Most everyone dreads the idea of nuclear war because of the abject devastation it would inflict on planet Earth. Yet few connect the dots between nuclear weapons and nuclear power — the same energy that makes atomic bombs and nuclear missiles so threatening is also harnessed to power electrical grids and other forms of infrastructure. When properly contained, nuclear power is the cleanest and most abundant energy source available. With all the concern over climate change and environmental degradation, it begs a huge question: why is the United States of America not generating more — much more — nuclear energy?
Capital Investment vs. Production Costs
Looking at it from one angle, a larger nuclear energy capacity is a no-brainer. Making electricity from nuclear sources is cheaper than using coal, gas or petroleum, i.e. fossil fuels. On average, using 2011 cash value, electricity cost 21.56, 3.23 and 4.51 cents per kilowatt-hour from petroleum, coal and natural gas, respectively. Nuclear power came in at 2.10 cents per kW according to data received by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Yet these simple ongoing production costs fail to tell the full story.
To up the power generating capacity of nuclear sources, additional plants are necessary. Some argue that the savings in electricity production means the nuclear utilities pay for themselves. What, though, are they paying for…and how long until the payoff? Engineering and constructing a nuclear power plant is very expensive. In fact, 74 percent of the cost of nuclear-sourced electricity is in the capital costs of creating the physical facility and technology for that purpose. Some estimates range drom six-billion to nine-billion dollars. Others estimate over $5,300 per kW before it begins paying for itself…in 20 to 30 years. These figures make the prospect cost-prohibitive to many decision makers in government and business.
Plentiful Energy at Low Costs without Nuclear Power
Were we living back during the oil shocks and embargoes of the 1970s, the urgency factor would be much higher concerning nuclear power in the US. The abundance of discoveries and advancement of technology have made fossil fuels more available at modest prices. Coal and petroleum are each low compared to their peaks. With the advent of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” natural gas is ever more accessible and affordable. Though people may worry about the environmental effects of burning these substances, they are likely to continue usage to maintain a decent househild cash flow.
Lack of Knowledge
The absence of urgency mentioned above relates to a third factor about why Americans are not expanding their nuclear production capacity. Generations have passed that are not well-informed about the potential and reality of nuclear power. A dangerous accident at Pennsylvania’s Three-Mile Island facility in the 1970s scared public officials and policy makers into backing off of a pro-nuclear agenda. The improvements and replication found in today’s safety protocols have been ineffective in re-booting a national conversation. Granted, the United States operates 97 nuclear reactors, more than any other country. Yet only four more are under design and/or construction compared to 20 for China.
Furthermore, France relies on nuclear for three-quarters of its electricity; several eastern European nations, half; South Korea, in excess of 30 percent; while the U.S. can claim around 20 percent. Clearly, the public knowledge regarding how clean and abundant atomic energy is meager; awareness of past accidents — including the Fukushima Daiichi and Chernobyl meltdowns of recent decades were, by contrast, reported widely by media outlets.
Advocates of nuclear power have work to do to bring Americans on board. Otherwise, dirtier, cheaper sources will continue to reign.
Francisco Reynés: “We have to consider gas as the energy source with the most potential in the future”
Francisco Reynés, executive chairman of Naturgy (formerly Gas Natural Fenosa), has talked about the role of gas in the world as the energy source with the greatest potential in the future, at the 6TH IEF-IGU Ministerial Gas Forum celebrated in Barcelona, Spain.
Francisco Reynés has explained that the world “needs to talk about the different uses of natural gas and the gas technologies and innovations towards a sustainable energy future. We have to address the role of gas in the world as a future energy source, not only as a transition source of energy”.
“The uses of gas are, as we all know, well beyond those of power generation. Gas provides sources for non-energy uses, such as petrochemicals or fertilizers, which have no clear substitute”, he added.
About this possibility, Francisco Reynés has explained that “all of this will benefit and service the economic growth and development of the countries and economies around the globe. It is, indeed, a joint effort which we must all face with the utmost priority and the maximum care”.
Reynés has also insisted on the cooperation between governments, producers and even consumers to strengthen the security of gas supply on international markets. “The challenge for the future is how energy systems will evolve to meet greenhouse gas emission goals, and more stringent fuel quality standards while at the same time they respond to growing demand for affordable access to reliable energy services”, he concluded.
