Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Reactor uprates

Brian Wong has reported that MIT and Westinghouse have been developing new technologies that would, with minor modifications increase PWR electrical output by 50%. These developments include new "doughnuts" shaped design for fuel pellets. Other power technologies including the use of "spiked" or nanofluid water -- water interspersed with tiny particles of oxides and metals only billionths of a meter in diameter - to increase fluid heat transfer are being investigated by MIT. Not only would the new fuel design allow for increased reactor power output, but it would also increase reactor safety, by lowering operating temperatures. The "doughnuts" shaped fuel has by itself the potential to add 50% power output to existing and planned reactors.

Well developed approaches to uprating old reactors by more than 20% of designed output already exist. (See here and here) Major uprates are usually conducted in conjunction with major repair designed to extend reactor life. If reactor owners are going to replace parts anyway, it costs little extra to install new parts that push the system to towards maximum power safety will allow.

There are 3 types of current uprates:
• Stretch Power Uprate (SPU) – which yields up to 7% thermal power uprate through additional analysis of existing safety margins in the plant, usually with no hardware changes required.
• Measurement Uncertainty Recapture (MUR) power uprate that usually nets a 1.5% thermal power uprate through improved feedwater flow measurements.
• Extended Power Uprate (EPU) - which can result in 20% or more thermal power uprate through analysis of safety margins at higher powers and implementation of necessary plant modifications.

Increasing coolant flow rates is the key to uprating since increase of the reactor thermal power would be restricted by the maximum fuel temperature limit. Thus if coolant flowed through the fuel, thermal power could be increased without increasing fuel temperature. The modification to the reactor would cost far less per MW than building a new reactor.

Reactor uprating to date has had virtually no "green" opposition.

EPU uprates make significant improvements in reactor output. In 2006 the NRC approved a 20% EPU uprate for the Vermont Yankee reactor, increasing its generating capacity to 640 MWe. This uprate would be part of a refurbishing program that the NRC would expect in order to license the extension of the life of the 36 year old reactor for another 20 years. The reactor started operation in 1972 and an application for a 20 year life extension has been given to the NRC for its approval. Nuclear plants begin to face an ever increasing likelihood of major systems wearing out after the 40 year mark. Thus life extension licensing by the NRC is dependent on replacement of parts likely to ware out.

Both Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs) and Pressurized Water Reactors (PWRs) can be uptated, but PWRs yield better uprate results. MIT is, however, also working to improve BWR performance and safety. MIT has developed a new fuel design for BWRs that promises a 30% power density uprate while lowering coolant pressure by 30%, thus enhancing electrical output and reactor safety.

The suggested 50% uprate made possible by the MIT/Westinghouse annular fuel, and the 30% power increase for BWR's could be installed as a part of the NRC mandated 40 year refurbishment and would not impose exceptional expenses beyond the basic cost of the or repair and replacement.

Westinghouse has already developed uprates to the AP-1000 that increase its generating capacity to 1250 GWs. The Chinese have bought the uprate technology. A 50% uprate to the AP-1000 would being its power generation into the 1800 MW range. If this is possible, it would be very attractive to Westinghouse and its customers, because the modification would add little to AP-1000 construction costs. A 30% uprates would be also be attractive for new GE BWRs.

Uprating older American reactors with the new MIT technology would increase the output of the American reactor fleet by nearly half, with small materials input. Theoretically, even without new reactor construction, the nuclear contribution to the national electricity supply could be increased to nearly 30%, thus cutting national greenhouse gas emissions by 4%.

The fuel design modifications for LWR's have in my estimation a high probability of success. The "spiked" water approach has more problems in my estimation. It is less likely to come to fruition in the short term, and may never realize the potential MIT scientists envision for it. According to MIT scientist Jacopo Buongiorno, nanoparticles could agglomerate and settle quickly if chemical and thermal conditions are not carefully maintained within the reactor. This suggest that the presence of nanoparticles could pose significant safety hazards in the event of a nuclear accident. A temperature buildup might force the precipitation of nanoparticles, which in turn might cause coolant water to flash into steam. The result could be a potentially disastrous reactor explosion. The NRC, I think, will look long and hard before it licenses the use of nanoparticle coolant technology in reactors.

The MIT modification of LWR fuel shape does not, however, solve the problems of the nuclear industry. No matter how many modifications are built into LWR's to enhance there efficiencies, some fundamental disadvantages of LWRs can never be removed. Advances in LWR technology can keep LWR's competitive in cost with renewables, while decreasing materials input per MW of output. Long term radical design approach changes are needed to increase generating thermal efficiency, lower fuel and construction costs, streach the reactor fuel supply, enhance reactor safety and eliminate the problem of nuclear waste. The Molten Salt Reactor can achieve all of these goals, and represents the best alternative to the LWR approach.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

to detract attention

"Governments and industry love to talk about the things they plan to do, perhaps to detract attention away from what they haven't done or aren't doing." - Tyler Hamilton

Quote from the same article: "We're not actually doing very much. We're in a world where there's an enormous amount of talk but very little actual action." - Professor David Keith, University of Calgary

"There's been no shortage of press release." - Tyler Hamilton

PV Module Price Trend: 5 year prece increase tracked.

Most advocates of solar power claim that the price of PV modules is decreasing. My concerns have primarily focused on the effects of materials prices on the future costs of solar installations. However, Dan M. points to evidence that Solar costs are not dropping dramatically, this study suggest that the price of solar models is not falling at all. There has been in the last five years a modest but real price in the price of PV modules.

The multiyear price trend for PV generated electricity, does not suggest a dramatic price fall is arouind the corner

Dan M and the Dream Era of Confusion

Dan M and the Dream Era of Confusion

We are like people waking from a dream. We as human beings possess the tools to distinguish fantasy and illusion from reality, but our reality detecting tools are not yet sufficiently engaged.

The January 2008 edition of Scientific American published “A Solar Grand Plan: By 2050 solar power could end U.S. dependence on foreign oil and slash greenhouse gas emissions,” by Ken Zweibel, James Mason and Vasilis Fthenakis.

This proposal called for the creation of a highly centralized solar power system that could provide 69% of American power by 2050. The power generating array would be located in the desert Southwest. Overnight power would be stored underground. The energy recovery system would involve the burning of natural gas. Power from the 8500 square miles array PV array would be shipped east by a 400 billion dollar high tech power transmission line.

Let us call this proposal the dream. There are other dreams, of course. Advocates of wind power, also think a highly centralized wind generating system, also an using extremely expensive, high tech grid system could solve the American energy problem, by 2050.

The “Solar Grand Plan” did generate a great deal of comment, and those comment in the Scientific American Community section. The entire comment section should be required reading for anyone who is thinking seriously about energy solutions. My attention was drawn to comments by Dan M, who is has clearly awaken, and is acutely aware of the differentiation of the real future and dreams. Dan M. also has a blog. In his blog, Dan not only punctures the solar dream ballon, but he also delivers a devastating critique of land use requirements for wind generated electricity.

Dan also attacks what he calls "the Captain Picard syndrome." Dan observes, "[the Captain Picard syndrome] is the belief that all they need to do is determine a desirable goal, provide leadership and funding, tell the geeks “make it so” and it should happen. If it doesn’t, its an indication of incompetence or malfeasance on the part of the tech. guys."

Dan is quite obviously a serious thinker on energy issues, a thinker who is able to cut through the lack of cogent analysis, that lies at the heart of our current energy future discussion. Every one of Dan’s comments could be read profitably in their entirety, but here is a selection of excerpts:

“if we look at the history of estimations of the cost and timeframe for large, government sponsored dedicated programs, we find a less than thrilling record.

The space shuttle was supposed to drop lift price by a factor of 100; it didn’t even cut them in half. The space station was supposed to cost 10% of what it cost, and do more. Supersonic travel was to be the wave of the future, and the US was going to fall far behind by not funding it. The Japanese were going to leave us in the dust, partially because their government funded the fifth generation computer development and ours stayed, for the most part, out of the market. Commercial fusion was just 30 years away, (and still is. :).” - Dan M.

“If you look at the history of predictions of future technology, you will see many more misses than hits. Most new ideas are wrong; most new technology is too expensive, has limited application, or Nature’s siding with the hidden flaw is just too much to overcome.”

"I think that the foundation of our disagreement is that I don’t think that we now know the best path, or the true cost of various paths." = Dan M.

“As mentioned in the thread referenced below, the variation in exposure to natural radiation as a function of locality gives a good reference point for this. The average person in Denver receives about 1040 millirem of radiation from radon, compared to about 200 for the average American. Radon, by the nature of the exposure, should primarily be responsible for lung cancer. If the linear hypothesis were true, then there should be a significant excess of lung cancers in Denver over the national average, especially for non-smokers. Yet, we do not see this obvious smoking gun.”

“So, if one compares apples to apples, one would argue that nuclear power is far safer than bicycles, cell phones, ladders, tricycles, etc. We do not ban these items because people might die as a result of their use. If global warming is a real, significant problem, then I can’t see how one could argue that we should eschew nuclear power because it is possible that someone might die due to an accident, while we accept children dying at far far higher rates from other accidents.”

