Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

A Critical View of Nuclear Energy and Radiation

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

As pro-nuclear energy spin and PR damage control go into high gear as Fukushima continues to unravel and expose the type of lies and deceptions that have misled even well intentioned commentators, like George Monbiot, into accepting the negatives of nuclear energy for some (deluded) idea that it is a lesser of evils (this concept is itself a notion created by the nuclear spin industry, I am virtually certain) certain parts of this project become increasingly well defined. The thing I find most revealing is the notion, put forward by pro-nuclear apologists, innocently, or less so, that normal people are suffering from an irrational fear of radiation.

These types of falsehoods and misrepresentations of what is actually going on form the essence of all modern public relations, especially for heavy industrial consumers of non-renewables of all types, constitute a steady chipping away at a very accurate human response towards radiation, one that I would suggest is in fact highly rational. It is especially discouraging to find such things repeated by those who might otherwise pride themselves on being somewhat critical in their view of modern society.

What I find totally and utterly irrational is that when faced with the total inability to handle a process that was never meant to exist on earth, people continue to pretend that it’s a rational decision to create it. This is simply false. It was a refusal to start winding down power consumption, coupled with a military requirement to obtain nuclear materials for nuclear weapons, that was directly responsible for humanity entering this lunatic course of action in the first place.

The entire nuclear project has always been totally irrational, on so many levels it’s really hard to pick just a few, but here’s some: assumption, despite ALL history as positive proof against this faith, that societies will. continue to be able to handle these toxic systems as they change in fundamental ways. Poster child for this? Ukraine, today, requiring about 2 billion euros to create a new sarcophagus for Chernobyl.

The Doomer World View vs. History and Sustainable Views

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Now and again it’s worth looking at some of the points raised on issues of sustainability and the end of life as we know it.

I see as a given that our current system is going to change, and change fundamentally, as resource depletion continues to alter the ease with which we extract, and waste, non-renewable, or not quickly enough renewable, raw materials. I find myself tending to agree with John Michael Greer (aka: the ‘Arch Druid’) re the time frames over which the ensuing changes will occur, mainly because Greer’s views tend to match reality as we find it documented in our histories.

Greer also makes an effort to study actual history and related areas that touch on these questions, unlike most of the other commentators out there, and he also is pushing out information that tries to help deal with the issues, which you’ll see at the end of this essay, is really the core difference between those prophets of doom and those who will actually find the way forward as our present grows into the future.

However, I also believe that significant portion of people who think we will see a sharp steep global collapse are simply confusing a drop in available consumption levels with the end of all life (aka: The End of Life as We Know It).

A Realistic View of Real-World Change

The way this so called collapse (better called: change, adjustment, alteration in prevalent mythologies and deeply held cultural biases) develops will be regional, not global. I’ve thought that for a while now. This is, by the way, another reason I don’t consider myself a ‘doomer’. Regional alterations do not make for a unitary moment of doom, they are something we have seen throughout history. Remember, Italy in its center was largely empty after the Roman Empire moved its center to the east, and the Barbarians had invaded one too many times. Then time moved on, and Italy wasn’t empty any more. Norway’s northern regions were emptied of Norwegians after the black plague, but NOT of human habitation, the Saamies (Lapps) were happy to move back in and occupy the land with their nomadic reindeer herding way of life until very close to the modern era. There is, I think you have to agree, a certain ethno-centrism involved in the belief that the failure of a single means of human social organization is somehow ‘doom’, when for others, it might be the ticket to the possibility of living a real life again, freed from the bonds of industrial non-sustainable production. It all depends on your point of view.

The notion, presented by Greer, among others, that changes will occur in staircase form I think doesn’t require much of a leap, since changes are coming in staircase form already. Just as an example: Colin Campbell (retired petroleum geologist, and prominent peak oil observer and analyst) points to the technical peak of global oil extraction as being marked by extreme social, economic, and political volatility. I look around myself in 2010 and find just that. Resource wars ongoing, political instabilities, ongoing. So that part seems pretty much right on.

The Real Turning Point

I don’t like getting into more sci-fi speculations, but to me, it’s fairly obvious that the reason 1970 was the real turning point for the global human culture based on non-sustainable resource exploitation is that is when the global population went into serious overshoot, beyond carrying capacity. The real warning flag back then was the requirement of instituting industrial, non-sustainable farming techniques, called, in Orwellian style, the ‘green revolution’ in order to avoid famine and provide enough food stuffs to feed the now clearly non-sustainable population numbers created by ceaseless population growth.

A Quick Overview of the Coal vs Nuclear Fallacy

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Sometimes a comment is made in an online discussion which really warrants a response on a much deeper level, because it reveals so much about how we look at our world and planet.

It’s very important to look at such views and see what’s actually driving them, because to do so gives us a way to learn how to see our real world environment.

“if the Worst Possible Scenario happened at all the world’s gas/coal power generation stations simultaneously” – well it happened, in part, there, we call it global warming these days. Not as spectacular as exploding reactor roofs, not as fast as a cloud of radioactive debris, but the effect is here with all of us, it is enormous and irreversible. But it’s out of interest when people make their judgements.

