SUPPLIES IN 21st
entry OCT 14th 2011
Researchers with the
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), working with
crystal-growing teams at Cornell University and Japan's Ritsumeikan
University, have learned that the band gap of the semiconductor indium
nitride is not 2 electron volts (2 eV) as previously thought, but
instead is a much lower 0.7 eV. The serendipitous discovery means that
single system of alloys incorporating indium, gallium, and nitrogen can
convert virtually the full spectrum of sunlight - from the near
to the far ultraviolet - to electrical current. [For further
information on the new full-spectrum photovoltaic materials, visit the
web at http://www.lbl.gov/msd/PIs/Walukiewicz/02/02_8_Full_Solar_Spectrum.html]
PREFACE NOV 11th 2004
It appears that the discovery and application of Ionic
will be the most decisive factor in energy conservation and the
efficiency of the production of materials in the coming century.
They are not covered here because I am ignorant of them.
Preface Update January 2008
Craig Venter in his Richard Dimbleby Lecture introduced the
public to the prospect of new man-made bacteria that can produce
fuels from waste and even directly from the Carbon Dioxide
that is causing climate change. This is also not covered here.
See also news of Sept 18th 2005
See April 2009 for battery technology breakthrough
for non-rotary wind microgeneration
SUPPLIES IN THE 21st CENTURY
(File starts Dec 2002 - updated down the page)
What began as a basic research question points to a practical
application of great potential value. For if solar cells can be made
with this alloy, they promise to be rugged, relatively inexpensive -
the most efficient ever created.
"It's as if nature designed this material on purpose to match the solar
spectrum," says Wladek Walukiewicz, a staff scientist with Berkeley
Lab's Materials Sciences Division (MSD) who led the collaborators in
making the discovery.
Very interesting indeed. But first to deal with this part:
> "It's as if nature designed this material on purpose to match the
This astonishment should rationally apply to everything we observe in
nature. "How clever of the planetary design parameters that the highest
mountain on a naturally inhabitable planet has a summit JUST below the
lethal x-ray limits and is JUST climbable by oxygen breathing mammals
(if they train for it) without artificial support". "How extraordinary
that the Sun and the Moon appear the same size, and that the moon has
many multiple uses and all this on a planet where every other
improbable coincidence, concerning the interlocking exceptions to every
rule - consider the properties of Water for example - is necessary for
life as we know it."
Getting a grip on this is one of the biggest steps in imagination and
understanding that is possible for humans. Due to the size of the
'known' universe there are two orthodox ways of resolving the puzzle.
Both are extreme, forced to the extremes by applying logic to a model
based on the type of observation we are familiar with in every day
I happen to think that enlightenment on this issue lies in neither of
these, or perhaps it would be more correct to say both. The resolution,
once understood, satisfies the evidence which proponents of both camps
believe to be mutually exclusive, and is more astonishing, more simple,
more complex, more everything, in fact just MORE than they have
bargained for. [SEE NOTE ADDED
20th February 2004]
But in the meantime, we shall continue to discover what look like
prearranged possibilities and should be guided by their arrival, rather
than decide arbitrarily what this planet needs and spend a fortune
forcing ahead in directions that nature is indicating are NOT a
to a natural problem at this time.
I have always had my doubts about FUSION (hot, large scale) as a local
energy source worth pursuing at huge cost. My reason for this is that
we had achieved it by the year 2000, it would have been a social
disaster for Western and Global civilisation. Far from being a solution
to a hurdle on the way of planetary development, it would have allowed
us to continue on our muddled way without coming to grips with
issues which would have emerged later with devastating force. Massive
expansion based on fusion energy and dependent on it and the political
powers that controlled it would be a very unstable future. Moreover,
energy and expense consumed in building the generators and distribution
networks of a centralised Fusion Future would probably mean we were in
deficit for ever, even if it worked, and would have wrecked our
environment in a different way into the bargain. It may well come
but the amount of money spent so far on forcing its early emergence in
an attempt to build a national lead has been counterproductive. Huge
sums which should have been invested in the transport infrastructure
reducing energy waste have been squandered. On the energy front, we
should have been doing something else - see the 'killer application'
later on this page.
Solar power (using an existing Fusion source 91 million miles offshore)
is a different proposition. At the moment, the energy output of solar
cells in any meaningful lifetime is less than that required to create,
market and install them, no matter how cheap the components may appear
to be as raw materials. This does not mean that they do not have
rational applications. The value of energy is no a simple value. It has
two components, one thermodynamic, the other the distance of its
availability to do work from the site where work is required by the
economic model in question. The true value is a product of the first,
inversely proportional to the second, divided by a constant. Other
variables are need to make fine adjustments in comparisons with
alternate energy sources.
When it comes to space applications, there is no contest. This latest
news will be good news for solar powered devices in space as they will
be smaller and lighter and that means big bucks saved on the launch
which is the choke/crisis point for all developments beyond our
atmosphere. It should also eventually have advantages for ground based
applications but there again this will depend on whether we can
bootstrap the production of solar cells by using solar energy to
produce them. This can be done by basing the manufacture in areas of
very strong sunlight, making the acquisition and transport of all the
raw materials energy efficient, using renewable and non-polluting
sources, and doing it on a massive scale. What is a bad idea for
agriculture (extreme economy of scale, removal of humans from the
process and thereby also from the rural economy) is exactly what should
be applied to the production of solar cell units for local power
generation world wide.