“I realize that the argument has always been “what if we have a catastrophe?” My answer is that we had one, and less than 100 people died. Far fewer than die every month from more mundane accidents.” – Dan M.

“As for nuclear power, the anti-nuclear movement has succeeded in adding tremendous costs to nuclear power in the US. The fact that other countries are planning/building nuclear power plants without the massive (in terms of the total cost/price) subsidies that are given to wind power and solar power throughout the world indicates that nuclear power is more than cost competitive with wind and solar on a level playing field.” – Dan M.


James Mason wrote:

>Also, Dan M. tries to downplay the severity of the Chernobyl accident

Hmm…I tried to give the best analysis of the data that I could. I would be open to additional data and/or other analysis. Having been a Radiation Safety Officer, I’m rather familiar with the data on low level exposure. Heck, it is in my self interest to do so, since my job exposes me to low level radiation.

Dr. Mason, I try hard to understand and respond to critiques of my analysis. Unfortunately, a one sentence dismissal of my analysis gives me next to nothing to work with. For example, do you think that radiation levels that exist in Denver are dangerous? Are they so dangerous that we need to plan to abandon Denver? If not, wouldn’t it be reasonable for me to use Denver as a baseline, since we cannot find any radiation based increase in illnesses from living there (even though the linear model indicates that there should be a > 6 sigma signal?

I tried to find the best sources I could for analyzing the damage to due Chernobyl. The official study group seems to be the best to me? Do you think other groups provide better analysis? If so, why?

>but federal hearings held about what if the 9/11 terrorists had decided to attack the Indian Point >reactors just north of NYC.

OK, hearings were held. Where are the proceedings? Who testified?

>Evidence suggests that the planes would have penetrated the reactor containment
>shells and possibly have triggered a meltdown.

I looked for analysis on the web

>I live on Long Island and we cannot be evacuated in a timely manner.

OK, you are probably 50+ miles from the plant. If you are, a Chernobyl type event would involve sheltering in place for a couple of days, and then very low levels of exposure….well as long as you don’t have a severe iodine deficiency. If you do, you would need to take iodine fairly quickly.

>And what about long-term displacement of people caused by the Chernobyl accident.

According to the WHO, most of health problems found in the general public was due to over-reaction by individuals and governments(2). Thyroid cancer was a problem for children, but less than 20 deaths were caused by it. Still, the WHO considers the evacuation of 120k people a reasonable precaution.

This isn’t a good thing, but it’s certainly not without precedent in the US. The permanent relocation from New Orleans is far higher than this….and this is just a low risk, not a near certainty, like the devastation of New York City from a CAT-4 hurricane (even without global warming, it is probable).

Indeed, I’d argue that the terrorists chose the right targets to cause damage. The risk to life and property from the WTC attack was higher than from a nuclear plant attack. We were _lucky_ that the terrorists attacked as early as they did. If the first hit on the WTC was 2 hours later, it would have been full. The normal occupation is 50k, and it took 8 hours to empty the building after the first WTC terrorist attack. A 30k death toll from a 10AM coordinated attack would be a reasonable guess.

Hitting a reactor containment building at high speed would be extremely difficult. It is a small target and one cannot just fly on a level to hit it. It is very unlikely that the wings would penetrate the concrete containment vessel, given the fact that a 30 ton fighter plane crashing into a wall similar to the first containment vessel didn’t penetrate. If you are interested, we can discuss this in detail, but I fear that you are not interested in probabilistic assessments.

>What would have been the long-term impact on NYC in terms of displaced
>people if the Indian Point nuclear plant had been attacked and a meltdown
>triggered (it is unimaginable).

It depends on whether people respond to real or imagined risk. Let us use Chernobyl as an extreme model. There was no containment, the reactor vented to the open air. Even a breached containment would restrict dispersion better than a massive burn into the open air. If this happened at Indian Point, using Chernobyl as a model, no one would be evacuated.

I’m basing my analysis on the Chernobyl Study Group 20 year publication on this issue.(3), as well as my earlier analysis of low exposure danger.

As an aside, if you look at the danger from a dirty radioactive bomb, it is almost all terror, and very little direct danger. People who happily move to Denver and get exposed to 1300 millirem a year would still be afraid of walking into an area where the exposure rate is elevated by 30 millrem/year.

>There is zero chance of anything like this occurring with the Grand Solar Plan.

This argument works if and only if the Grand Solar Plan is as proven an energy program as nuclear power is. I’ve seen scores of plans that are not nearly as ambitious, and they always take longer and cost more when they work. Most of these plans don’t work at all, they are just very well sold. As I said elsewhere, I’ll place your plan in the good category, but I think it extremely imprudent to believe that you can be the singular exception to the general rule of projects.

Finally, it appears to me that you eschew numerical analysis. Looking through your arguments, they seem to be predominantly non-quantitative arguments. For example, you discuss a possible meltdown without giving the probability. If I am wrong, I’d be happy to give my analysis in detail, with proper references.” – Dan M.

“Dr. Mason,

I have a question about your understanding of economics. I look at the leading role that fossil fuels have played in supplying energy since coal replaced water power as the primary industrial energy source in the late 18th and early 19th century. The reason for this seems clear to me; fossil fuels have provided a cheap, compact, portable energy source. Oil, in particular, had tremendous advantages, because it can be harnessed by directly tapping the energy of quick explosive burning pushing pistons instead of requiring steam to push the pistons.

These underlying economics provide a basis for governmental decisions. They cannot be overturned by governmental decisions. For example, when FDR cut off oil exports to Japan in 1941, they were forced into a decision to either pull back or attack…and they chose the latter. They needed the oil, and the government was not powerful enough to stop this.

Second, the price of oil is only marginally controllable by producers and consumers of the product. The drastic drop of oil prices to levels (in inflation adjusted dollars) unseen since the early years of the Great Depression was a boon to the consumer and devastating to the oil industry. It resulted in the 3rd 50% layoff I had seen in the oil patch. Even though the impact around the world was otherwise minimal, the burst of the Asian bubble in the last half of the 1990s pulled the rug from under oil prices.

The price rises were also unstoppable by the consumers, no matter how much they wanted prices to fall. Windfall profit taxes can be instituted against western companies that profited from the price rise, but short of invading oil producing countries, there is no way to actually force the price down as long as the market forces are pushing it up. Even with a >5x increase in prices, world oil consumption has continued to rise. This will continue until other alternatives are cheaper.

And, of course, if consumption does decrease (as it did in the mid 80s) prices will fall nearly as fast as they rise. Both the supply and demand for oil have been demonstrated to be rather inelastic.

Given this situation, the economic security of the world is dependent on an uninterrupted supply of oil. And, as the lone superpower with the ability to project significant force, the US is in the position where it has to ensure this supply. If the US doesn’t, no-one will.

This is part of the cost of oil being critical to the world economy. But, it isn’t a subsidy in the way that ethanol, solar and wind are subsidized. The US government pays a third of the cost of wind power in order to promote its use. If the US didn’t do this, wind farms would not be expanding as they are. If the US didn’t subsidize ethanol, a third of the corn crop would not go to ethanol. If the US decided that it would no longer assure world trade, oil would not simply fade away. The US’s defense spending is a reaction to the importance of oil, not a means of encouraging the use of oil. Even if it were the latter, it would only represent 3% of the total cost of oil; which is on the order of the week to week market volatility.

Government projects, prudently done, can nudge the economy and provide a backbone for it. The sponsorship of infrastructure, from the Erie canal, to transcontinental railroads, to the National Defense Highway System are good examples of this. Fiscal policy is needed to counter depressions; that is clear to me.

But it is also clear that planned economies have, with no exceptions that I can think of devastating failures. The Soviet Union is a classic example. The difference between the planned and market economies in China and India are other large scale examples. Smaller examples also exist, from the British Coal Board, to the Concord, to the Japanese 5th generation computer project in the ‘80s, to the French layoff prohibitions, to the ethanol subsidy abound.

By training, I’m a research scientist. I do data analysis for a living, my bias is always to look at the data first to make empirical predictions from patterns I’ve seen in the past. Looking at these data, I conclude that governmental planning is not a good way to determine how the economy will unfold over the next 50 years.

In addition, it should be self evident that even if the US were to choose to go to solar power, no matter what the cost, this will not change the use of coal by China. China has now surpassed the US in greenhouse gas production (as of 2006). If current trends (from 2000 to 2006) continue, China should produce more greenhouse gasses than the US and Western Europe combined by 2011. It will produce more than twice that produced by the US and Europe combined by 2017. And, according to statements from China, they are willing to pay lip service to environmental concerns, but still plan to massively increase their coal production.(1) They will be more than happy to achieve a dominant role in the production of solar panels, but will not be interested in more than PR boutique use of solar energy until it makes economic sense for them.

Finally, I’ve been around proposed grand projects for >25 years now. The best ones take longer and cost more. The worst ones are all smoke and mirrors. I am placing the plan y’all are proposing in the first category, not the second. Still, there are significant warning signs that need to be heeded.

The first is that a 50% subsidy is considered simply not enough. Wind power is expanding like nobody’s business with this magnitude of a subsidy. I see windmill blades on the freeway on a regular basis.

