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alternative energies 2

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alternative energies 2

lake bottom methane
Lake Kivu, on Rwanda’s north-western border:

“the methane comes from lake bed bacteria.”

“The gas reserve should be enough to supply the country's electricity needs for 400 years.”

This is the second report I have seen recently on methane in shallow waters. The previous report referred to 10 trillion tonnes of methane in shallow coastal seas around the of the world. (For scale: known pumpable oil reserves are only 1 trillion barrels. 7.2 barrels is approximately metric ton, it varies with oil density)

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Replacements for fossil fuels—what can be done about it?

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Replacements for
fossil fuels—what
can be done about it?

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an interesting report on the japanese nuclear power industry—a case study
containing several lessons for the unwary.

Please attend to the mis-statements and lack of full development in the linked article, despite that it is much better than most media articles on this subject.
I have cut out and heavily re-arranged a selection from the article, in order to illustrate widespread media inadequacy in dealing with scientific reporting.

TOKYO - Scandals, cover-ups and accidents - it sounds like the plot of a soap opera.

Instead, it is the recent history of Japan's nuclear power industry, a pillar of the government's energy policy and source of some 30 percent of the power consumed by the world's second-largest economy.

This is complete nonsense, a nonsense that is continually being repeated. It is a confusion of the power consumed by a country, with the percentage of electricity consumed that is generated by nuclear power. Nuclear power, in fact, provides only about 10% of the energy inputs to the Japanese economy. That is, 30% of the electricity supplied is generated by nuclear power. Because of the inefficiency of power generation, this ends up providing only about 4% of the original Japanese energy input to the end-user who switches on a light.
See the table,
Electricity usage and derivation.

Opponents speak of lax management and argue that a nation as prone to earthquakes as Japan should seek other energy sources.

Essential as it may be, a string of accidents and scandals over the past decade has eroded public trust in the nuclear industry and its 52 commercial reactors.

"It's true that Japanese have become anxious about nuclear energy," Trade Minister Takeo Hiranuma said recently. "But securing steady energy resources is an issue we must take up extremely seriously."

And despite numerous news stories about mishaps, statistics compiled by the Trade Ministry from International Atomic Energy Agency data show there were 15 unplanned stoppages of 50 Japanese reactors in operation in 2000, compared with 166 unplanned stoppages of 55 French reactors.

This may be partly because Japanese reactors operate on a shorter cycle - 13 months on, then three months off-line for inspection - than in other nations, reducing unplanned stoppages.

Tales of lax management of nuclear power are common around the world, but much of it because of media hype of all things nuclear. The nuclear industry has an excellent safety record. Of course, that should be no reason for complacency.

Others say that with virtually no energy resources of its own, Japan simply has few choices.

Japan is forced to rely mainly on imported energy - 52 percent of it oil, of which more than 80 percent comes from the volatile Middle East [...].

Although Japan is working on alternate sources of energy, geography often makes this difficult and inefficient.

"For a country like ours, nuclear power is one option for energy, along with oil and natural gas," said Masahiro Onodera, senior researcher at Japan's Institute of Energy Economics, an industry-backed think tank.

"But to throw out one of these and replace it with another? Japan doesn't have that luxury."

Nor does much of the world, with the increasing depletion and pressures upon oil reserves.

To woo [the public], the government is emphasising environmental benefits of nuclear power, which it says cuts greenhouse gases and is needed for Japan to meet Kyoto Protocol deadlines.

Good to see the Japanese government taking its duties seriously. I look forward to similar courage from Western leaders.

Environmentalists counter that this is meaningless.

"Japan needs to meet its Kyoto deadlines quite soon, but it takes decades to build a reactor," said Kazue Suzuki, at Greenpeace Japan. "Besides, you can't call it 'clean' energy when you consider the chance of radiation leaks."

Clearly, the Greenpeace spokesperson does not know what they are talking about.
a recent report, you will see that even in China, a reactor of a design not previously used in China has been built in about 8 years.

Nor is there yet any form of energy that is entirely ‘clean’, but nuclear energy comes a whole lot closer to that than does fossil fuel energy, which currently supplies the great bulk of power in advanced countries. To call people who mouth such tosh ‘environmentalists’, gives the word a bad name.

And then we have some general common-sense comments

"There's inevitably degradation, but in Japan the plants have been managed as if this didn't take place," Madarame at Tokyo University said. "That's clearly nonsense."

Japan has taken steps to correct this by adopting inspection standards similar to those in the United States, which take wear and tear into account, late last year.

Still more steps, such as adopting a system of inspection by a third-party group, are needed, industry experts say.

But some in the field say a change of attitude by those in charge may be what matters most.

"Years ago, I was told nuclear power is something that basically always comes with danger, but if this is properly understood, it can be used," said Manabu Hattori, formerly with the Atomic Energy Research Centre at Tokyo's Rikkyo University.

"But people who believe that it's completely safe - totally believe this - are the ones you really can't trust. And Japan seems to have left the industry to people like this.

