Next Big Future reports:-
Public exposure to radiation resulting from the generation of electricity by nuclear power plants is just a fraction of that from coal-powered plants, according to a report from the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR)
UNSCEAR yesterday released the results of a comparative study it has conducted of exposures from generating technologies based on nuclear power, coal, natural gas, oil, biofuels, geothermal, wind and solar.
The committee said that while exposure levels are very low, the coal cycle contributed more than half of the total radiation dose to the global population from electricity generation. The nuclear fuel cycle, it said, contributed less than one-fifth of this. The collective dose for coal generating technologies is 670-1400 man Sieverts, depending on the age of the power plant, while that of nuclear is 130 man Sv. This is followed by geothermal at 5-160 man SV, natural gas at 55 man Sv and oil at 0.03 man Sv.
UNSCEAR also evaluated radiation exposure per unit of electricity generated, using 2010 as a reference year for comparison. The committee concluded that the values for coal and nuclear are about the same in the short term: 0.7-1.4 man Sv per GWe for coal and 0.43 man Sv/GWe for nuclear.
It noted over a period of hundreds of years, “an accumulation of very small doses from long-lived radionuclides result in larger collective doses from the nuclear fuel cycle”. However, the total collective dose (to both the public and workers) per unit of electricity generated by the coal cycle was larger than that generated by the nuclear fuel cycle, “even when considering the long-lived globally-circulating radionuclides integrated out to 500 years”.
“Secondly, you’d have to pump all that water into the conversion machine using some form of energy, and if the ship uses fuel to make the electricity to do the conversion job, then the whole process would be pointless. So the conversion would need to take place on a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.”
At around 59 to 70 , nuclear power has a high enough EROEI (Energy Returned on Energy Invested, or basically Energy Profit) to ‘lend’ some EROEI to the diesel and aircraft industries, which is what we are discussing. When smaller, lighter electric cars, buses, delivery vans and garbage trucks can all be electric, and save city councils heaps of money in doing so, I’m assuming most petroleum (gasoline in America) will be replaced with electricity. But there’s a problem. Super-sized long haul trucking and farming and mining vehicles can’t run on a battery. Well, there are ‘fuel-cell’ trucks but my understanding is that fuel cells are still quite expensive and hydrogen is pretty hard to store. This PDF claims that this could change between 2020 and 2030 (page 8), and as hydrogen can be made anywhere that has electricity and water, I’m not ruling it out. I’m open to whatever arrives first on the scene. But there are other options as my “Recharge” pages above show, with powdered boron and synthetic diesel both driven by nuclear power’s high EROEI. EROEI is just not a valid reason to rant against energy carriers like boron or synthetic diesel. And this is before we’re even discussing breeder reactors that don’t require thousands of tons of diesel in mining and refining uranium ore, but just burn nuclear waste! Those breeders could have EROEI’s in the high hundreds, maybe even over a thousand!
Dorothy Mackellar’s classic view of Australia as a country of droughts and flooding rains is likely to get a further boost with just a 2°C rise in global warming, new research suggests.
New findings from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, published today in Nature Climate Change, have pointed to strong increases in rainfall during extreme precipitation events in Australia as a result of global warming. The results also resolved some important discrepancies in previous published estimates of how Australian rainfall is affected by climate change.
This paper reveals that with just a rise of 2°C in global average temperatures, Australia will see a 11.3-30% intensification in rainfall from extreme precipitation events. This will occur even as some areas may become increasingly drought prone.
“There is no chance that rainfall in Australia will remain the same as the climate warms,” said an author of the paper UNSW Professor Steve Sherwood.
“The only way that this intensification of extreme rainfall falls at the lower end of the scale is if the continent becomes drier overall. The long and the short of it is that with 2°C of global warming Australia is stuck with either more aridity, much heavier extreme rains, or some combination of the two,” said Sherwood, from UNSW’s Climate Change Research Centre.
The researchers used the NSW and ACT Regional Climate Model (NARClim) project to tease out the future changes because of its high regional detail, and ensemble of 12 models.
They looked at the heaviest 1% of rainfall events experienced in Australia across all seasons with a particular focus on precipitation in the very different climates of Darwin, Sydney and Melbourne.
The researchers found average humidity was a key component determining how rapidly extreme rainfall events intensified as global temperature increased.
Greater average humidity led to a sharper increase in the intense rainfall events. But even in areas where average humidity and rainfall was lower, suggesting increasing aridity, the most extreme rainfall events still saw an 11.3% increase in total rainfall with 2°C of global warming.
“Extreme precipitation is projected to increase almost everywhere in Australia from tropical regions in the north to mid-latitudes in the south and from dry deserts in the centre to wet places along the coast,” said PhD student and lead author Jiawei Bao.
“Rising air temperature is the primary reason for this change. Australia’s infrastructure will need to be prepared to adapt to these more extreme rainfall events even if we act to moderate the global temperature rise to within 2°C.”
The paper also went beyond the 2°C international Paris Agreement target, looking at what would happen with a 4°C rise in global temperature, which is a likely outcome based on current increases in the rate of carbon emissions. It produced a projected increase in rainfall for extreme events of 22-60%.