Yet, you seem to argue that solar prices will only fall if the US government spends 400 billion as seed money. This is a far greater investment than wind needs. This indicates to me that y’all think the price drop will not be a natural market function that results from improved efficiencies.

Further, this 400 billion is not the total cost. It is simply seed money. If total prices are only $1.00 per watt of installed power (which would be significantly less than $1.00 per watt for the solar installations themselves) , the plan calls for about a 14 trillion investment. If total prices are higher, say $2.00, the plan would call for a 28 trillion dollar investment. While I can understand how a 14 trillion investment over 90 or so years is feasible with the government paying far less than a tithe of this money, a 28 trillion investment would be a very different situation. The government would have to pay the excess cost, which a back of the envelope

Let’s just say the US government cowboys up and pays this money, somehow. This would slow the increase in the amount of greenhouse gasses put into the atmosphere every year, but more would still be put in every year. Only if fossil fuels are not the clear cheap alternative will this trend stop.

Predicting market prices and the cost of technology 20 years hence has proven near impossible for just about everyone who as tried over the past 50 years (with the exception that with enough predictions, someone has to be right by random chance). Given this, it seems foolish to me to believe that, in this case, we have the one exception to this rule. In this one case, for the first time ever, the government can pick the future of technology.

If global warming is a significant problem, as I believe, counting on unprecedented good fortune to counter it is not prudent, IMHO.

Now, this is not saying that solar power will not be worthwhile. I don’t think _I_ can make this type of prediction any more than I think the authors can. What I can do is look at what has succeeded in the past, and how government has helped in this.

The first and most important is funding basic research. I don’t know what will come of it, but I do know that the more we have known about the fundamentals, the more innovations we have had.

The second is changing the ground rules to better reflect the total cost of utilizing fossil fuels into the price. Thus, a carbon tax makes sense.

The third is a long term (but temporary one hopes) price support for energy sources that do not emit greenhouse gasses. This is the most problematic, because it edges towards planned economies. But, if one offers the same support for sequestering, the distortions towards inefficient practices and technology should be minimized…as long as the nation is diligent in keeping it from being diverted into focused pork barrel projects, like ethanol.”

Mass Production of Small MSRs for Sustainable Low Cost Electricity

Kirk Sorensen and his associates (William A. Casino Jr and and Christopher Whitener) certainly deserved their American Nuclear Society's Student Design Competition
prize. There are more details on the UT Nuclear Engineering website. Kirk's blog contains links to their paper and a Power Point presentation of the concept.

Sometime ago, I came to the conclusion that small (100 to 300 MW electricity output), highly efficient reactors that used inherently safe reactor technology, were the solution to our national energy issues. There are two inherently safe reactor technologies. Pebble Bed Reactors (PBR) and Molten Salt Reactors (MSR). Of the two, the MSR has many advantages.

Kirk's small reactor has has all of the features I would look for in a small reactor. It can be produced on an assembly line. It can be shipped to its final destination by conventional transportation methods, its set up costs would be far less than the on site construction costs of conventional reactors.

Another advantage would be the savings on material costs. Reader's of Nuclear Green might be aware of my argument that materials input costs are a major issue in evaluating alternate solutions to the national energy problem.

Clearly Kirk is on the right track. If I am right 1 GW of nuclear generating capacity can be mass produced in a "small nuks" factory, at far lower costs than the current construction costs for a 1 GW Generation 3+ reactor.

The mass production approach makes a systematic attack on costs. By mass production both labor and parts costs can be lowered. Capitol costs can be lowered, because reactor manufacture would no longer be a multiyear task. The use of MSR technology would dramatically lower materials cost. Massive containment structures would no longer be necessary. Location would no longer be a problem.

Small reactors can be set up close to the source of electricity demand, minimizing grid inefficincies. No massive new $400 billion high tech grid would be be required to handle the massive local power generation envisioned by current solar and wind schemes.

Molten Salt Reactor technology can provide the world with sustainable energy for at least the next 10,000 years. Small MSRs appear to be the key to unlocking that promise.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Canadians on Texas Juries

I do not have time to post today, but if you are desperate to read something I have written. and you are interested in a serious discussion of the most pressing social issue of our time, you can read my discussion of the dangers posed by the presence of Canadian wetbacks on Texas juries, posted on bartoncii.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Economic Case for Eliminating Fossil Fuels Use

Even if we did not believe in AGW there are powerful reasons for quickly ending the use of Fossil fuels. My father found data which showed that for every GWy of electricity generated by coal fired power plants, there were as many as 100 deaths. Not only that but their are clear indicators that the use of liquid fossil fuels in transportation is associated with staggering problems problems. There has been a tremendous increase in asthma cases in advanced societies during the last 30 years. In the United States the number of individuals diagnosed with asthma has tripled. There are now over 20 million Americans who suffer from asthma. Research has shown that the number of hospital and ER admissions for acute breathing problems peak on days of heavy transportation related air pollution. We could lower
our national health care costs by up to 20% by eliminating the use of fossil fuels in the generation of electricity and in transportation. Researchers report that atmospheric carbon fuel particulates are on the rise in the Eastern United States. Repeated studies have shown that carbon fuel particulates have a direct negative impact on human health.

A few years ago a group of Canadian doctors began to look at the health related costs of producing electricity from coal. They found that atmospheric pollutants from coal fired electrical generating plants were a significant source of health problems in the provence of Ontario. There research found that air pollution from all sources kills more than 5,900 people each year in Onterio. A Ontario government follow up study found that coal-fired power plants in Omtario were responsible for up to 668 deaths. In addition, atmospheric pollutants from coal fired generators were responsible for 928 hospital admissions and 1,100 emergency room visits every year. The health related cost to the people in Ontario associated with generating electricity by burning coal was found to be $4.4 billion. When the added health care coasts associated with burning coal were added to the direct coasts of generating electricity at coal-fired generators, coal began to look a great deal more expensive than other electricity sources.

A more recent Canadian study found that Ontario hospitals received in one year 12,518 asthma related visits (7,825 children and 4,693 adults). Of the people making ER visits 847 children (10.8%) and 322 adults (6.9%) were admitted to the hospital. The number of children with asthma, the severity of asma attacks, and yje number of asthma related hospital admissions are increasing. A Canadian study found that the number of children getting asthma attacks was increasing and that one out of five Canadian children suffered from asthma. Over one third of Ontario health insurance expenses were asthma related. Australian researchers report that 19.2% of Australian children between 5 and 14 suffer from asthma. Australia researchers found that Australia has the second-highest reported death rate from asthma in the world, and that the asthma death rate among Australian children increasing by 50% between 1980 to 1990. The number of asthma sufferers in the United States grew from 6.7 million people in 1980 to 17.3 million in 1998, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Researchers have repeatedly found a relationship between asthma and auto related air pollution. particularly ozone and particulates. The auro related air pollution is directly related to burning fossile fuels - gasoline and diesel fuels - in our cars, trucks, trains, aircraft and ships. Thus an indirect cost of burning fossil fuels, is the added bruden of an epidemic of childhood asthma, and related healthcare costs for the medical treatment of asthma.

Although litte has yet been done to confront the health problems related to burning fossil fuels in Ontario cars, the Ontario Parliament decided to shut down Ontario's coal fired power plants, because of their health related coasts. When it explored its clean electrical generating options the Ontario government discovered that several older electricity generating reactors in Ontario had been shut down and mothballed. By reconditioning the mothballed reactors, much of Ontario's coal fired electrical generating coal fired enectrical generating capacity can be replaced for far less than the cost of building new power plants from scratch. A side effect will be that electricity will be generated without producing global warming causing CO2.

Similar solutions must be found for automobiles because, peak oil will soon make carbon based transportation fuels prohibitively expensive, because pollutants from transportation exhausts have contributed to a world wide asthma plague among children and to lung related health problems for over 15% of the population of the United States, and because auto related CO2 emissions threaten our future on the Planet Earth.

Ontario premier Daiton McGuinty is no fan or nuclear power. He recently stated: “I don’t like nuclear power,” but he also realizes that nuclear power is the only viable option for Ontario’s CO2 and pollutant free energy future: “Natural gas is too expensive, wind power is unreliable, coal plants pollute the air and Ontario’s hydroelectric potential has largely been maxed out, leaving nuclear power expansions ‘on the table’ for the province.”

Brian Wong has reported that the use of fossil fuels, not only burdens so society with added healthcare costs, but shortens the life expectancy of Europeans. Wong points out that chronic illness cost the American Economy over $1.3 trillion a year. Wong reports that 16.9% of Americans suffer from Pulmonary Conditions. We are talking about 50 million people whose health and life span are effected by atmospheric pollution form fossil fuels. Wong argues that by switching from coal fired electrical generation to nuclear generation, 40% of American rail freight hauling capaciry would be freed up, thus facilitating the transfer of freight from trucking to rail without large new capitol investments by the railroads.

I raised an asthmatic child, and spent many sleepless nights with him while he was having asthma attacks. This is a serious illness, a wide spread epidemic that quite literally effects millions of children. Because we know that the burring of fossil fuels is a major source of the problem, it is imperative that we eliminate the burning of fossil fuels in transportation and in the generating of electricity.