"Of course, I don't think this is only true of Japan."
(original article by Elaine Lies )

As nuclear power becomes increasingly important in the absence of fundamental technological advance, it is vital that public education is improved and that the field is not left to uneducated cranks, or commercial interests, with political axes to grind.

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is nuclear power really really dangerous?

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is nuclear power really really dangerous?

china prepares for increasing pressure on oil supplies, builds nuclear power capacity

“The high temperature gas-cooled reactor is generally believed to be the safest reactor in use in the world. In the event of an accident, the reactor shuts down automatically and cools the surplus heat inside the reactor. A nuclear accident such as Chernobyl is absolutely impossible, Wu said.”

“ China became a petroleum importer a decade ago. Experts predict that the domestic demand for petroleum products will grow by three to four percent this year.

“China is actively promoting clean energy production. By 2004, the ratio of nuclear energy as a percentage of China's total energy production will have risen from the current one percent to four percent. The figure is still much lower than the world average of 16 percent.”

China derives 1.9 GW equivalent electricity from nuclear power.

the web address for this article is


even exposure to nuclear bomb testing appears to show minimal added risks

"Muirhead and his colleagues followed up the two groups from 1952-1998 to determine the impact of their exposure on the development of cancer. They said their findings were in line with results from earlier British and American research."

Large sample, long period. This report is short, clear and precise.

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is nuclear power really really dangerous?

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sloppy nuclear safety facilities in the usa
The nuclear industry is still far too inclined to taking short cuts despite politically damaging hysterical reactions from a poorly informed public.

“Strapped for long-term storage options, the nation's 103 nuclear power plants routinely pack four to five times the number of spent fuel rods into water-cooled tanks than the tanks were designed to hold, the authors reported. This high-density configuration is safe when cooled by water, but would likely cause a fire -- with catastrophic results -- if the cooling water leaked. The tanks could be ruptured by a hijacked jet or sabotage, the study contends.”


“Federal regulators told operators of the nation's nuclear power plants to conduct tougher inspections beginning this week in response to acid corrosion found on the reactor cap at an Ohio plant.”

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is kyoto a con game? was bush correct to refuse kyoto?
(linked article used as background)

Why did US President Bush cancel Kyoto? Was he being more honest than European politicians?

My survey of the current oil situation has led me to conclude that there is only one serious, reasonably safe, energy future currently in sight—that future is nuclear power.

Germany is currently planning to run down its nuclear generating industry, which currently produces approximately 33% of German electricity.

Germany is currently pledged to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 24 million tons a year. Taking their nuclear generating power offline and replacing it with fossil driven alternatives is estimated to add approximately 100 million tons of CO2 per year.

Cheap oil is a short-term bonanza. Gas is even shorter term as far as I can assess.

Britain has being doing well recently because of a switch to gas generation. Gas is cleaner then oil, and oil is also cleaner than coal.

The current Kyoto ‘objectives’ are for 2020. Naturally, that is when most of the current lot of politicians will no longer be answerable.

Is Kyoto a con job?

The only way I can see a meaningful reduction in fossil fuel filth is to expand nuclear power considerably. The only serious response to the future oil shortages, now confidently being predicted (and with which I can find little serious fault), is enormous expansion of nuclear power.

For my briefing document on fossil fuel difficulties, start here.

For sustainability and nuclear power, see Sustainable Energy Four GoldenYak (tm) award
(site highly recommended)

Why are governments not educating the populations to understand the problems with fossil fuels?
Why are governments allowing apparent myths regarding nuclear power to go unanswered?
Are fossil fuels a vested interest among government paymasters?

Exactly what was the alleged reason for Bush rejecting Kyoto?
Time to investigate that also methinks.

Related material
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the web address for this article is


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an important new item on radiation risk
This report attempts to assess radiation damage associated with internal lodging of particles, in place of the usual models that work from external radiation conditions.

This report requires extremely careful reading. You will see from the remarks following the excerpt that I do not trust this report—yet!
You will also see, from this item, that whether or not this report has much substance concerning nuclear power generation, or whether (as I am guessing) it applies overwhelmingly to war applications, currently the human race have no choice but to solve any problems related to the nuclear power industry.

“Using both the ECRR's new model and that of the ICRP the committee calculates the total number of deaths resulting from the nuclear project since 1945. The ICRP calculation, based on figures for doses to populations up to 1989 given by the United Nations, results in 1,173,600 deaths from cancer. The ECRR model predicts 61,600,000 deaths from cancer, 1,600,000 infant deaths and 1,900,000 foetal deaths. In addition, the ECRR predicts a 10% loss of life quality integrated over all diseases and conditions in those who were exposed over the period of global weapons fallout.”

  1. There are a great number of new bio-damaging chemicals in modern life, including
  2. very considerable known death, health and danger implications in the fossil fuel economy. This is not assessed for comparison.
  3. Much of the report refers to bomb testing, that often scattered radio-active material far and wide. Nuclear power generation is not organised to do that.
  4. The report covers a period of 60 years, from the beginning of clumsy nuclear handling until today, when safety is usually at a high premium. Thus, 60 million deaths from the nuclear industry is approximately 1 million a year. In the United States a new proposal to (merely) lower of diesel output from commercial diesel-powered vehicles is expected to reduce deaths by more than 8000 each year. Further, the press release does not indicate lost years of life. Cavalier references to ‘death’, without lost years, are near to meaningless.

