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Wow, I’m having flashbacks to my peak-oiler days. “Left” and “Right-wing” versus “Up” and “Down-wing”. I used to have time to read and discuss this stuff. Those were the days! This great article from Slate discusses how elements of both left and right fall into regressive localism “Down-wing” of the modern world, and how elements of both left and right should try and align with a more technologically optimistic “Up-wing” view that celebrates high tech that can both eradicate poverty and protect ecologies. It’s time to move UpWing, and save both people and the planet.
ADAM RUINS EVERYTHING explains how economic segregation in American suburbs and schools is still going strong generations after the actual segregation policies ended.
The EveryDay Astronaut has a good breakdown of the much longer, rambling Elon Musk presentation. It’s 11 minutes compared to Musk’s 40 minute presentation.
In a nutshell, Space X couldn’t fund last year’s plans for a truly gigantic 12m diameter giant ITS (Interplanetary Transport System), because it would have required them to front the cash for a whole new rocketfactory first!
Instead, Elon has decided to scale back the ITS to “just” a 9m diameter ITS — which will still be the biggest rocket the human race has ever built — and build it in the existing factory. It’s so big, and so reusable, that it will be far cheaper than their existing fleet of much smaller rockets. It’s going to become their main workhorse in the satellite, ISS, and moon market, and eventually will replace all their existing rockets.
It will be bigger and cheaper than anything in the rocket market today, and let them cut into the airline industry! This rocket will get you most places in 30 minutes (and anywhere on earth to anywhere in an hour). If they can do that and still turn a profit, then this is the system that will eventually get us to Mars.
Who knows? If in a decade or so SpaceX has enough money, maybe they’ll build a new factory for the 12m diameter ITS, or something even bigger? But for now, I’m excited by the fact that the ITS looks like a practical workhorse for SpaceX to make us an interplanetary species, and one of the biggest questions going is what will they name the thing? I like cool names like the “Super-Dragon” or any other bird of prey name, but Spacey McSpaceface has also been suggested. 😉
How many solar farms and wind turbines did cyclone Harvey kill? But the nukes? They’re in concrete hardened bunkers. They’re fine. Nuclear power doesn’t just mitigate climate change, it *prepares* for what we’re already committed to! As Forbes said:
Hurricane Harvey made land fall in Texas this week and the flooding was historic. What is shaping up to be the most costly natural disaster in American history, the storm has left refineries shut down, interrupted wind and solar generation, caused a constant worry about gas explosions, and caused a chain of events that led to explosions and fires at the Arkema chemical plant that is only the beginning.
Over a fifth of the country’s oil production has been shuttered. Natural gas futures hit a 2-year high as did gasoline prices at the pump.
But the Texas nuclear power plants have been running smoothly.
The two nuclear reactors at the South Texas Project plant near Houston were operating at full capacity despite wind gusts that peaked at 130 mph as the Hurricane made landfall. The plant implemented its severe weather protocols as planned and completed hurricane preparations ahead of Category 4 Hurricane Harvey striking the Texas Gulf Coast on August 25th.
Anyone who knows anything about nuclear was not surprised. Nuclear is the only energy source immune to all extreme weather events – by design.
This nuclear plant has steel-reinforced concrete containment with 4-foot (1.2 meter) thick walls. The buildings housing the two reactors, vital equipment and used fuel have steel-reinforced concrete walls up to 7 feet (2.1 meters) thick, which are built to withstand any category hurricane or tornadoe. It can even withstand a plane flying directly into it.
The plant is located 10 miles (16 kilometers) inland and at an elevation of 29 feet (8.8 meters) above sea-level. The facility is designed with watertight buildings and doors, with all buildings housing safety-related equipment being flood-proof to an elevation of at least 41 feet (12.5 meters).
‘We’ve got significant rain but flooding has not been an issue here,’ plant spokesman Buddy Eller said in a phone call about the reactors.
That the nuclear plant is just fine seemed to irk anti-nuclear groups who don’t want to see nuclear ever performing well, even if it helps the storm-wracked people of south Texas when other power sources are failing.
Three watchdog groups, the Sustainable Energy & Economic Development coalition (SEED), the South Texas Association for Responsible Energy and Beyond Nuclear recklessly urged politicians, the owners, and regulators to shut down the plant because of Harvey, even if it hurt residents, emergency workers and hospitals who desperately need that power.
But the regulators and the State would have none of that nonsense, understanding that these groups just peddle fear. The reactors provide 2,700 MW of power to 2,000,000 customers in the area.
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff are at the plant, constantly assessing the situation and safety aspects. ‘The South Texas Project reactors have been operating safely throughout Harvey and continue to do so,’ NRC spokesman Scott Burnell said. The reactors can be shut down quickly if something develops, but that’s not expected to be necessary.
Two-hundred and fifty storm crew workers, along with regulators, were running the plant and were set up with sleeping arrangements, food and water to weather the storm no matter how long it took. None of them were afraid, knowing how safe the reactors are.
No other industry was as prepared.
According to the online news source North American Wind Power, one large wind installation in the path of the storm sent all 39 workers home as the hurricane closed in, but operated remotely until the wind hit 55 mph. It then shut down automatically like all farms when wind speeds exceed their design limits. Most wind farms have not sustained much damage, but getting them back to capacity will be difficult.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission also said Harvey does not pose a threat to the Waterford Nuclear Power Plant in New Orleans and the River Bend Plant near Baton Rouge.
We’ve seen this before. Last summer, a heat wave cooked Americawith extreme temperatures, affecting most energy production as well as causing fires and water shortages, sucking electricity like crazy to power the cooling necessary to avoid discomfort and even death. According to the National Weather Service, 122 million Americans were under heat alerts.
Fortunately, nuclear power didn’t mind, scoring record capacity factors of 96% and up, with no increase in price. Other energy sources did not fare so well and some gas plants gouged consumers just because they could.
In 2014, a Polar Vortex shut down natural gas and coal plants, and stopped wind turbines and solar generation. But nuclear performed wonderfully and provided more power to the hard-hit northeast than any other source.
Whether it’s hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, heat waves or severe cold, nuclear performs more reliably than anything else. There’s no better reason to retain our nuclear fleet, and even expand it, to give us a diverse energy mix that can handle any natural disaster that can occur.
Dr. James Conca is an expert on energy, nuclear and dirty bombs, a planetary geologist, and a professional speaker. Follow him on Twitter @jimconca and see his book at Amazon.com
As a layperson Geek watching the development of robots over the years, what fascinates me is the way engineering requirements — not aesthetics — are driving the evolution of some robots to *look* more organic.
The whole ‘Tesla skate’ idea is to take electric cars stuck in traffic, put them on a high speed electric skate that shoots along a tunnel underground at 200mph!
Sounds like something cool from science fiction, right? Unfortunately, not all cool whizz bang techno-toys are a good idea. As much as I love Tesla and SpaceX, this idea of Elon’s is just plain wrong. This is just another road, a thing for moving cars around. An expensive way to move cars around. Fixing traffic by building new ‘roads’ — especially expensive underground skate tunnels — is out of date thinking. Build a new road and it will be filled with traffic.
I say abandon new road, and use Elon’s “Boring” company to build bigger better Tunnel Boring Machines to dig proper subway tunnels for double decker trains. A full sized train tunnel will be more expensive to dig, but have far better rewards. We can also recover about half the costs by selling the air above the future subway stations to developers who will be asked to build attractive New Urbanism above them.
Build a better city, and you might not need as many cars in the first place. Cars are just so yesterday. The future is healthier cities and attractive walkable neighbourhoods you want to participate in, not drive through — let alone skating along under at 200mph!