The health care savings from the elimination of fossil fuels will more than pay the cost of doing so. I have observed that great progress in the use of battery and ultra-capacitor technology. Given current technology hybrid cars with 40 to 60 mile battery ranges will be on the market within 5 years. Within 10 years 100 mile + plug in ranges will be quite likely.

Long range trucking should be eliminated, because of the health care problems associated with truck exhaust. Urban trucking can be conducted with battery powered trucks, while inter urban freight shipping could be transfered to rail. A second health care saving that would happen because of the elimination of interurban trucking would be the elimination of the accidental death and injuries caused by trucks on the highways.

Railroads can be electrified. Rail electrification and the transfer of freight to rail are rational responces of peak oil, particulate related health costs, and global warming. 10% of American oil use can be eliminated by shifting freight from diesel trucks to electrified rail.

One does not have to believe in AGW to see the health advantages and savings in health care costs that could be gained by stopping the use of fossil fuels in electrical generation and in transportation.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Waldo Cohn and the Oak Ridge Recall Election of 1954

Introduction: This story came about because of an interest in memory. I was at the time interested in the so called "false memories syndrome" controversy. I had been driving my parents to the D/FW in December of 1996. They were chatting about a city counsel recall election in Oak Ridge. I remarked that there had been another recall election in my childhood. My mother confirmed the memory. The events in question had occurred over 40 years before. I had not thought about them for a long time, perhaps not since my childhood, I could not be sure. This appeared to be a "recovered memory" and I wanted a chance to test its accuracy. On my next visit to Oak Ridge in 1997, I went to the public library and viewed micro film copies of the Oak Ridger from the recall election period. Then I called Waldo Cohn, and asked if I could interview him about the 1954 election. He graciously invited me to his home, and told me the story of the election from his perspective. I had the satisfaction of hearing him recount some of the same stories that his son Donnie had told me while were were kids in Oak Ridge. I had no doubt that my "recovered memories" were accurate.

Waldo Cohn and the Oak Ridge Recall Election of 1954

By Charles Barton, Jr.

Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was a unique city in the 1950's. Founded during World War II, as part of the American effort to build the first atomic bomb, Oak Ridge was during the 1950's a small but dynamic community. Oak Ridge was planted in "hill billy" country, but the values and beliefs of many of its residents were at odds with those of much of the South. Waldo Cohn, a biologist and musician, was the first conductor of the Oak Ridge Symphony. He was also Oak Ridge's first mayor. I grew up with Waldo's son Donnie, and visited the Cohn home in my youth. I last saw Waldo Cohn in 1997. I wanted to ask him about his memories of the 1954 City Council recall election in Oak Ridge while he was still alive. History begins when living memory fades.

Cohn was a personal friend of Alvin Weinberg. I believe that they had been biology graduate students together at the University of Chicago. Cohn was a member of the biology division at ORNL and had made important findings on the structural chemistry of adenylic acids.

The Oak Ridge desegregation controversy began in December 1953. Oak Ridge was still an unincorporated ward of the Federal Government, and the Town Council functioned in an advisory capacity. Waldo Cohn was the Chairman of the Council. A few days before Christmas, Waldo proposed a resolution to the Council calling on President Eisenhower to desegregate Oak Ridge Schools. After a discussion the Council passed the resolution by a four to two vote.

Cohn was an extremely impressive person. Cohn was a talented celloist, in addition to being the founder, organizer and first conductor of the Oak Ridge Symphony Orchestra. He was handsome in a distinguished way. He fit my childhood image of culture and sophistication. Undoubtedly Cohn's fellow Council members were aware of his many personal assets, when they chose him Council Chairman, Oak Ridge's unofficial mayor.

As a politician Cohn suffered one weakness. He and other Council members did not expect the desegregation resolution to be controversial. They misjudged the temperament of the many Oak Ridgers who were born in the South. An idealist, Cohn did not anticipate the amount of anger that his resolution would trigger in less sophisticated members of the Oak Ridge community.

People began talking about the anti-segregation resolution at the plants. On December 24, a vociferous letters, signed by H.M. Glen, appeared in The Oak Ridger. Glen chastised "the carpet bag city council." He announced that did not care to live with "transplanted Yankees who are not satisfied to live and let live, but must always be stirring up muck and mud wherever they are."

Although Oak Ridgers came from all over the country, a majority were from the South. This was especially true of the hourly employees at the plants. The anti-segregation resolution set off a chain reaction of outrage among atomic plant workers. More letters appeared in The Oak Ridge denouncing the anti-segregation resolution and Cohn. Racial segregation of schools was not going to die in Oak Ridge without a fight.

Although four council members had voted for the resolution, anger focused exclusively on Waldo Cohn. As segregationists fumed, several members of the Town Council began to back off from their progressive stance. Cohn stood his ground.

On January 11, 1954 a petition calling for Cohn's recall was presented to Town Council by E.I. Wyatt. The same night the town council passed a resolution, sponsored by Councilman Jerry George, that rescinded the pro-integration resolution. George described the desegregation controversy as "a tragic diversion from current problems such as the demands by the AEC for a rent increase." George added that by rescinding the resolution city residents could voice their opinions "in a united and organized way."

Emotions in Oak Ridge during January and February of 1954 reached thermonuclear levels. The anti-Cohn Citizens Action Committee (CAC) claimed that dumping Cohn would restore unity and harmony to the Town Council. Cohn was accused of jeopardizing state funding of Oak Ridge Schools. (In 1954 Tennessee law prohibited using state funds for integrated schools.)

Still more letters appeared in The Oak Ridger. Oscar Smith wrote on January 12 claimed that the "colored people" of Oak Ridge "care nothing about the social affairs [of various black leaders]." They have "some of the newest and finest [schools] in the state," Smith added. “Dissatisfaction with segregation was caused by white men including communists. "I will suggest," Smith added, "that the learned people of science, music medicine, labor and what have you, resign yourselves to the laws of this state and the customs of our living."

Letter writer Hubert Owens suggested that anti-segregation letter writer Marjorie Brown should "take the next train or plane north." He added, "I highly suggest that anyone else do the same if they are not happy here."

Rose Jackson explained why Cohn had aroused so much ire. "Any person who introduces a resolution of such a controversial nature as the segregation issue, in a southern state, talks like 'the very devil' to get it passed, and succeeds is dangerous. His glib tongue, his ability to influence other people against their better judgment, proves him to be a serious liability to the community."

One letter writer, Walter Rothermel, took a plague on both your houses approach, denouncing the CAC "for its aims, motivated by ignorance." Rothermel criticized the town council for passing their resolution without planning and more public discussion. Despite this Rothermel asserted that no member of the CAC had contributed as much to the community as Waldo Cohn had.

Cohn's defenders repeatedly wondered why he alone had been targeted for recall. No one openly voiced what many suspected, that Cohn had been picked out because he was Jewish. Others suggested that harmony was not a virtue in democratic institutions and suggested that pro-recall advocates might look to the Communist Soviet Union for a model of what unity and harmony brings in political life.

Anti-recall writers pointed out a serious defect in the recall petition. The petition had inaccurately claimed that Cohn's resolution violated Town Council rules. Petitioners had relied on an obsolete copy of Council rules. No one believed, however, that the recall vote was about rules. It was a referendum about desegregation plain and simple.

Cohn told me that he received many late night calls. Some callers suggested that he seek residence in a more northern locality, while others inquired about his racial preference for his daughters’ future husbands. (Cohn had two sons, but no daughters.) Friends warned him to avoid dark places. However, he was not intimidated, actually enjoyed the controversy and even attended CAC rallies, much to the discomfort of his critics.

The controversy took on some elements of a class war. Many of the leaders of the CAC faction were hourly workers, while Oak Ridge's scientific elite rallied around Cohn. Since the major participants in the controversy were almost all white, the recall election of 1954 was virtually the only scrimmage in the Civil Rights conflict of the 1950's and 60's to be played out within a Southern white community.

My father was a native of East Tennessee, and my mother came from West Virginia. Like many educated Southerners, they opposed segregation. My mother felt uncomfortable with the controversy, and told Cohn that she agreed with him, but she was afraid that he had pushed for change too fast. Over forty years latter my mother conceded that Cohn was right, and that someone had to take the lead in pushing for desegregation. My parents both voted to retain Cohn.

The recall vote had an important long-term impact on my thinking. I read the stories and letters in The Oak Ridger, and formed the opinion that segregationists were obnoxious, irrational bullies. I have never changed my mind.

On February 8, Oak Ridgers flocked to vote in the Pine Valley School gym. By legal fiction the recall election took during an eight hour Town Council meeting. Election officials had provided only two voting machines, and extra voting machines had to be brought in. By the end of the day 5417 people voted, far more than had voted in the Town Council election.

A clear majority, 3356 voted to recall Cohn, but not the two-thirds majority required for recall. Voting eligibility standards were weak, however, and nothing prevented non-Oak Ridger residents from voting. Rumor had it that CAC car pools collected ringers from all over the region to vote.

Although progressive Oak Ridgers may have felt discouraged by the recall vote, they had in fact won the war over integration. Segregationist passions in Oak Ridge were permanently spent. The open airing of a desegregation debate had the effect of opening up many Oak Ridgers' minds. Already the Town Council had set up a citizens committee to study segregation. The real purpose of the committee was to promote the desegregation of the Oak Ridge schools.

