Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sabir ShahThursday, March 27, 2014
From Print Edition

The US Department of Commerce has calculated that the international market for nuclear equipment and services will rest between $500 billion to $740 billion over the next 10 years, believing strongly that every $1 billion of exports by the American companies currently support 5,000 to 10,000 domestic jobs.

Meanwhile, the Nuclear Energy Institute — which is a nuclear industry lobbying group in the United States — has calculated that every dollar spent by the typical nuclear power plant results in the creation of $1.04 in the local community, $1.18 in the state economy, and $1.87 in the American economy.

It is imperative to note that while an overwhelming majority of the billions of humans breathing on this planet thinks nuclear energy can only be devastating for humanity, more than 22,500 American companies today provide $14.2 billion in components and services to the world super power’s nuclear energy industry each year. Quite a contrast!

After analyzing 23 nuclear plants representing 41 reactors, this institute states on its official website that the companies that are operating a nuclear plant normally pay about $16 million in state and local taxes annually.

Founded in 1994 from the merger of several nuclear energy industry organizations, this prestigious institute views: “These tax dollars benefit schools, roads and other state and local infrastructure. Each company typically pays federal taxes of $67 million annually. In addition, nuclear energy facilities typically employ up to 3,500 people during construction and 400 to 700 people during operation, at salaries 36 percent higher than average in the local area. It produces approximately $470 million annually in sales of goods and services in the local community.”

Research shows that not fewer than 71 new nuclear energy facilities are under construction across the world today, and an additional 160 are in the licensing and advanced planning stages.

The Nuclear Energy Institute has estimated that a single uranium fuel pellet the size of a pencil eraser contains the same amount of energy as 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas, 1,780 pounds of coal or 149 gallons of oil.

The institute has more to add: “Compared to other non-emitting sources, nuclear energy facilities are relatively compact. The amount of electricity produced by a multi-reactor nuclear power plant would require more than 60 square miles of photovoltaic panels or about 180 square miles of wind turbines?”

Quoting the results of a recent opinion poll regarding support for use of nuclear energy, it maintains: “Around 68 per cent of Americans favour the use of nuclear energy. Some 55 per cent respondents agree that industry should build more nuclear power plants in future. About two-thirds said that a new reactor would be acceptable at the nearest operating nuclear power plant site.”

The Myth of Nuclear Safety: Fukushima Reveals That Nuclear Power Is Here to Stay

Inside the Ikata Nuclear Power Plant's station unit No. 3, which was idled after the 2011 disaster in Fukushima, in the Ehime prefecture of Japan, Jan. 23, 2014. (Photo: Ko Sasaki / The New York Times)Inside the Ikata Nuclear Power Plant's station unit No. 3, which was idled after the 2011 disaster in Fukushima, in the Ehime prefecture of Japan, Jan. 23, 2014. (Photo: Ko Sasaki / The New York Times)
Three years after the Fukushima disaster, the Japanese government has reversed its position of abandoning nuclear power and is developing new nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons - another example that neither nuclear-caused death nor nuclear-caused destruction can deter a corrupt power structure from the pursuit of its goals.
After the Fukushima disaster, Japan's government claimed it would phase out nuclear power. On February 26, 2014, Tokyo reversed the decision and began starting up most of the 50 idle reactors. It subsequently announced that the plutonium Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Plant at Rokkasho will open in October 2014.
If the results of the past 65 years at the Hanford site can be taken as an example, and 40 years of now-declassified documented analyses says it can, the reprocessing of nuclear fuel to obtain weapons-grade plutonium and the subsequent handling and disposal of the resultant complex radioactive wastes is one of the nastiest, most poorly understood and apparently insoluble problems in the folder of nuclear safety. 

The national pitch of "peaceful uses of atomic energy" was, and still is an umbrella for maintaining an active nuclear community that is necessary for the US to assure its position as the planet's greatest developer and possessor of nuclear weapons.

