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news lite

some news items are of interest, but not rated by abelard as convincing or significant enough for placement in abelard’s main news archives. Such items may be found here.

New translation, the Magna Carta

K 'Y

article archives at abelard's news and comment zonetopic archives: news-lite
1 III-2004: 02 04 07 11 17 26 IV-2004: 08 13 14 15 17 17-2 18 26 27 29
V-2004: 01 01-2 02 09 14 29 VI-2004: 16 17 23 VII-2004: 4 13 14 24 26 29 VIII-2004: 17-1 17-2 28 29 31
3 9 16 18 20 23

news lite


pollution and power in china

“Experts lay the blame for Hong Kong's worsening air pollution on China, which the World Health Organization says has seven of the world's 10 most polluted cities.

“Most of the pollution cloaking Hong Kong is generated by coal-fired power plants and smokestacks from China's industrial south, as well as traffic fumes from the city's own congested streets.


“China faces a chronic energy shortage and making the switch from coal-fired plants to cleaner fuel is costly and disruptive.”

the web address for the article above is


urbanisation and increasing living standards cause china ecological problems

“After just five years, fields growing fruit and vegetables are becoming more acidic and barren, while nitrogen and phosphorus levels and fungal epidemics are rising sharply.

“Since 1998, the area of land in China devoted to grain crops has fallen by 15 per cent. In August, Beijing confirmed that grain yields have fallen by a fifth in that time, and consumption in 2004 is expected to exceed production by a record 37 million tonnes. This demand for imported grain has triggered a 30 per cent rise in global grain prices in 2004, and further rises are expected as Chinese demand soars.”

“ [...] farmers have converted 13 million hectares, an area the size of England, to fruit and vegetables [...] ”
[This is approximately 1/40th the land area of China.]

the web address for the article above is

damaging effects of deforestation of river banks

“[...] the deforestation of riparian [river bank] lands compromises both the quantity and the quality of a stream's ecosystem, thereby reducing its ability to deliver important services to humans.

“In their study of 16 streams in eastern North America, the scientists found that stream sections flowing through forested areas are wider and shallower than those in meadowlands, their beds are rougher and have more habitat, and water moves more slowly through them. Those factors, along with other riparian forest benefits such as a greater variety of organic food and more-natural temperature patterns, produce a richer and more-natural ecosystem than do deforested streams, and the increased abundance of bacteria, algae, invertebrates and fish enables them to better process certain pollutants.”

the web address for the article above is

hunter robots - 1.5 metres to the fly, next week they'll be after you!

If they can do 10cm an hour on flies, just think how they’d go if they were chasing pussy cats, or those irritating neighbours.

“The robot's energy source is the sugar in the polysaccharide called chitin that makes up a fly's exoskeleton. EcoBot II digests the flies in an array of eight microbial fuel cells (MFCs), which use bacteria from sewage to break down the sugars, releasing electrons that drive an electric current (see graphic).”

the web address for the article above is

is china starting to be serious about nuclear generation?
(full article starts some way down the linked webpage)

this item marked [lite] because it remains unrealistic.

“A team of Chinese scientists advising the Beijing leadership puts the figure even higher: 300 gigawatts of nuclear output, not much less than the 350 gigawatts produced worldwide today.”

This figure looks nutz.
Current world capacity for electricity generation is in the region of 1,700 gigawatts productive capacity, which is then multiplied by 8760 to reach gigawatt hours output. Perhaps they meant just current nuclear generated electricity.

That 1,700 GW capacity level may have to be multiplied by up to 8 or 10 (highly dependent on assumptions) to replace oil burning in order to just stand still.

China is presently at around 170 GW electricity generating capacity so this proposed nuclear expansion represents about twice China’s present levels of electricity generation. As the time scale quoted is by approximately 2050, even this remains clearly totally inadequate. Recently, China announced ‘plans’ for 1/10th of the above figures with a 2020 lead time—quite hopeless in the real world.

“[...] The leading light was Edward Teller, godfather of the H-bomb, and his message to the group was prophetic. For people to accept nuclear power, he argued, reactors must be "inherently safe." He even proposed a practical test: If you couldn't pull out every control rod without causing a meltdown, the design was inadequate.”

China is building pebble-bed reactors, first proposed by Farringdon Daniels in the 1940s, reactors that are safe and cheap.

“This unusual margin of safety isn't merely theoretical. INET's engineers have already done what would be unthinkable in a conventional reactor: switched off HTR-10's helium coolant and let the reactor cool down all by itself.”.

“[...] built from standardized components that can be mass-produced, shipped by road or rail, and assembled quickly. ”

And to deal with finding a substitute for current fossil transportable fuels:

“ Coming to terms with nuclear energy is only a first step. To power a billion cars, there's no practical alternative to hydrogen. But it will take huge quantities of energy to extract hydrogen from water and hydrocarbons, and the best ways scientists have found to do that require high temperatures, up to 1,000 degrees Celsius. In other words, there's another way of looking at INET's high-temperature reactor and its potential offspring: They're hydrogen machines.

“For exactly that reason, the DOE, along with similar agencies in Japan and Europe, is looking intently at high-temperature reactor designs. Tsinghua's researchers are in contact with the major players, but they're also starting their own project, focused on what many believe is the most promising means of generating hydrogen: thermochemical water splitting. Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories believe efficiency could top 60 percent - twice that of low-temperature methods. INET plans to begin researching hydrogen production by 2006."

related material
is nuclear power really really dangerous?
replacements for fossil fuels—what can be done about it?

the web address for the article above is

'small' sealed returnable nuclear reactors under discussion

“The aim is to create a sealed reactor that can be delivered to a site, left to generate power for up to 30 years, and retrieved when its fuel is spent. The developers claim that no one would be able to remove the fissile material from the reactor because its core would be inside a tamper-proof cask protected by a thicket of alarms.”

“A version producing 100 megawatts would be 15 metres tall, three metres in diameter and weigh 500 tonnes. A 10-megawatt version is likely to weigh less than 200 tonnes.”

related material
replacing fossil fuels: the scale of the problem

the web address for the article above is


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