The 1954 Brown vs. the Board of Education decision of the Supreme Court sealed the fate of segregation in Oak Ridge schools. When we were kids, Waldo Cohn's son Donny told me that when he got his hair cut at the Pine Valley Barber Shop, the barber would blamed the 1954 Supreme Court desegregation decision on Waldo.

At the very least, the controversy over Waldo's resolution made the eventual integration of the Oak Ridge Schools easier. The Oak Ridge School System belonged to the Federal government and integration was now the law of the land. In September 1955 Robertsville Junior High School and Oak Ridge High School were integrated with barely a whimper of protest. Cohn's resolution had at last passed.

The Oak Ridge recall election of 1954 has not received the attention it deserved. Although Oak Ridgers engaged in loud, acrimonious and sometimes mean spirited debate, they did not riot, beat each other up, or otherwise engage in the sort of uncivil behavior that the press loves. The two sides of the controversy were essentially white, thus the story lacked the racial drama that later school integration and civil rights controversies had. It was not covered in the national press at the time, and historians have largely ignored it since.

Waldo Cohn was born in 1910 and died in 1999.

Alvin Weinberg who was a personal friend of Waldo Cohn offered these words on him:

"The main task (in 1943) [in the Manhattan Project activities at Clinton Labs] was to produce gram quantities of the nuclear explosive, plutonium. The techniques developed there were transferred to the huge plutonium-producing nuclear reactors at Hanford, Wash.

"To manufacture plutonium, one had to 'cook' uranium in an atmosphere of neutrons in the nuclear reactor at Clinton Lab. In this process uranium atoms were split to create radioactive 'fission products.' Cohn set about to identify the chemical species of fission products. He applied to this process a technique known as 'ion exchange chromatography.'

"After the war Cohn realized that this technique could be applied to the characterization of the components of the nucleic acids, DNA and RNA. Cohn's technique ultimately led to Crick and Watson's structure of the genetic materials, DNA and RNA. For this achievement Cohn received the Chromatography Award of the American Chemical Society and he was named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

"Cohn was also the first to organize and promote the use of radioactive radioisotopes produced in nuclear reactors. The widespread use of radioisotopes is perhaps the most important scientific byproduct of the Manhattan Project."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Does Peak Oil Mean the Death of the City?

Oil Drum is one of the most important post carbon blogs. By focusing on peak oil, Oil Drum shot circuits the so called climate change debate. A new debate has broken out in oil drum about the deindustrialization of post carbon society. The notion is that faced with an increasing scarcity of oil, and skyrocketing prices for oil, large scale, machine dependent agriculture will collapse. Hords of hungry people will flood the land desperate for food, and moving onto the abandoned corperate farms, will set up peasant farming communities, which will use organic, labor intensive agricultural techniques to farm the land. The model for this new society is Cuba, well maybe Cuba without Castro.

Stuart Staniford has undertaken a critique of this "relocalization" model on Oil Drum.

A post by Sharon Astyk today in Oil Drum defends the relocalization perspective in "Is Relocalization Doomed?: A Response to Staniford’s 'Fallacy of Reversibility'".

My own perspective that the belief that the end of the carbon fuel era will mean a collapse in industrial civilization. The whole issues has a been there, done that feel for me. When I was a contract employee at ORNL in 1970-71, the whole issue of future scarcities was on the table. There was a simple ORNL solution to the problem of scarcity, that colors my thinking to this day. That solution was substitution. I am be reasonably sure that Alvin Weinberg did not invent the idea, but he sure did pick up the ball and run with it in Age of substitutability: or what do we do when the mercury runs out.

So how does substitution apply in agriculture? Simple, electricity can be substituted for oil. Agricultural machinery can be run with electricity as well as oil. Tractors, combines and other mobile machines can use battery or ultra-capacitors to store electricity. Stationary equipment can be hooked directly to the grid. Is there anything on a farm, currently any farm equiptment that cannot operate with electricity? Of course not, the question is silly.

Food can be shipped to market by electrified rail. Until the second half of the 20th century, railroads were the preferred method of shipping food. There was a spur line in every farming community. Rail hauling is still far more energy efficient than trucking, and even without electrification, a shift back to peak oil powered trains makes economic sense.

Where will post carbon electricity come from?

The answer is simple, from sustainable breeding power reactor. Clearly even if we can mine Uranium from the sea, the present nuclear power system is not indefinitely sustainable. In addition the current nuclear power system, relying as it does on light water reactor technology, is extremely wasteful. Reactor modified fuel is treated as waste rather than a resource. This leaves us with the so called problem of nuclear waste. What is really wasted in the current system is opportunities. Those opportunities are represented by the potential for more nuclear power tied up in the U238, U235 and Pu239 present in the so called "nuclear waste" and the alchemical transformation of elements which is occurring in nuclear byproducts. Maby of these byproducts are "uniquely useful, intrinsically valuable, and strategically important materials." Thus far from being the liability which the present nuclear power system treats reactor modified fuel, it is a tremendous asset. The failure to acknowledge reactor modified fuel as an asset, is perhaps the most serious public liabilities of the nuclear industry.

Why not renewables?

The big craze at the moment is renewable energy. Oak Ridge scientist looked at renewable energy in the 1970's. My father (C.J. Barton, Sr.) noted in 1974 that the problems of solar power included "the environmental effects of covering 5000 square miles of land [with solar energy collectors] and a few other problems such as the amounts of energy-intensive metals required to collect the solar energy." This is still the case. What is most amazing is the psudo environmental organizations like Greenpeace ignore the environmental impact of renewables while focusing on the far smaller impact of nuclear power.

My father's criticism of the materials input into solar generation is if anything more cogent today that in 1974. The price of steel, copper, concrete, and other materials required by renewables has dramatically increased since the beginning of the new millenium. This materials inflation is being fueled primarily by demand from China, but increasingly India is also entering the demand picture. As demand for construction materials to build renewable power generating facilities ramps up, a further inflation of materials prices will occur.

Nuclear power enjoys a considerable advantage over renewable in terms of materials cost. The materials input for renewables can be up too 10 times as much as for nuclear power per Mega Watt. Further more new nuclear technology can lower the materials input into new atomic power plants substantially. Light Water Reactors use water under high pressure. This design requires high level of materials input, and maintaining its safety requires even more. But reactor designs exist that does not operate under high water pressure. These include the Pebble Bed Reactor, and the Molten Salt Reactor. Neither design requires water as a moderator, as a coolant, or as part if its power generation. Both can be cooled by air.

Of the two new reactor designs, the Molten Salt Reactor has many advantages. Its requires less materials input than Light Water Reactors , while materials Like U238 or Th233, can be simply be left in reactors until nuclear alchemy turns them into fissionable atoms. At that point they can be burned in the chain reacton. Through radiation alchemy chain reaction byproducts are transformed into valuable and useful materials. These valuable byproducts can be chemically removed from from the molten fuel of the reactor, while it continues operation. Thus the Molten Salt Reactor is a nuclear cornicopia that can generate electricity, more reactor fuel, and valuable and often rare metals and other minerals, rather than nuclear waste.

Do we need to turn back to the soil in order to save humanity from a post peak oil collapse of civivalization. Certainly not! What an absurd idea.! Energy substitution will preserve our civilization, our way of life.

The end of the carbon fuel era is hardly the end of the age of portable energy. Energy is already carried to farms in the form of electricity. Farm machinery that now runs on carbon based fuels can be operated with electricity. Machines like tractors and combines can use electrical storage in batteries and ultra-capacitors unstead of liquid fuels. Energy is energy. Food can be transported to urban markets via electrified rail. These are simple substitutions which either involve using alternative existing technologies, or minor improvements in existing technologies. The rise of food prices now is not due to a brake down of farming technology. Rather it is caused, in no small measure, by the use of food for transportation energy. Bio-fuels use food that should be used for human consumption. It is just plain wrong to take food out of the mouths of the poor un Mexico City, in order to put ethanol into the tanks of American SUVs.

Electrical energy can come from renewable sources or from nuclear power plants. All of these technologies are sustainable on a long term basis.

If we plan wisely for the future of energy, we will not need to worry about future food shortages as Sharon Astyk does. Food production problems can be fixed with technology better than with massive human labor. The problem is not found in our material civilization, in our science, or in our technology, but in a lack of confidence in science and technology. If that problem is not fixed, we may end up paying a massive human cost.

The most unfortunate aspect of the so called relocalization movement is its expectation of an unneeded and highly undesirable decline in the the quality of human life in more advanced societies. Not only are the relocalizers willing to sacrifice the advantages of our current way of life without further examination of the possiblility of energy substitution, but the also seem totally oblivious to the truly terrible human consequences of doing so. Ours is an aging society. Our medical advances, and the comfort of our way of life have allowed many of us who would have already have died in a peasant society to survive into an older age. Many older people do not have the physical capacity to survive as peasant farmers. Without our medicine, and without the comforts of modern heating and air conditioning, and with the demand ofor heavy physical labor, many older people will die quickly.