The Hanford site represents two-thirds of our nation's high-level radioactive waste by volume and is the most contaminated nuclear site in the United States.The vitrification of the liquid waste is about a half century "behind schedule," with cost "overruns" of more than $20 billion. Since the mid-1950s, it was determined that the radioactive waste leaking from Hanford reached the Columbia River. In 1992, radioactive waste from Hanford reached the Pacific Ocean, 200 miles away, contaminating fish and drinking water along the river and exposing as many as 2,000 people.
In spite of the billions of dollars spent on "remediation" in the past 60 years, the radioactive leaks from the reprocessing storage tanks and the escape of reprocessing wastes from the site have been increasing monotonically and are continuing. New leaks were detected March 14, 2014.
Japan's leaders announced recently that the privately owned, government-supported Rokkasho reprocessing plant, which was designed as part of a government effort to create special fuel for the country's future nuclear power plants, will be ready to open in October 2014.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Smart cities: The future of urban infrastructure

Storm alert
Around 40% of the global population lives in coastal areas. Much of the large-scale devastation in these areas is due to hurricanes and typhoons. (Thinkstock)
Technology is changing everyday city life, allowing us to instantly adapt to everything from storm threats to traffic jams.

Infrastructure is not exactly the sexiest word in architecture. There are no “starchitects” proudly boasting about their pipe designs or subsurface drainage systems. By its very definition – the underlying structures that support our systems – infrastructure is inherently hidden from us, and therefore often overlooked. But without it our current cities couldn’t possibly exist. Without finding ways to improve it, our future cities will struggle to survive.
Historically, our urban infrastructure has materialised as a response to some emergent or acute problem, like natural disasters. In 2010 it was estimated that over 40% of the global population lives in coastal areas, and much of the large-scale devastation in these areas is due to hurricanes and typhoons. Multi-billion-dollar estimates of infrastructure damage from Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina, as well as the recent devastation in the Philippines, demonstrate the amount of damage and human cost these disasters create.
In the more distant past, construction has been a driven by localised issues such as sanitation, flooding or fire. The reaction has been to engineer systems (under the powers of centralised, state-led planning and public funding) that solve a single problem at a particular time. Little thought has been given to future conditions.
But, rather than being reactive, future infrastructure designs will need to be anticipatory and proactive to be truly sustainable. Much like an ecosystem, these will contain many small-scale, networked elements that serve a multitude of uses, rather than one single guiding purpose for their existence. Urban community garden plots, for example, not only provide food for urban dwellers, but serve as stormwater management systems, allowing water and waste to be recycled at the smallest scale with real-time sensors telling the centralised system how much less will have to be processed downstream.
Cities will need to accurately measure current conditions, and model the future. Sensors and technological controls embedded within new and retrofitted urban designs could monitor existing conditions and provide real-time feedback in case modifications are needed. One of the best known examples of this type of next-gen monitoring is in Songdo, South Korea where everything from traffic flow to household waste is highly responsive and networked. Companies such as Cisco and Siemens are adding robust information technology infrastructure to power these emerging feedback systems. These smart-grid networks will become increasingly responsive to allocating electricity in response to demand, or public transport systems that respond to congestion by allocating buses where people are congregating or changing lights automatically based on traffic patterns. In Rio de Janeiro there is a hi-tech operations centre, where public safety responses to infrastructure failures such as building collapses or flooding can be quickly identified, analysed and disseminated to both technical specialists and the general public.
Wider picture
Infrastructure designs will not only have to anticipate short-term, local conditions, but long-term, global phenomena as well. After Sandy and Katrina, for example, solutions were focused on future sea level rise driven by climate change and the infrastructures necessary to “protect” these cities from future flooding. Conventional infrastructure repairs have used a robust engineering approach, elevating hard floodwalls to predicted future sea levels, and strengthening levees to protect against more frequent and intense storm surges.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Pullman Factory to Feature Rooftop Greenhouses, Solar Panels, Wind Turbine

By Quinn Ford on March 4, 2014 12:36pm 

PULLMAN — Construction on an environmentally-friendly manufacturing plant is officially underway on the city's South Side.
Method, a company which boasts natural, nontoxic cleaning products, held an official groundbreaking ceremony for a $33 million plant being built in the Pullman neighborhood.
The plant, which was announced in July, is scheduled to open early next year and will be the company's first manufacturing facility in the United States.
The company was lured to the South Side neighborhood in part by $9 million in city Tax Increment Financing funds as well as $1.1 million in state tax credits over 10 years.
The project will evenutally create nearly 100 jobs in the area once the factory is complete. Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) said the plant will provide a big economic boost to a neighborhood originally developed as a factory town.