Bob Higgins

Fire, Water, Wind or Sunshine, a Watt is a Watt

Posted in Bob Higgins at Clean Technica, Environment, Politics by Bob Higgins on September 1, 2011
Bookmark and Share
Unicorn Tears, An Approved Hippie Energy Source

Unicorn Tears As An Energy Source?

I sometimes think that many of us have a deep seated mania that causes us to believe that for a substance to be an effective source of energy it must be something that can be burned. Not only must it be combustible, the substance must be hard to get. This manic belief requires that the energy source must be searched out and dug up or clawed from the earth at great trouble and expense.

What’s more, to be a credible source the fuel must be retrieved from the bowels of the earth or the deepest depths of the ocean in an odyssey by intrepid explorers with fedoras and a five day growth of manly stubble, all else is considered to be alchemy.

“We know that renewable energies like solar and wind at this point in time are not capable of addressing the world’s total energy demands.” The Remarkable Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate from Clean Technica by Glenn Meyers

Not to single out a fellow writer here at Clean Technica, I’ve heard and read similar statements many times but the fact that they grossly distort the reality of the potential energy sources all around us does make them nettlesome. Actually we “know” no such thing.

I don’t know where this belief comes from or how it got started, maybe it’s primal. It could be an archetype, lodged early in the human mind, left over from the terror, fascination, even trauma, when some guy with a five day stubble first dragged a burning branch from a lightning struck tree back to the cave for a mastodon roast.

Originally posted at Clean Technica: Fire, Water, Wind or Sunshine, a Watt is a Watt

Here Comes The Sun, There Goes The Cat

Posted in Environment, Politics by Bob Higgins on July 19, 2011
Sunrise, St Lawrence

Sunrise, St Lawrence

In a few minutes the ancient maple tree across the street from my open window will explode with light as the sun rises behind it. A few minutes later I’ll have to adjust the blinds to keep zillions of crazy excited photons out of my eyes and in an hour or so, the cat, who loves to sleep in the window at the back of my desk, will find it uncomfortably warm. He’ll get up, stretch, toss me a disdainful look and move lazily to the bed to continue his nap, allowing me to shut the window against the onset of July’s heat.

This is a moment of predictability that I share most summer mornings with the Sun and the cat, it’s become as regular as coffee, the maple ablaze with dawnlight, the disrespectful feline, the heat that moments ago left the sun and traveled through spacetime to annoy my cat and warm this meager room.

Something fascinates me about this time of my day and I suspect that the wonder is a product of its predictability. The sun does this every day, rising within a few degrees of latitude and as the seasons pass, discomfort with the heat turns to welcome. If I were Mayan perhaps I could chart the travels of the sun but I doubt that even the Mayans could chart the whims of this cat.

We spend untold billions of dollars, and human eons of time trying to produce what this predictable old sun scatters with chaotic abandon through my corner of the universe daily. Trillions, or some other more impressively nonsensical number of particles of light and energy with names as strange and whimsical as my languid cat, shoot through my window daily, at no charge and with no effort on my part. In summer, I try to shield myself from the sun’s onslaught, in winter I try to encourage and collect the warmth and comfort it offers.

But I can’t prevent it, any more than I can make this cat perform close order drill or fetch my coffee.

What is it in us that refuses to accept what the sun offers for free while we destroy mountains and oceans, rivers and forests, species and generations of humanity in a futile attempt to reproduce its products for sale?

Bob Higgins

Originally posted at Clean Technica: Here Comes the Sun, There Goes the Cat

Related Posts:

Solar Highways Turn Public Liabilities into Assets
Humpback Whales Inspire New Ocean Tidal Energy Turbine

Nuclear Power Reactors In The United States And A Few Words On A Way Out

Posted in Environment, History, Nuclear Power, Politics, Science by Bob Higgins on March 17, 2011
Bookmark and Share

We continue to throw great piles of money down the bottomless pit of energy subsidies for already obscenely flush corporatio­­ns in the oil, gas and nuclear industries­­; are we insane or just stupid?

Why don’t we take at least half of that, say 25 billion annually and start a crash program for the rapid developmen­­t and installati­­on of renewables like solar, wind, tidal, current, wave and other emerging technologi­­es like biofuels from non food and waste sources.

The Manhattan Project was completed in four years for 2 billion. Adjust that number for today’s dollars and take it back from the energy criminals that we’ve allowed to push us around for so long and make them pay for the technology that will put them out of business.

We simply need to stop making excuses for inaction, fossil fuels are killing us, nuclear is showing itself as enormously expensive and unmanageab­­le and likely to kill us even faster and the whole mess is killing the planet on which we should be relaxing and enjoying this little hayride around the Sun.

A Manhattan Project for making a major portion of the shift to clean renewable fuels could probably get us half way home in 5 to 10 years, perhaps faster.

We lack nothing but the will, something we had in 1942.

Bob Higgins

Related stories:
U.S. Nuclear Power Plants Had 14 ‘Near-Miss’ Problems In 2010: UCS Report (PHOTOS)
Questions about reactors in U.S. resonating louder
How vulnerable are U.S. nuclear plants?

The remaining material on this page is from the NRC website

Boiling Water Reactors

In a typical commercial boiling-water reactor, (1) the core inside the reactor vessel creates heat, (2) a steam-water mixture is produced when very pure water (reactor coolant) moves upward through the core, absorbing heat, (3) the steam-water mixture leaves the top of the core and enters the two stages of moisture separation where water droplets are removed before the steam is allowed to enter the steam line, and (4) the steam line directs the steam to the main turbine, causing it to turn the turbine generator, which produces electricity. The unused steam is exhausted in to the condenser where it condensed into water. The resulting water is pumped out of the condenser with a series of pumps, reheated and pumped back to the reactor vessel. The reactor’s core contains fuel assemblies that are cooled by water circulated using electrically powered pumps. These pumps and other operating systems in the plant receive their power from the electrical grid. If offsite power is lost emergency cooling water is supplied by other pumps, which can be powered by onsite diesel generators. Other safety systems, such as the containment cooling system, also need electric power. Boiling-water reactor’s contain between 370-800 fuel assemblies. See also our animated diagram and pdf file of generic diagrams that detail elements of the boiling-water reactors.

Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) (more…)