Relocalization is thus is a wholly unnecessary a formula for massive death. One 20th century leader decided to use relocalization as a way to solve the problems of his country. His name was Pol Pot. Nearly two million Cambodians died because of Pol Pot's folly.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Depleted Cranium

For a guide to the perplexed and bewildered about nuclear energy, I highly recommend Depleted Cranium. Its posts are first rate! Post topics shed significant light on nuclear energy. A today post on theDisaster At Chernobyl is the latest in a long string of enlightening entries. See also How Greenpeace Comerates a Radiation Accident, Greenpeace on Nuclear Energy: SCIENCE DOES NOT MATTER, Nuclear energy video: Blunt, Nasal and Right…, What is spent fuel anyway?, and more. All first wate stuff.

ZENN Motor 2007 Report

Introduction: In addition to nuclear power, this blog focuses on the electrification of the transportation system. Much of the story lies in the future. I share with with Joseph Romm a beliefe in that plug in electrical cars are very much the wave of the future. I have been following the ZENN Motor-EEStor story for some time. Either the two companies are about to produce a revolutionary car, or EEStor is engaged in a big time fraud. EEStor's contract with Lockheed- Martin appears to lend some credibility to the claim that EEStor has invented a revolutionary new ultra-capacitor technology. However, it is unclear if Lockheed- Martin actually was able to test an EEStor unit. ZENN is claiming "a single-charge range of 200 to 400 miles" with EEStor ultra-capacitor technology. I must admit that there are aspects of the EEStor story that I find hard to accept. A discussion on Tyler Hamilton's blog vertainly raises some red flags. A post Lockheed discussion on Tylor's blog continues to raise EEStor issues. Also see this recent discussion of the EEStor story in the Energy Blog. Here is the latest update from ZENN Motor.

Jan 21, 2008 21:37 ET

ZENN Motor 2007 Report

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Jan. 21, 2008) - ZENN Motor Company Inc. ("ZMC" or the "Company") (TSX VENTURE:ZNN) and formerly Feel Good Cars Corporation today announced the financial results for the three months and fiscal year ended September 30, 2007. All amounts are expressed in Canadian dollars unless otherwise indicated.

Financial Results

In the three months and year ended September 30, 2007, Company net revenue totaled $378,749 and $2,024,462, respectively. There were no sales in the corresponding periods in the prior year. Revenue for the quarter and the year has been reduced by a provision of $300,000 for anticipated future rebates relating to a marketing incentive program.

All of the Company's sales were to destinations in the United States and were invoiced in US Dollars. As a result of the increase in the value of the Canadian Dollar relative to the US Dollar, there has been a reduction in the effective yield on each US Dollar of sales. At this early stage of ZENN's introduction into the marketplace, price sensitivity prohibits significant changes in the selling price of the Company's current models. The strong Canadian Dollar also resulted in adjustments in the carrying value of inventory in 2007 of $796,968.

Net loss for the three months ended September 30, 2007 was $2,658,409 or $0.09 per share compared to a loss of $1,240,323 or $0.06 per share for 2006. For the year ended September 30, 2007 the net loss was $6,976,141 or $0.27 per share compared to a loss of $3,568,653 or $0.21 per share in 2006.

At September 30, 2007 the Company had cash and cash equivalents of $6,221,257 and working capital of $6,944,190 compared to cash and cash equivalents of $2,216,962 and working capital of $2,907,456 at September 30, 2006. During the year, the Company completed two common share offerings raising net proceeds of $13,598,369.

"2007 was an exciting year for ZENN Motor Company", said Ian Clifford, CEO of the Company. "We launched our first electric vehicle under our new corporate brand as we built a strong management team and corporate culture. At the beginning of the year, the production version of the ZENN was in final development, but not in the retailers' showrooms. In fiscal year 2007, we went from prototype, to commercial launch and sold 160 ZENNs by the end of the year. ZMC has a strong sales momentum going into fiscal 2008. We also saw our strategic partner EEStor make significant progress towards commercialization of its technology with its announcement on powder purity and a technology license agreement with Lockheed Martin."

Market and Product Development

At September 30, 2007, the Company had 35 retailer locations in 20 U.S. States. Further expansion of the retailer network will be focused in key strategic markets, primarily in the southern United States. Revenue growth is expected to be generated from increased sales in the existing markets in addition to market expansion. The Company has also received both the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) approvals for the ZENN. These approvals should help open up both the California and federal government fleet markets for the ZENN.

In December, the Company announced a next generation power train for the ZENN featuring an alternating current (AC) motor. The new power train is expected to provide increased range, superior hill-climbing ability and operational versatility. The AC powered ZENN will also offer air conditioning as an option and will begin shipping in early calendar 2008.

In anticipation of the EEStor technology being successfully commercialized, the Company is readying its plans to incorporate the technology in its ZENN product offerings. In addition, the Company has begun investigation of options for developing its future generation of longer-range, highway-capable vehicles. Two of the more promising opportunities being examined are retrofit kits and a small to mid-size automobile (curb weight less than 1400 Kg/3087 lbs) with highway capable speeds and range. The retrofit kits would be designed for mass conversion of specific existing automobiles from internal combustion to an electric drive train. On the new car front, while the final specifications have yet to be confirmed, the Company is exploring the development of small and mid-size cars that have a top speed of 65 to 75 MPH (105 to 120 KPH) and a single-charge range of 200 to 400 miles (325 to 650 Km). Subject to satisfying local homologation requirements, these new vehicles would be distributed to major markets globally. The Company estimates that global annual sales units for this size of new car to be in excess of 30 million. Third party discussions have been initiated to assess possible manufacturing and distribution scenarios.

Additional Information

Readers are encouraged to read the Company's audited financial statements for the year ending September 30, 2007, the corresponding Management's Discussion and Analysis and its Annual Information Form, all of which are available at or the Company's website at

ABOUT ZENN Motor Company Inc.

With Head Office in Toronto, Canada, ZENN Motor Company is dedicated to being the global leader in producing zero emission transportation solutions for markets around the world. Our current ZENNTM car is the perfect vehicle for urban commuters, fleets (such as resorts, gated communities, airports, college and business campuses, municipalities, parks and more), the environmentally conscious driver, and consumers who just want to save money. The ZENNTM is sold through a growing network of retailers across the United States.

The ZENNTM is a fully electric low speed vehicle (LSV) with European styling and appointments that offers customers tremendous operational cost savings compared to a vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine. Named "Best Urban Vehicle" at the 2006 Michelin Bibendum Challenge, the ZENNTM performed exceptionally well in all categories including excellent overall design, acceleration, braking, lowest power consumption and lowest noise level.

The potential commercialization of the high power-density ceramic ultra capacitor being developed by the Company's strategic partner, EEStor Inc. for future ZENNTM vehicles will enable them to travel greater speeds and distances like a traditional car at a fraction of the cost. Moreover, ZENN electric vehicles won't emit emissions or noise pollution and will provide their owners a freedom from worrying about escalating gas prices - making widespread concerns about oil dependency a thing of the past.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

C.J. Barton, Sr: Project Independence

Introduction: Following the end of the Gasbuggy project, my father was not assigned to another research project. As a senior scientist he was viewed as an appropriate representative of ORNL. One of his assignments took him to Philadelphia for Project Independence hearings. Project Independence came as almost the last gasp of the discredited Nixon Administration., althought the Ford Administration tried to carry the project out. Needless to say, Project Independence failed, and American energy policy lacked direction for the next generation.

The discussion of coal probably did not sit well with him. Before he left ORNL he was highly critical of the use of coal in electrical generation. This must be viewed as growing out of his research because my father had no personal reason to object to coal. He had grown up in Jellico, Tennessee, a small commercial center for coal mines in North East Tennessee and South East Kentucky. Both my father and my mother had brothers in the coal industry. My father's assesment of the danger of radon in natural gas, undoubtedly colored his thinking about radioisotopes and other toxic minerals in coal.

This hearing was part of the process in which coal was chosen over nuclear power as the predominate source of energy for electrical generation in the United States. The politics of that choice was clearly in play at the Philadelphia hearing my father attended.



October 10, 1974

To: E. G. Struxness

From: C. J. Barton

Subject: Project Independence (PI) Public Hearings in Philadelphia or an Ax Grinders· Convention in the City of Brotherly Love

General Comments

Before attending the PI hearings in Philadelphia, the 9th in the series of 10 such hearings being held, I referred to it by the above subtitle and nothing I heard at the hearings changed my opinion. The purpose of PI and the public hearings is set forth in the attached statements. The general format consisted of 10-minute statements (governors and United States senators excepted) by witnesses followed by questions from a four-man panel made up mostly of federal officials of varying rank. The opening session Monday morning was the only one attended by the top rank (Sawhill, Train, Peterson). Questions or comments from the audience were not allowed. The witnesses were per­mitted to submit longer statements for the record of the hearings. Handouts obtained include “Environmental Effects of Eastern Coal Development,” “Environmental Effects of Alaskan Oil Development,” "Fact Sheet on the Outer Continental Shelf," and "Fact Sheet on Solar Energy." Copies of these documents will be furnished on request. I feel that attendance at the hearings increased my understanding of the problems of the coal and other industries in meeting government regulations.


