we need to start repairing the damage from the uncivility. We can start by giving good document information.