So the Nuclear option seems choice. The Fukushima disaster of 2011 has ruined Earth’s ecosystem and I think it is way too late to save our planet when we factor in the damage done. Radioactive contaminants from Fukushima are carried across the Pacific Ocean by currents, the strongest of which is the Kuroshio, and spread along the West Coast of North America by complex coastal processes. Models predict that radionuclides from Fukushima will begin to arrive on the West Coast in early 2014, mainly in the north (Alaska and British Columbia) and then moved further south in the years since before appearing in Hawaii in small amounts. The concentration of contaminants is expected to be well above limits set by the U.S. EPA for cesium-137 in drinking water (7,400 Bq/m3) or even the highest level recorded in the Baltic Sea after Chernobyl (1,000 Bq/m3). The media tell this story as if it’s nothing.
There aren’t great estimates of how much of each of these isotopes were released into the ocean since TEPCO, the company that owns the power plant hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with information, but the current estimates are around 538,100 terabecquerels (TBq) which is above Three-Mile Island levels, but below Chernobyl levels. And as it turns out, they recently found contaminated groundwater has also started leaking into the sea. TEPCO, the gift that keeps on giving.
WHAT’S A BEQUEREL? WHAT’S A SIEVERT?
Units of Radiation are confusing. When you start reading the news/literature/blogs, there are what seems like a billion different units to explain radiation. But fear not, I’ve listed them below and what they mean (SI units first).
Becquerel[Bq] or Curie[Ci]: radiation emitted from a radioactive material (1 Ci = 3.7 × 1010 Bq) Gray [Gy] or Rad[rad]: radiation absorbed by another material (1Gy = 100 rad) Sieverts[Sv]* or “roentgen equivalent in man”[rem]: how badly radiation will damage biological tissue (1 Sv = 100 rem) Now all that is hard to understand, I understand it at the same level as a 16 year old researching this story. 1 Rod exposed could kill the entire Pacific Ocean, 10,000 rods were exposed to our sea. The video below shows how it will and has spread.
So we must ask why Nuclear Power when Solar Power is cheaper and not Dangerous? Always the small detail in life escapes us and we see a simple story to make a big story go away, yet our leaders do nothing. Here in Scotland I am surrounded with Nuclear Stations, 1 mistake and Millions die. All this makes the 1986 Chernobyl disaster look like a small spill. Why can’t or won’t the World go Solar Power? Money? I think here in Scotland we all understand the if’s and what’s of money making in this World. Money comes before populous. Thought I would share.
For the USA it is bad and the media say nothing:
How the Fukushima disaster of 2011 has travelled our World [VIDEO]
As Japan seeks to end reliance on nuclear power, one of the answers is floating ‘solar islands’, writes Jon Major. A 70MW solar island opened last year, and two additional plants have just been announced.
Two companies in Japan recently announced they are to begin building two large solar power islands that will float on reservoirs. This follows smartphone maker Kyocera’s Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar power plant, the country’s largest at 70 megawatts, which opened in late 2013 and is found floating in the sea just off the coast of southern Japan.
The two new solar islands, to be built by Kyocera and commercial partners, will form a network of thirty 2MW stations – adding another 60MW of solar capacity. The move comes as Japan looks to move on from the Fukushima disaster of 2011 and meet the energy needs of its 127m people without relying on nuclear power.
Shattered confidence in nuclear power
Before the incident around 30% of the country’s power was generated from nuclear, with plans to push this to 40%. But Fukushima destroyed public confidence in nuclear power, and with earthquakes in regions containing reactors highly likely, Japan is now looking for alternatives. Solar power is an obvious solution for relatively resource-poor nations. It is clean, cost-competitive, has no restrictions on where it can be used and has the capability to make up for the energy shortfall.
A small fact that solar researchers love to trot out is that enough sunlight falls on the earth’s landmass around every 40 minutes to power the planet for a year. To put this another way, if we covered a fraction of the Sahara desert in solar panels we could power the world many times over.
The technology already exists, so producing enough solar power comes primarily down to one thing: space. For countries such as the USA with lots of sparsely populated land this is not an issue, and there have already been a large number of solar farms installed around the country.
For Japan, the answer is offshore
But Japan where space is limited, more inventive solutions are required. This is the principle reason behind the decision to move their solar power generation offshore.
While the land is highly congested, and therefore expensive, the sea is largely unused. It therefore makes a good degree of sense to use this space for floating power plants. The panels are designed to be waterproof and a number of these types of plants have been built in Japan already, including the large installation in Kagoshima.
Part of the beauty of solar power is how simple it is to use. At a basic level, once you buy the off-the-shelf photovoltaic module, it’s simply a case of plugging it in. The principle engineering challenge of offshore solar farming consists of little more than building a pier and covering it in solar panels.
This may be a slightly glib oversimplification, but consider the relative difficulties in comparison to the construction of an offshore oil drilling platform. These represent a true engineering challenge and a true risk when that challenge is failed, as we saw all too clearly with the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
The risks and difficulty associated with off-shore solar are vanishingly small by comparison. Floating solar also has some interesting fringe benefits. Solar modules function much better when cooler, so situating them near water actually helps performance.
Synergistic benefits emerge
In India they have also been used as an interesting dual purpose solution. In the state of Gujarat, solar panels were installed atop the Narmada canal, serving to both generate power and prevent water evaporating from beneath.
There is also no reason why the design needs to be so functional. By far the most unique application is the concept of ‘energy ducks’, giant floating solar panel-coated water fowlwhich have been proposed to sit in Copenhagen harbour acting as both a tourist attraction and carbon-neutral power source. This may never happen unfortunately, but it is a rather wonderful demonstration of how solar power can be applied in many different ways.
Solar islands could certainly be a solution for other countries where space is an issue – it’s possible that one day a significant portion of Europe’s power could be generated by giant solar pontoons in the ocean. The technology exists and the engineering challenges are nothing that can’t be overcome. The only questions now are whether the will is there to push solar islands as a solution – and more importantly do we make them duck shaped?
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