Most of the witnesses that I heard in the 2-2/3-day part of the hearings that I attended stuck pretty close to one or both of the themes of the Philadelphia hearings. By the third day, much of the facts or opinions expressed by some speakers had been heard before; so it was a good time to leave.

Eastern Coal

Problems of the Eastern Coal industry were discussed by many speakers. These seemed to fall into five main categories: government regulations, capital requirements for new mines, manpower requirements, availability of machinery, and transportation. The last four are non­controversial, but uncertainties in regard to future requirements of the Clean Air Act were said to be a deterrent to financing new mines ($20 to 40 million). As Arch Moore, Governor of West Virginia, ex­pressed it, “You can't love coal today and forget it tomorrow.” He also said that there is nothing more worthless than a nonproducing coal mine. He recommended government guarantees of mine investments.

On the manpower problem, Moore stated that 6000 more miners could be used right now in his state if they were available. Recruitment and training programs are either underway or planned to alleviate this man­power shortage. Another speaker stated that miners can now earn $18,000/year with some overtime. It was stated that 2 to 6 years may be required to obtain the complex machinery needed for underground min­ing, but this is apparently not considered a major problem. The transportation problem was mentioned by several speakers. Lack of availability of coal hoppers is limiting production at some mines, and needed improvements in roadbeds were also mentioned. There was comparatively little discussion of this problem and less on the solution to it.

Differences of opinion on government regulations between industry representatives and federal government offiicals were quite evident. These regulations include the 1969 health and safety law, strip mining, and air purity requirements. Problems in this area were said to be compounded by lack of clarity of the laws and lack of consistency in their application. The mine health and safety law put many small producers out of business, and it is causing problems for the big mines as well. Edgar Speer, chairman of United States Steel Corporation, cited a drop in coal production from 14 tons to 10 tons/manshift following passage of the law. In regard to strip mining, industry representatives seemed to be waiting for the shoe to drop in Washington.

The gamut of views included the belief that there is no acceptable way of strip mining coal and the thought that this is the only hope for an early increase in coal production.

As might be expected, the regulation that is causing coal users the greatest problem, the limit on S02 emissions or air concentration, got a lot of attention. One speaker stated that the Clean Air Act represents overkill. Although the TVA was not represented, other utility representatives voiced the TVA viewpoint that ground-level air concentration should be the controlling factor rather than the amount of S02 emitted. EPA representatives cited the lIacid rainll problem and other evidence of S02 damage to the environment in support of their policy of limiting the S content of fuels, regardless of the height of the stack through which the combustion products are discharged. As one speaker expressed it, “Pollution dilution is not the solution to our energy problem.” Environmentalists felt that S02 requirements should be tightened, while utility and coal industry people pleaded for a loosening of regulations, including greater flexibility than is now allowed and a delay of several years in application of stricter limits. They strongly maintained that stack scrubbers for control of S02 emissions are not ready for installation, while EPA maintains that they are ready.

It was quite clear from the numerous discussions of the problems of the coal industry that increased production of Eastern Coal will not be quickly or cheaply obtained and is not likely to have a major effect on our energy shortage over the next several years. In the period from approximately 1980 to 2000, the general view seemed to be that heavy reliance should be placed on coal as an energy source because of the tremendous reserves that are available. Minimization of the impact on the environment of increased coal production and use will require a lot of money for R & 0, for emission controls, and for land recla­mation.

Alternate Energy Sources and Their Environmental Effects

Divergent viewpoints on energy sources other than coal were much
in evidence. Opponents of nuclear power reactors were better repre­sented than proponents. For example, Coleman Raphael, President of Atlantic Research Corporation, stated that the radioactive waste problem is insoluble and that uranium supplies will be exhausted in 30 years. He cited the tons of plutonium that will be produced by reactors as the largest threat to mankind. A later witness, William Steigelman of the Franklin Institute, in response to a question from the panel, refuted Raphael's statement about waste disposal and pointed out that plutonium will be recycled and used as fuel. Unfortunately, this witness tarnished his credibility, in my view, by stating that the long-lived isotopes can be “burned up” in nuclear reactors, While this statement is correct, there must be cheaper solutions to the problem. Raphael's solution to the long-term energy problem is solar energy. He stated that enough energy falls on 2% of the area of Texas to supply all the energy needs of the United States. He didn't discuss the environmental effects of covering 5000 square miles of land and a few other problems such as the amounts of energy-intensive metals required to collect the solar energy. Other speakers took a more practical approach to solar energy and advocated solar energy for home heating and air conditioning and similar applications to larger buildings. Economical production of electricity and energy storage on a practical level are apparently a long way down the road.

A representative of a company called Sea Solar Power described their approach to solving the energy problem. It utilizes the tem­perature differential between warm surface water and the colder water several hundred feet below the surface. He claimed that sea thermal power will provide electricity, fuel, and freshwater without polluting the environment. A small demonstration plant is under construction.

I understand that there are a few engineering details to be worked out before this concept reaches commercial viability, but these were glossed over in the presentation.

A representative of Alaskan Arctic Pipeline Company described the extensive environmental studies made of the possible environmental ef­fects of the construction and operation of a pipeline to bring gas from Alaska to the lower 40 states. He stated that this would be the largest construction project in history. Federal Power Commission approval for this pipeline which would increase United States gas supplies initially by 5 or 6% has not been received.


Various methods of conserving energy in general and oil in par­ticular were discussed. John Sawhill supports construction of more nuclear reactors to meet our growing electricity needs. He stated that there is general agreement on the need to cut down on gas01ine consump­tion, but it was quite evident that agreement on the best ways to bring this about was lacking. The proposed increase in gasoline tax designed to decrease gasoline consumption and increase use of urban transit sys­tems was a bone of contention. Politician types from the United States Senator level to city mayor were sharply critical of the proposal, while federal officials on the panel were following the “party line” (which was reversed by President Ford later in the week) and support­ing the proposal.

Several industry representatives cited efforts of their companies to effect energy savings, and it was apparent that significant increases in efficiency can be achieved by thorough-going programs. Further savings, in some industries, will require substantial capital invest­ments. An interesting sidelight is the fact that United States Steel requires 36 million Btu/ton of steel shipped, while Armco uses 27 million. The difference can presumably be accounted for by the high fraction of scrap used by Armco (40% of total production). Thirteen million Btu/ton are consumed in converting iron ore to metal. The steel industry is substituting coal for gas and oil wherever it is possible to do so. In general, the big companies have their own coal mines. United States Steel sells as many Btu's as they buy.

Russell Peterson, Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, tried to give conservation a local flavor by paraphrasing Benjamin Franklin, “A Btu saved is a Btu earned.” Governor Shapp (Pennsylvania) stated that Franklin wouldn't have said that because he didn't like the British.

Miscellaneous Comments

Of the three United States senators who spoke during the Monday morning session (Scott and Schweiker, Pennsylvania and Biden, Delaware), I was most impressed by Biden. He is young, intelligent, and highly articulate. I also learned that Governor Shapp's background is in engineering, and it was not completely obscured by the political flavor of his speech. He and several other speakers emphasized the need to reduce the impact of increasing energy costs on poor people. An energy stamp program possibly supplementing the existing food stamp program, seemed to be the most likely way of dealing with this problem.

A.V. Grosse, Mayor's Council of Science and Technology, City of Philadelphia, made an interesting comparison of the amount of excava­tion required to replace the 10 million barrels per day of imported oil expected in 1980 with lignite or oil from oil shale. He stated that 240 million yd3 were excavated in digging the Panama Canal. To provide the 2 billion tons/year of lignite needed, we would need to dig the equivalent of 11 Panama Canals/year. Only 0.5 Panama Canal would need to be dug to provide the same amount of energy from oil shale, accord­ing to Grosse's calculations. Grosse also suggested that we should trade our knowhow to make the Arab's deserts bloom for their oil. Tom Fa1kie, Bureau of Mines Director, stated that some high-level exchanges with Saudi Arabia are in progress.


If the other nine Project Independence Public Hearings generated as much testimony and controversy as the one I attended, the staff of the Federal Energy Administration and other officials who are charged with the task of providing the blueprint for Project Independence cer­tainly have a huge amount of material and sharply divergent views to consider. The social and economic consequences of Project Independ­ence as well as its environmental effects need to be weighed carefully. Increased coal use can significantly reduce our need for imported oil, but it will not be quickly or cheaply obtained by mining Eastern Coal. It is clear that the long-needed national energy policy that the Project Independence blueprint presumably will represent cannot please everyone. Complete independence of imported oil may not be economically or politically desirable.

C.J. Barton
Environmental Sciences Division

Attachments 2
cc: S. V. Kaye
S. 1. Auerbach
J. A. Blasy
J. O. Duguid
File (3)

The Air Conditioning Test of Energy and Environment Ideas

I have developed a simple test for energy schemes and environmental proposals. It is called the air conditiner test. Europeans don't have air conditioning. During the summer of 2003, 52,000 Europeans died because of the want of air conditioning. In 2003 as Europe experienced its hottest weather in at least 500 years. Indeed, on some summer day, London and Paris were hotter than Dallas! Hotter than Dallas? How is that possible? After all, Dallas in the summer is hotter than hell.