The 6th IEF-IGU Ministerial Gas Forum aims to sharpen a collective focus on energy policies, market trends, and technology options that enable the gas industry to deliver inclusive growth and successful transformations for a secure, inclusive and sustainable energy future. Energy and climate policies, gas technologies and innovations as well as market fundamentals are ever more co-dependent but also vary across geographies.
You can’t fight nature, but you can be ready for whatever she throws at you
The human race has got used to being in control of its surroundings, and yet we will never be able to truly prevent some of the most devastating catastrophes that our planet can throw our way. Yet we still strive to protect all the things we have built and worked hard for, and technology is helping us to do that on a day to day basis.
Tsunamis are a reality and we need to be prepared for them
Despite all the advances in our technology, we have not yet found ourselves able to avert the most fatal of natural disasters. The fact remains that our planet is far larger than we can possibly control and despite being considerably safer than several million years ago in the early days of the Earth’s life, it still has the capacity to be volatile and terrifying.
Some of the most devastating tsunamis in recent history have taken place in the last 60 years, with catastrophic loss of life and billions needed in humanitarian aid and reconstruction. The effects will last a lifetime for many areas as they try to recover and rebuild.
It is impossible to forget the Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 2011. The consequences were absolutely devastating.
Striking Japan on the 11th March the earthquake reached an eye watering 9.0 magnitude, and generated a 33 feet high wall of water travelling as far as 6 miles inland. Some reports even record waves as high as 133 feet, with a 97-foot wave smashing into the city of Ofunato.
Around 25,000 people were killed or reported missing, and 125,000 buildings damaged or destroyed. But more worryingly the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant was also struck causing a nuclear meltdown. The disaster is recorded at the highest level of International Nuclear Event Scale. The impact of this event is still being fully understood, and radiation from the plant has been detected as much as 200 miles away, with many areas remaining uninhabitable and will be for many years to come.
The loss of human life can be staggering due to a tsunami that hits with no warning. Take for example the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 in the Indian Ocean. An unbelievable death toll of 230,000 was recorded across 14 countries including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. The earthquake under the ocean was recorded at 9.3 magnitude, generating waves up to 93 feet high. Some waves hit land within 15 minutes, but some took as much as 7 hours.
Even those with time to evacuate were hard hit, mostly due to the complete lack of a tsunami warning system which meant very densely populated coastal areas being taken by surprise.
Early warnings save lives
By comparison, although damage to buildings and general destruction was widespread, the 2009 Samoa earthquake and tsunami saw a considerable lower death toll.
With an earthquake of 8.1 magnitude and waves reaching 45 feet high, that travelled up to a mile inland there were 189 casualties recorded. The loss of life would have been far higher if it wasn’t for the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre which gave people time to evacuate and reach higher ground.
There are several ways in which a tsunami can be detected. From recognition of symptoms, an earthquake can be quite hard to miss, to technological warnings from tsunami detection and forecasting. These are based on a combination of data collected by environmental sensors and using that data for tsunami modelling.
For example monitoring seismic activity and the magnitude of an earthquake can give an excellent warning of tsunami potential. However, it cannot be taken in isolation. For larger earthquakes it is easier to underestimate the size of the quake, and therefore miscalculate the tsunami potential.
Rapid sea level monitoring will give the best warning
When managing the data collected, those carrying out the analysis have a hard decision. Declare a tsunami imminent, and risk a costly unnecessary evacuation, or make the decision to issue the warning to the public so that emergency plans can be activated.
They also need to be able to indicate clearly from the modelling how large the waves will be and when they will strike. Importantly they need to know when the danger will be over so that people can return safely to the evacuated areas.
The issue is that tsunami detection and forecasting requires near-real-time observations from both coastal sea level instruments and open-ocean sensors. Fundamental gaps in coverage still exist, especially in open-water. This puts at risk the ability to give warning, and the ability to learn more about the behaviour of tsunamis after the fact which will further refine the accuracy of the modelling in the future. More coverage is needed, and the durability of the equipment a key factor.
New technology paramount for the detection of tsunamis
The installation of new tsunami buoys is without doubt the next step for addressing the coverage issue, and these buoys need to be smart with built in Tsunami Early Detection and Warning System. It needs to be able to detect an event and send that information to be centrally analysed.
Pressure sensors deployed in a water depth up to 7,000 meters can detect height variations on the water surface, and in order to resist the effect of the harsh elements and environments must be of the highest quality. It is now possible to obtain floats manufactured with a closed-cell polyethylene foam sheet that prevents water absorption.