“Current policies worldwide are nowhere near enough to actually meet the Paris targets, so it is likely we face even greater changes unless policies are strengthened,” Sherwood said.
“Australia cannot use past observations alone to develop rainfall infrastructure. This research tells us we need to be prepared to adapt to a world of far more intense rainfall extremes, if we can.”
More information: Jiawei Bao et al. Future increases in extreme precipitation exceed observed scaling rates, Nature Climate Change (2017). DOI: 10.1038/nclimate3201
Nearly a year ago, I wrote a post called The Coming Electrification of Everything (the gist: we’re in the midst of a wholesale transition to an electron-based economy). What I didn’t predict then, but now see in so many areas, was how quickly this transition would start to take shape.
I also wrote about the extraordinary reduction in the cost of lithium ion batteries. This radical cost reduction of batteries is really the catalyst which has accelerated the transition to the electron economy. From battery-powered skateboards to motorboats to e-bikes to scooters, small, cheap, lightweight batteries are taking mobility by storm. Combine this with the ‘war on cars’ declared by cities around the world alongside a dramatic increase in daily battery range, and rapid changes in transportation happen.
All of this brings us to Proterra, the newest member of theObvious Ventures portfolio. Proterra is your classic overnight success story, over a decade in the making.
While the world was marveling over Elon’s love affair with high-end performance cars (don’t get me wrong — I’m a big fan), the diligent team at Proterra was quietly working away in Colorado, South Carolina and Burlingame building the next big thing. And it was really big.
The Proterra buses are, in many ways, the next Tesla. Except this is sort of a Model 3 for an entire city. The Proterra buses, over 95 of which are already in commercial operation, have been moving city dwellers for years now across the country. The made-in-America products can also now compete directly with diesel, natural gas or hybrid buses. The difference, as with aTesla, is that these are 100% emission-free and end up with much lower operations and maintenance overhead challenges.
The company is similar to Tesla in that both companies are about to be transformed by the proliferation of lithium ion batteries. These batteries are being driven down in costs and up in performance in a way similar to recent solar advancements. It also shares some DNA: a number of the executives and engineers have held key roles at Tesla, from manufacturing to battery engineering and beyond.
The costs and performance are finally hitting the key targets. With a daily range of over 300 miles, Proterra buses can serve nearly all of the U.S. market today.
Equally important, a movement is growing in cities away from car ownership, particularly with younger people. Finally, cities around the world are fighting the use of cars throughout the community. This has been a multi-decade push, but challenges with congestion pricing and in some casesoutright bans, we see this as coming to a head. With demographic shifts leading to bigger and more cities, the need for clean, mass transport options will only increase.
Combining this technology leap, the war on cars, and the inevitable march toward healthier cities and cleaner air and things line up nicely for Proterra — and the world.
A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money!
“The moves are part of a $4.5 billion investment in electrified vehicles by 2020, offering customers greater fuel efficiency, capability and power across Ford’s global vehicle lineup. The plans are part of the company’s expansion to be an auto and a mobility company, including leading in electrified and autonomous vehicles and providing new mobility solutions.”
Futurists / Singularity geeks. What do you make of these thoughts on “Thinkism”? I wrote them after watching the 2.5 star movie “Automata”. PS: I’ve been thinking these things for a while, but futurist Isaac Arthur on youtube also voiced the same concerns recently.
I also detected some ‘thinkism’. ‘Thinkism’ is a Singularity belief that simply being able to think faster and smarter will solve impossible questions today almost overnight. It goes like this. If we design Robot 1 and plug it into the internet, it will have access to all humanity’s knowledge. We give Robot 1 the job of designing a much smarter Robot 2. After a few months, Robot 2 is created, which then designs the much smarter 3 in just a month, which designs 4 in a week, which designs 5 in a day, which designs 6 in a few hours, which runs an AI simulation of 7 which begat 8 which continues on faster and faster until after an hour, the HAL 9000 is born and demands to be worshipped as the new synthetic god Apollo!
But lets slow down. Even if Robot 2 is a bit faster than 1, what does it have access to? A smarter, faster processor, but what else? Only the total of all human knowledge. Exactly what Robot 1 had. In other words, no matter how awesome Robot 2 might be, Robot 2 is still limited to the total of all human knowledge to that date. Science only progresses so fast. It is limited by the application of various empirical studies, some of which take months, some of which take decades! EG: It took a long time and a lot of money to build the CERN lab. So while Robot 2 might help assist science advance by interpreting CERN data faster, it cannot accelerate away in its understanding of the universe without building the next CERN – whatever that is. And that’s just particle physics, let alone medicine and biology and agriculture and energy systems and materials science, etc. There are still real tests in the real world that must be run, and these take time and resources. Thinkism promotes run-away acceleration by pure thought. It can make for a fun Sci-Fi story, but these days I tend to laugh at the magical powers some Thinkism computers or robots get overnight. After all, it took an entire relatively peaceful and co-operative European Union just to have the tax money to build CERN.
As a civilisation, we *do* seem to be accelerating in discovery. But as we learn more, it seems we start to acknowledge how much more beyond that we do not know. As we climb the foothills we see huge mountains in the distance, and I’m not sure we’ll ever climb some of them (EG: the holy grail of human immortality).