2007/08/22

The Downward Climate Spiral

When I first read the linked article I thought, "Blistering heat in the Southeast this year. Yeah makes sense." But then upon reflection I found myself getting really nervous.

In a nutshell, the high temperature of the water in the Tennessee River forced the TVA to shut down Unit 2 at the Browns Ferry nuclear power station. At 90 degrees, the water was simply too hot to effectively cool the reactor. And once Unit 2 was offline, the TVA had to buy power on the open market satisfy demand which was higher than normal to start with because of the heat. So...where do you think the power came from? Almost certainly from coal-fired generators--probably plants in net energy-producing states like Wyoming.

Now those of you who've read Blognonymous for a while know that I'm a nuclear power advocate. Though not without environmental, legal, and logistical challenges, nuclear is still a very important component in moving our country toward a future free of fossil fuel dependence, and the plain fact is that we're going to need all the nuclear (fission), wind, solar, fusion, matter/anti-matter, whatever-the-f*ck technology we can deploy--along with a huge dose of conservation--to get ourselves out of the current climate mess.

So was Browns Ferry an isolated incident? I sure as hell hope so. At 30%, TVA generates more of their energy mix from nuclear than just about any other producer, and they're also having trouble with their hydroelectric generation (10%) due to low river levels at their dams. So if we're passing the point where we can deploy nuclear projects safely because of cooling issues, and the only alternative is the one power source that's causing climate-change problems in the first place, then how the hell are we going to get ourselves out of this mess?

13 Comments:

Interesting how the Dust Bowl coincided with the Depression. It's hard to be cheerful nowadays.
Drop by Left of Centrist for a major announcement.
Things are heating up.
It's been the first nice summer in a while up north.
Deb... It is indeed. I think that we've got an opportunity w.r.t. climate change. We can embrace attempting to deal with it and be at the vanguard of developing the technologies, or we can continue to deny what is going on and consign ourselves (and probably the rest of the human race) to the dustbin of history. We've got a choice now, but won't for much longer.

Aaron... Been nice here in Babylon by the Bay as well--which for us means a little warmer than normal.
I'm a nuclear power advocate
It's always good to know the points of divergence and we've dealt with that one.
There really does need to be more attention on reducing consumption. A recent survey here showed that those who could afford, and indeed installed, effective power reducing measures more than made up for the gain with other consumption.
But in the end there won't be many options apart from cutting back on the stuff we treasure.
How unsettling. This is just a short-term solution and suggestion, but why couldn't they take water from the ground? In my area, many of us have wells and the water always comes out of the tap cold.
Good luck with that matter/antimatter idea. I tried a few simple experiments in that direction and damn if I didn't singe the heck out of my eyebrows. Not to mention time running backwards sometimes out in the shed where I conducted the experiments.

Be careful, is all I'm sayin'. You don't want to accidentally open a portal to another universe. Or - - - maybe you DO!! (that last bit was supposed to be accompanied by dramatic organ music.)
But in the end there won't be many options apart from cutting back on the stuff we treasure.

Cartledge... That's certainly true, but generating capacity that doesn't rely on fossil fuels still has to be developed. Coal, oil, and natural gas are all finite resources. Unfortunately, nothing generates the megawatts like splitting atoms.

Kathy... It's a good suggestion, but I suspect that it being infeasible has to do with the huge amount of water required. I don't know for sure, but I suspect that the amount of water required is measured in millions of gallons per day.
...and damn if I didn't singe the heck out of my eyebrows.

Those electron/positron annihilations are a bitch, aren't they? Guess we'd be better off with fusion. Now how far off is that? Two decades? Seems that's what they were saying when I was 10...and 20...and 30...and 40.
Answer is simple: we forsake this materialistic, soul-less, greedy technologically obsessed society and go back to a more simple lifestyle.

We will be forced to soon enough assuming the Big Nuke doesn't end it all over the next few months. Cheers.
Hello, Kvatch.
A part of the problems there are due to the age of the reactors.
I would include design problems such as this under that heading.

Just a note: All the reduction we can currently undertake still won't account for the growth in demand due to population growth.

I still think hydro is the best way to go. It doesn't have the problems associated with wind & solar.
Look at how little of Russia's electricity is produced from fossil fuels, and how much of it comes from the Volga.
Daniel... I definitely hear you. Though I'm not quite ready to head for my own little rough-hewn cabin in the woods, the Frogette and I are certainly in a divesting phase. Car? Gone. Cable? Gone. I won't take a job that I can't get to on public transit, and the Frogette now works from home.

ProgressiveT... That's an interesting point. Do "pebble-bed" reactors have the same problem? I wonder. As for reduction...it's definitely a combination of factors. America consumes a huge amount of the world's energy. That has to change.
It's been the first nice summer in a while up north.

It's been too damn hot!

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