The heat wave in Europe was particularly hard on old people. We know all about that here in Texas. One factor increasing our life expectancy in Texas is the fact that everyone has air conditioning. Heat is just plain deadly. A
1995 heat wave in Chicago killed 700 people. During the 2003 heat wave in France 200o people a day died.

In Texas air conditioners run 24 hours a day all summer. It can be over 100 at 10:00 PM and in the upper 90's on a summer night in Dallas. Keeping the electricity flowing is a 24 hour concern for the old folks of Texas. In fact it is very often a matter of life and death.

Last fall on my other official blog, bartoncii, I debated with a woman who called herself mamajess. (See here, and here.) During
my debate with Mama Jess, I pointed out that "I have a serious heart condition. I would not live very long if I were forced to endure the Texas heat [without air conditioning]."

Mama Jess responded: "We are not talking about your particular hardships or situation. We are talking about saving the world."

In another post, I noted: "
In the world of Mama Jess and 'Sorties du Nucléaire,' the old and infirmed are to be sacrificed as a necessary expense of eliminating nuclear power as an energy option."

Sorties du Nucléaire is a French ally of Greenpeace that has proposed drastic cuts in French electrical use in order to eliminate the use of nuclear generated power in France. The French Socialist Party endosed the idea during the last French election. If such ideas were implimented in Texas, tens of thousands of older people would die.

The air conditioning test is simple. If an energy scheme forces old people to endure hot (and windless) Texas nights without air condition, thus most likely killing some of them, it is a bad idea.

I am not going to say that mass death is a part of the Greenpeace agenda, but I do think that it is fair to say, that mass death will be a consequence of the realization of Greenpeace's agenda.


In the spring of 2006, President George W, Bush visited Pennsylvania, to promote his nuclear power policy. In an effort to counter Bush, Greenpeace issued a press release. In the release, Greenpeace stated that nuclear power is a "volatile and dangerous source of energy." What came next revealed a singular lapse in the Greenpeace propaganda machine. The release stated: "In the twenty years since the Chernobyl tragedy, the world's worst nuclear accident, there have been nearly [FILL IN ALARMIST AND ARMAGEDDONIST FACTOID HERE]."

My, my. Lacking an appropriate example, they writer tells his editor, to find something. But the editor wasn't paying attention. Greenpeace which is incapable of admitting a mistake, claimed that the lapse was a joke. Ya sure, those clowns at Greenpeace are so funny. A revised version of the press release talked of plane crashes and reactor meltdowns, standard Greenpeace scare tactics.

I am actually using a 3 stage argument approach in looking at Greenpeace.

Phase 1 is to show that anti-nuclear arguments misrepresent facts, and violate the rules of logic.

Phase 2 is to show that this is part of a pattern of illogical thinking that involves far more than issues related to nuclear power.

Phase 3 is to argue that this pattern has its origin in a psychological or sociological pathology pathology.

In the case of figures like Helen Caldicott I have pointed to a repeated pattern of thinking errors as she responds to criticism. Caldicott in effects is saying that she is so special and her critics are such bad people that she does not have to answer their criticism. Caldicott is arguing that she does not have to engage in rational discourse because she is special. This belief is most assuredly a symptom of a psychopathology.

Greenpeace members are highly confrontational with opponants. The confrontation narrative is always the same. Greenpeace wants us to believe that it always engages in David verses Goliath struggles. We have little Greenpeace verses big Monsanto, verses the big nuclear industry, verses big Apple, etc. Part of the narrative is that Greenpeace is fighting for the little guy, and that the big guys are always trying to hurt ther little guy.

The press loves Greenpeace, because Greenpeace engages in theatrical tactics. The media loves drama. If Greenpeace can deliver visual drama then television will love it.

Greenpeace tells simple emotionally loaded stories, and is not in the slighest ashamed to bend and even make up facts in telling the stories.

Greenpeace is all about power without knowledge. Greenpeace congers up the appearance of scientific evidence, when it posses no scientific knowledge. For example the claim that the iPhone contains environmentally objectionable chemicals is based on multiple fallacies. First, Greenpeace has not established the presence of the chemicals as a matter of fact. Second, it has not established that the chemicals will in fact cause environmental harm. Thirdly, it seems extremely unlikely that the chemicals are present in large enough amounts to cause significant environmental harm, even if they are harmful.

Episode like the threat to sue Apple garners publicity for Greenpeace. The publicity in turn gives Greenpeace power, and brings in money which pays for more publicity stunts, brings more public attention and in turn brings in more money. Greenpeace in effect is usurping the function of government by demanding information from businesses, claiming to have the right to set the rules about what constitutes environmental pollution, and virtually blackmailing business that do not support their crazy campaigns.

How credible is Greenpeace?

(Edited and revised, March 31, 2010.)
Greenpeace recently went to war with beer maker Anheuser-Busch. It seems that Budweiser is “tainted” by a small amount of genetically modified rice. Anheuser-Busch says that the brewing process destroys the protein created by the genetic strain anyway. That does not make a difference to Greenpeace, which opposes genetically alteration of crops with the same vehemence it opposes, nuclear reactors.

Well if Greenpeace boycott’s beer, maybe you can drink milk. Hold on. Greenpeace boycott of milk in cartons because of the presence of dioxin in cartons and the dioxin pollution caused by the manufacturing process. Even mother's milk cannot be trusted to be free of polution according to Greenpeace.

Doug Muhleman, Anheuser-Busch's vice president of brewing,
"We stand in support of US farmers, who are partners with us in the quality of our products,"
he said in a statement, and added,
"Greenpeace recently asked us to join their advocacy campaign on genetically modified crops. We refused their calls to boycott US farmers, and they are now retaliating."
Now wait a minute, Greenpeace is boycotting US farmers? A Greenpeace report claims that Monsanto, which sells over 90% of the World's genetically altered crop seeds claims that Monsanto,
"could be another financial disaster waiting to happen".
Of course Greenpeace is hoping that Monsanto’s seed business is a failure, and that US farm exports collapse.

Monsanto says about the Greenpeace report:
"The report is highly biased and cherrypicks information about plant biotechnology and Monsanto in order to further a political agenda.”
"It's telling that the cover page of the (Greenpeace) Innovest report warns readers about the information in their report - 'we do not guarantee its accuracy or completeness' and 'all opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice'."
Ed Newbigin, from the School of Botany of the University of Melbourne, Australia, commented in the Melbourne Courier-Mail:
“Greenpeace's Jeremy Tager refers to the myths of the genetic engineering industry, but then produces his own myth by saying that animals that eat GE [Genetically Engineered] food "frequently show serious effects". Wrong. Numerous studies attest to the fact that animals that eat GE food as part of a normal diet do as well as animals that eat conventional food. Greenpeace does the community a great disservice by spreading such myths.”
The absurdity of Greenpeace's campaign against genetically modified crops, is best illustrated by this veggie suicide press release from Greenpeace.

Greenpeace is not boycotting Apple yet, but it threatens a suite against the consumer electronics giant, because Greenpeace claims the iPhone is bad for the environment, because, among other reasons, brominated flame retardants "most likely" found in the iPhone are reactive, binding with other chemicals to form a plastic that keeps them out of the environment. Mind you we are talking about a very small amount of chemicals in a very small consumer product, yet Greenpeace insists that the very possibility that an iPhone might contain a tiny amount of it of far more serious concern, than the suffering of say, earth quack victims in Haiti.

The Bromine Science and Environmental Forum (BSEF) claimed that much of the Greenpeace IPhone report was either exaggerated or misstated.

The BSEF asserts that none of the chemicals used in the iPhone are banned under any environmental laws, and that the brominates in the phone are actually essential in protecting against fire.
"The Greenpeace report does not say which brominated flame retardants are present in the iPhone because it does not know," the group said in a statement. "Therefore, the report speculates about what substances might be present, and raises an alarm without any basis for doing so."
If Greenpeace thinks that Apple is bad, it thinks that Nintendo is far worse. According to Greenpeace:
"Nintendo [scored] zero in the five categories related to the use of harmful chemicals, including offering no list of banned or restricted substances and no policy regarding the use of vinyl plastic or brominated flame retardants. It also scored zero in the four categories related to recycling."
John Timmer of Ars Technica notes
“Greenpeace reserves the right to arbitrarily change a company's score if they decide the company did something disagreeable."
This sounds a lot like blackmail to me.

Timmer points to a report statement,
"Penalty points are deducted from overall scores if Greenpeace finds a company lying, practicing double standards or other corporate misconduct."
Of course Greenpeace gets to decide who is lying, who is practicing a double standard, and what constitutes corporate misconduct.

Greenpeace itself decides if the penalty should be assessed Timmer remarks,
“The research in general appears lazy,”
and “
lack of research undercuts the report's credibility.”
Of course, scientific rigor is not Greenpeace's objective, publicity, money and power is.

“Clearly, Greenpeace did not perform an exhaustive evaluation of chemical use through the manufacturing pipeline,”
Timmer adds.

No need, the media believes that if Greenpeace says it, it is copy worthy, without any further fact checking..

In effect, Greenpeace is blackmailing businesses with the threat of bad reports, or even worse boycotts, if the businesses do not play ball with Greenpeace. Greenpeace simply assumes that it can publish unsubstantiated report findings accusing the company of some enormous environmental crime.


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