Saturday, September 13, 2014

China shows there’s more to renewable energy than fighting climate change : Renew Economy

With the failure of international agreements to fight climate change, the way is open to viewing the role of renewables as more than agents for reducing carbon emissions. Indeed is it possible for countries to build their manufacturing industries, enhance their energy security — and contribute to reducing carbon emissions?
In an article published today in Nature, we argue that China shows us just such a way. By boosting markets in water, wind and solar power, China is driving down costs and accelerating the uptake of renewable energy.
We argue that this is “contributing more than any other country to a climate-change solution”, and could be viable alternative to international climate agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol, which has been so ineffective in cleaning up the world’s still carbon-heavy energy supplies.

Friday, September 12, 2014

China and India in race to harness the full nuclear power of thorium

China and India in race to harness the full nuclear power of thorium
Drive for change? Chemical element thorium is seen as a safer nuclear alternative to uranium (Picture: Reuters)
It might sound like the kind of material used as a plot device in a comic book blockbuster, but it could solve the fuel crisis in the real world.
Chemical element thorium is being hailed as the key in the bid to find safer and more sustainable sources of nuclear energy to provide our electricity. And just like in a Hollywood movie, the race is on to be the first to fully harness that power.
Named after Norse god (and Marvel comic book hero) Thor by the Swedish chemist who identified it in 1828, thorium has taken almost 200 years to be taken seriously as an energy contender.
After a period in the 1950s and 1960s in which it flirted with thorium, the US government shut down its research into the radioactive element, preferring to go the uranium route. Critics say thorium was pushed aside because uranium was an easier component for nuclear weapons. But times have changed, and thorium’s status as a safer alternative to uranium is now a help, not the hindrance it was during the Cold War.
India, which has hundreds of thousands of tonnes of the metal amid its terrain, has announced plans to build a thorium-based nuclear reactor by 2016.
But it faces competition from China, where the schedule to deliver a thorium-based nuclear power plant was recently overhauled, meaning scientists in Shanghai have been told to deliver such a facility within the next ten years.
While thorium nuclear exploration is not new – Britain had its own reactor in Dorset carrying out tests 40 years ago – the will to make it a viable energy source is growing stronger.
Professor Roger Barlow from the University of Huddersfield is part of a team researching thorium power generation.
Nuclear power in India | Greenpeace India

The Government of India intends to draw twenty-five per cent of its energy from nuclear power by 2050. This plan includes 20,000 MW of installed capacity from nuclear energy by 2020, and 63,000 MW by 2032.

There are currently twenty one operational nuclear power reactors in India, across six states. They contribute less than three per cent of the country’s total energy generation, yet radioactively pollute at every stage of the nuclear fuel cycle: from mining and milling to reprocessing or disposal. There is no long-term radioactive waste disposal policy in India.

The inherent risks of nuclear power are made greater in India by the structure of the country’s nuclear establishment. he organisation in charge of safety in all nuclear facilities, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, shares staff and is provided funds with the organisations it is supposed to be regulating. This compromises its ability to act independently and enforce vigorous safety regulations.

In addition, there is little distinction between military and civilian nuclear affairs, and all matters of atomic energy come directly under the Prime Minister, not parliament. This means the nuclear establishment is under no obligation to disclose information on the nuclear power sector to citizens. There’s no excuse for this opacity in a country with an ambition to use nuclear energy for electricity.

Regardless of these flaws, India is one of the few countries in the world that is expanding its nuclear power sector at an enormous rate. Seven more nuclear reactors are under construction, of 4800 MW installed capacity. At least thirty-six new nuclear reactors are planned or proposed. See them on a map.

Foreign investment in India's nuclear sector

India’s civilian nuclear programme was largely indigenous for many years, but the government is now beckoning foreign investment. It intends to set up ‘nuclear parks’ supplied by foreign companies and operated - for now - by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), a government-owned company. These ‘parks’ are planned to have installed generated capacity of 8,000-10,000 MW at a single site. As the greatest installed capacity at one site is currently only 1,400 MW (Tarapur Atomic Power Station in Maharashtra, with four reactors), this is a huge increase.

Russian company Atomstroyexport, a government subsidiary, has reached a deal to build sixteen nuclear reactors in India. From the two of these units, of 1000 MW each, one is operational and the other is currently under construction in Kundankulam, Tamil Nadu.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

We need an alternative energy grid | TheHill

The specter of climate change relentlessly haunts the news. Just in the last month, the Council of Economic Advisors released a report estimating that each decade we wait to reduce emissions increases the cost of meeting carbon standards by 41 percent, the Senate Budget Committee held a hearing on the cost of inaction on climate change, and even bastions of the financial community like former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin are issuing similar warnings. To avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, we must drastically cut fossil fuel consumption and replace that energy with renewable alternatives. Given this, we need to focus our attention and efforts on determining the best strategies to move forward for the next five years and the next fifty.
The good news is that the U.S. has an abundance of renewable energy resources. The sun shines hot and long in the South and West, wind howls in the mid-Atlantic and Midwest, and the water runs freely in the Northwest. The bad news is that the U.S. power grid is not designed to integrate many of these resources, even though today’s renewable technology could provide enough power to match national electricity demand.

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