In terms of positioning and communication, all can be managed through GPS, and redundancy in place for communications via satellite, with a reaction time of less than one minute and powered by a double solar power system. These buoys are so durable they can provide much better confidence that there will be no failure of service in remote locations.
They are able to transmit a NOAA Tsunami Warning System compatible message and monitor the sea level column changes to within 1mm. This kind of monitoring will be paramount for buying enough time for evacuation and prevent the loss of life seen previously.
Starting Your Green Construction Business: Simple Guide
According to some analysts, the construction industry is booming. If you look beyond the developed world, you can see extraordinary growth rates. Developing countries, however, due to the increased industrialization of recent decades, are now facing environmental challenges, and are looking for greener construction solutions. If you are thinking about starting a company related to building and construction, you will need to think about the future trends, and make sure your company complies with current and future regulations. You will be responsible for training and policies, so it is important that you pay attention to every detail. Below you will find a few tips on starting your green construction business.
Study the Current Policies and Regulations
When starting a green construction business, you will need to thoroughly study the regulations that apply to your industry, your state, and your company structure. Different local governments might already have green policies and initiatives that will give you an advantage. On the other hand, you want to make sure that your new business will be able to meet the industry requirements when it comes to training, health and safety. Check out the requirements of the American Safety Council OSHA card to find out which qualifications your workers will need before you would create your company structure.
Invest in Technology
Green technology is constantly developing, and chances are that there are several companies on the market offering different solutions. If you would like to beat the competition, you might need to develop your own materials and work processes. If you are able to team up with engineers who are familiar with the latest trends and can spot opportunities, you can offer something unique for your business partners.
Recruit the Right People
It is also important that you find the right people for each job. Look for individuals who have similar values and visions, and embrace green ideas in the construction business. There is no way you can change the mindset of people, so it might be a good idea to provide your own training and recruit newly qualified talent, instead of workers who are already used to using traditional materials, approaches, and technologies. Your main assets will be your people, so you need to design your talent pool to meet the expectations of your customers and the needs of your company.
Develop Research Partnerships
If you don’t have the right people to research future technologies and new materials, you might decide to enter a partnership with your local college or university. If you invest in their research projects and work with them, you can take advantage of groundbreaking inventions that will help your business prosper while providing students with an opportunity to explore different opportunities to make future buildings more efficient and greener. No matter if you would like to develop your own materials or reduce the carbon footprint of your operations, you can find partners if you contact local educational institutions.
Create a Strategic Plan
No business can survive without a sound strategy. As a green construction business, you will need to integrate efficiency and carbon footprint reduction in every part of your strategic business plan. Consult with a professional advisor, and study various national and local policies that can give you ideas on creating your own competitive plan to turn future buildings greener. Check out the European green initiatives that are leading the way for the rest of the world.
When building a green organization, it is important that you adopt green policies in your company. From providing your staff with training on how to save energy and look after the environment, reduce waste, dispose of toxic materials, to targets and process manuals, there are several ways you can get your workers to jump on board and embrace your ideas.
With every business strategy, you need to develop measurable goals. You cannot simply say that you would like to reduce your company’s use of water and other natural resources: you must state by when and by how much. This will help you create targets for each worker and team, and meet the expectations of your market and your industry.
Design a Green Supply Chain
In the construction industry, it is important that you make your supply chain efficient. When you want to make your supply chain greener, it is even more important. From choosing the right suppliers to make sure that your materials are not traveling more than necessary, and you are focusing on waste reduction, to educating your workers on green and efficient practices, there are several ways you can design a supply chain that is not only good for the environment, but also for your financial budget.
When experimenting with new materials and production methods, it is important that you build strong links with government organizations, so you can be aware of the future policies and trends that will shape your industry. You can join an industry organization, and find out about the new policies and government targets as soon as possible, so you can tailor your strategy to the future policy developments.
Create a Shared Vision
When creating an innovative green construction business model, it is important that you effectively communicate your vision and mission with all stakeholders. Make sure that you are on the same page, and your suppliers, business partners, and customers are fully aware of your company’s policies and initiatives. Engage with your stakeholders by communicating your company’s plans and strategies to create more efficient buildings that serve communities better.
Some experts say that green supply chains and construction models are the future, and innovation can help organizations achieve their goals while reducing their cost and carbon footprint. If you are committed to environmental goals and would like your business model to reflect your values, you will need to build positive relationships with government organizations, employees, customers, and research facilities, so you can achieve your goals faster. An efficient business and a green supply chain can also provide you with a competitive advantage on the market.
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