If all four units in Chernobyl would have burned as #4 obviously it would have been much worse, yes, it would have contaminated Europe badly, but far from inhabitable. And that reactor design was a goddamn pit of hell compared even these 40yr old BWRs. Now Fukushima looks like crap, it will do some harm, it will hurt people, but not to the extent you believe.

Of course nuclear waste from all plants must be taken care of, there is research, I believe there are already finished plans for reactors that besides producing power, burn this “spent” fuel to shorten it’s dangerous effects to about ~2 centuries, which, while I agree is a lot of time, still looks somewhat shorter than it would take to remove all those greenhouse gases your gas/coal plants gushed into the atmosphere.

60 years of nukes vs. 120 years of ff power generation, yet the negative effects are hard to compare.
(src: theOilDrum 2011-03-16)

No known human non-sustainable, large scale, centralized, culture has been able to correctly predict the condition of that human culture 2 centuries in its future.

Just 65-70 years ago bombs were being dropped on all key facilities in Europe, Russia/USSR, China was being bombed, Japan was bombed. That’s only 70 years, not even remotely close to 2 centuries. And that’s only one way things can and do go bad.

Yes 2 centuries looks shorter than multiple thousands of years, but there is no way this heavily industrialized system is going to exist in 2 centuries, sorry. It’s a blip in history, a dip at the bottom of the pit. Also, what we have to look at is our present, not some uncreated future.

Understanding Our Present re Fossil Fuels Nuclear Energy and Growth + Soros Alchemy of Finance

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Visualize a chess game. You are player X, mother nature is player Y.

You have fewer pieces than she does, and have now entered into a phase of the game where, while you are a skilled and talented player, you are also clearly able to recognize that checkmate is inevitable. She’s also got some options in the game which you don’t have, although you were given the option to inspect them before the game started, but chose to ignore that in favor of making up your own version of the rules, which isn’t actually permitted in this game. In other words, the real rules are absolute and determined by Y, the rules we generate will fail but we believe they won’t.

Building a nuclear power plant at the edge of the ocean facing a massive and extremely active earthquake fault is an example of making up these rules and ignoring the more fundamental ground rules of the game. In that case, the rules they made up were: we will build a x meter high (6, I believe) tsunami defense wall. In other words, the rule is that the tsunami that hits in potential will be less than x meters high. Mother nature doesn’t care about these made up rules, so the tsunami was as big as it was going to be, ie, larger than the rule said it would be, x+y, the quake was stronger than they designed for, so that piece of the ecosystem is now compromised and heavily damaged, and thus, the position occupied by X is now weaker than it was 5 days ago.

Making up rules like this is extremely common in I believe all large scale cultures that practice excessive non-sustainable resource extraction. Out of sight out of mind is another form of this rule invention, which is the rule we apply to most of our generated waste products.

Your pieces are parts of your ecosystem. You can use them all up before being checkmated, or you can gracefully tip the king over and admit the inevitable defeat, thus preserving the lives and future viability of your various pieces.

While some might point to the so-called marginal economic benefit of using nuclear energy as opposed to coal fired power plant energy, I am unable to actually derive any meaning from the term ‘marginal economic benefit’ since from what I understand all nuclear power is not economically viable in the first place. That is is, if all mining, construction, de-activation, and most important, permanent long term waste disposal costs are taken into account, the plant is a zero gain enterprise.

If we forget the entire ‘economic’ modeling, which I think is a good place to start, and look merely at extraction rates and long term viability of the various options, it’s clear that none of the current options have any future.

Surveying the Pit

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

In the previous posting, I took a look at the notion of humanity digging itself down into a pit. The more I consider this view, the better a model I find it to describe the actions, thinking, and economic/political activities of modern humankind.

I’ve been following, as I noted in the previous posting, the writings of a wide variety of so called Peak Theorists/Commentators, and began to note certain… how to put this nicely?… let’s call it, oddities, about their views. Certain things don’t fit the facts, that is. This is not to discount the actual substance of the analysis presented, for example, as this recent WikiLeaks Cable clearly shows (story), the views criticized by the establishment as ‘nutty’ or ‘deluded’ are in fact basically exactly right. In this case, the leaked cable shows that the Saudis admit they have both overstated their reserves, by about 40%, exactly as it was said they had, and are lying about their ability to generate new supplies in terms of daily production rates.

So there’s no problem with most of the core engineering facts related to various so called ‘peak’ issues.

No, the problem lies much more deeply in my opinion, and that problem is rooted in how we as humans are chosing to view this situation. By projecting everything upwards, we in turn manage to suggest we are progressing. But we are not progressing, if we were, our planet would not be losing its ability to support life, the resources we are extracting at breakneck speeds would not be hitting extraction maxima, the ecosystem would be thriving, not dying off and losing diversity at record rates, and so on.

There is another serious problem with viewing matters as if we had attained some height, and that is that it suggests that all we need now to do is to step down from the peak and make our way back to the lower realms. In other words, don’t worry, gravity will pretty much take care of things for us.

I’ll be investigating these matters for a while, so I hope a few of you will bear with me, and possibly even contribute thoughts of value to the process. Please note that repeating dogmas and propaganda generated by the corporate media, especially the right-wing corporate media, is not a positive contribution, but it will be one of the areas I examine in the coming postings, if things go as planned.