    Each year, 100,000 people die in Britain alone from smoking cigarettes This sort of figure is now no longer in the realm of speculation. The year losses are also well beyond the realm of speculation. I want to know the reliability of the claims in this report.

  5. The price on the document is totally unacceptable. This is a government report, paid for out of taxes. It should be made immediately available on-line, in order that its assumptions can be openly and widely examined.
  6. The oil-based economy is unsustainable—full stop!
  7. So-called alternative fuels are, currently, entirely incapable of replacing the fossil economy.

the web address for this article is


a new type of nuclear reactor?

“.....a nuclear reactor that generates electricity from nuclear waste. Yet that is what Claudio Filippone, a nuclear scientist and director of the Centre for Advanced Energy Concepts at the University of Maryland, proposed a few years ago. He has now devised an improved design, called CAESAR (“clean and environmentally safe advanced reactor”) that is even more counterintuitive. As well as being environmentally friendly—it can produce electricity without causing any extra pollution—his new design could also help prevent nuclear proliferation.”

Can this be serious?

the web address for this article is


how difficult is transferring to a hydrogen economy? Three GoldenYak (tm) award

A recommended, fairly long article.

Lead thanks to c.j.

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Oil depletion—what next?

the web address for this article is


Oil depletion—what next?

tidal power back under discussion in the uk
As it should be—preparation for oil replacement should be a central national and world priority. Despite the urgency, this preparation is still not being treated with sufficient seriousness.

[Note: In the article, the comments on the price of capital are ill-informed. The forward money effects on the numbers will be lower only because of lower recent inflation levels (January, 2003). The real costs of any capital will remain similar. However, steady improvements in technology, including in the efficiency of the unit being built, may well lower real costs of production relative to 15 years ago.]

Diversification of low-impact power supplies is vital to reducing world-wide political tensions and to reducing the externalised pollution costs generated during human power usage. Externalised costs refers to obliging others to pay for the damaging or deleterious results of one’s own less-than-responsible activities. Such costs need not be direct money costs, but includes other costs to the structure of society, including those to health and environment.

It is interesting to see that, increasingly, reports such as that linked above are being presented as offering a means to lowering greenhouse gases, when the most pressing problems are oil replacement, followed by relieving ground-level pollution. I wonder whether this type of presentation is becoming government code, used in order not to ‘scare the horses’. Of course, reducing large-scale human environmental impact remains a sane action.

Wind turbines look highly cost-effective. I have seen paybacks quoted of inside one year (in remote areas?). A rule of thumb for cost is approximately $1000 per kilowatt of electricity (KWe) installed. The biggest problem is that wind turbines are only about 40% load-efficient because of the unreliability of wind. (An ordinary power station is over 80% load-efficient. Power station load-efficiency is effected by peak loads and by maintenance down-times, thus surplus generating power is required in order to ‘guarantee’ meeting peak loads.)

In my view, there is plenty of available energy. Period.

The prime problems are (you will appreciate my distinction in context below)

  1. storage
  2. transportability (for instance, electricity is mostly transported by wires)
    It is easy to confuse these categories.

Storage: With much alternative energy, I regard storage as the prime difficulty. (While I include nuclear energy in alternative energy production, storage is not a pressing concern with nuclear energy.)

Wind: The problems with storage are that wind is unreliable, and the means of storing power are not well developed at present.

Nuclear: There are not major storage problems with nuclear energy, as nuclear reactors can be rapidly wound down or opened up.

Oil has neither a storage nor a transportability problem, but it is currently (too) cheap. It is too cheap because the oil industry is externalising enormous costs, for which they are not being charged, and because there is market failure in an easily accessible, but rapidly depleting, resource.

Compressed air energy storage (CAES) is being developed, this tends to require underground cave systems. The biggest project is in the United States, at over 2700 megawatt of electricity (MWe).

Pumped hydro-storage is also in limited usage. More can be found here.
[The site,, in their technology area, provides much useful information on power storage. One negative point is that there appears to be no commentary on fuel cells .four GoldenYak (tm) award.
However, this site provides, at least, outline information on fuel cells.]

Transportability differs from storage. The difference appears when providing power for mobile consumption—cars, trains, aeroplanes, ships. For instance, cars, ships and aeroplanes must take a fuel store with them. Electrically-powered transport, such as trains and trams, do not have such mobile storage problems, but instead require a very capital-intensive infrastructure. Of course, cars etc. need an infrastructure of available refuelling points.

I have pretty well concluded that the objections to nuclear energy are hysterical and uninformed. Further, I am slowly becoming highly suspicious that the oil industry, and their governmental puppets, are attempting to stop the development of nuclear and other alternative energies.

Any such policy would be disastrous for the planet, and your own future. Currently, we have a window of opportunity while large oil reserves remain; but this window is closing inexorably and relatively rapidly.

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Transferred to briefing documents

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