The final piece in the energy jigsaw (apart from fuel cells, hydrogen
etc) is the storage of electrical power.
In the UK, the
dangers of Grid Instability in the future are very real. [see
update Aug 15 2003 below]
We will need all sources of supply, nuclear, renewable and classical
fossil fuels, plus new technologies, but the killer application has to
be electricity storage, and this must be combined with water storage on
a distributed, local level. This can be achieved by starting now to
build these water storage facilities, into which water would be pumped
when excess water is available, by using excess electricity when this
available from wind or solar or any of the other sources if renewables
lacking at the time.
Obviously the mountainous areas are most suitable for large scale
storage at altitudes that will give maximum energy/volume ratios, but
the water/electricity storage facilities can be on a whole range of
scales, and the security of the system will be assured by have a great
number of these, feeding into the grid at the nearest point. The
stability will be assured by the fact that their operation will always
be on demand of the controlling authority, whether this be for storage
The cost of all this is well within sensible limits providing we start
now and spend each year, because the investment will be in
and hardware that are very long lasting and low maintenance, guaranteed
to be useful for the foreseeable future, and defendable against
vandalism because they can be enclosed in secure structures and
decentralized as a system. The reserves of water will be as valuable as
those of power, though they will not always be used to produce power. A
time of drought may well coincide with a lack of output from wind power
sources, but this does not have to be the case to make the water or
power reserves available when they are required. Hydroelectric power
be drawn off and the water channeled to lower, conventional reserves
to waste if not required. Water reserves can be drawn on generating
the power actually required to balance the grid at the time.
UPDATE Jan 1st 2003
In view of the fact that the management of our inland waterways and
drainage has been inadequate and extensive areas of habitation and
farmland are now flooded on a regular basis, parts of the storage
could be designed and used as electrically powered balancing
High speed, high volume pumps could be used to extract water from
and low lying lakes. A system of wide-bore pipes and existing and
restored canals could be used to transfer water that cannot be
discharged by rivers to areas where it could be stored with
Obviously, there would need to be a careful financial integration of
generation and storage interests, so that the funds invested in
electricity storage and flood prevention would not be to the detriment
of investment in generation technology and companies that are essential
to the volume and security of supply. Market forces alone are not
sufficient to plan for the national interest, as it is now clear that
short term forces engage short term interests only, with catastrophic
long term results. A study of successes and failures in other countries
removes the need to speculate on this.
UPDATE Feb 24th
The Government White Paper on energy is encouraging. The move to
renewable (Wind, Tide, Solar) and the hold on Nuclear until demand is
established is wise. The requirement for electricity storage is even
more clear if wind and solar are to play there full part. Although tide
generation will be more regular and very reliable, it will have
rhythmical peaks that will not coincide with demand other than by
so storage as advocated in this document will be very effective in
increasing the efficiency of all these renewable sources. Increased
efficiency by better insulation, distributed sources, local sources,
energy storage is the sure and certain way to meet the emission
reduction targets and reach a secure and stable energy supply.
UPDATE Aug 15th 2003
The major blackout in North America should serve to bring home the
obvious fact that the interdependence of different geographical areas
through grid systems has snags as well as advantages. A wider
decentralisation of generation, storage and energy sources is the only
sensible way to prepare for a future which is bound to be highly
dependent on electricity for command and control as well as energy for
heating, cooling and transport.
UPDATE DEC 10th 2003
The low level of water reserves in the UK is now clarifying minds
wonderfully. We need to look 20 years ahead and start now on building
the combined water storage and transport, electricity storage and
transport system. It will have to grow gradually over the coming
UPDATE DEC 20th 2003
Today is decision day for the giant international fusion project to
build a pilot fusion generation plant. The decision has to be made
between two possible sites, one in France, one in Japan. There is
possibility that this project can be stopped, even though I believe it
to be a colossal waste of funds and resources and skills. It has to be
done, and in a certain sense it will not all be a waste. It may
succeed in a plant that produces some electricity on a sustainable
basis and will form a part of our technological future. It will employ
some very talented people and keep them off the streets or from doing
anything worse. There will be some interesting spin-off technology. But
in reality the people making the decisions are just safeguarding their
own jobs. We must remember the money goes round and round and in the
end gets spent on beer, wine and spirits from which the tax goes to
governments providing the boot-leggers are kept adequately in check.
The big risk to the world is the black economy on the one hand and the
wrong choices made by governments in their spending on the other. The
funds being spent on this project should instead be being spent on the
water and power projects advocated in these pages (see above, start
again at the beginning). If we
can do both, then I have nothing against going ahead with this fusion
project, though it will consume a huge amount if energy doing it
and thereby bring nearer the need for alternative sources.
[Not that all government decisions are bad or ministers and their
advisors incompetent. I used to think Jack Straw was a bit of a bumbler
but he has consistently shown a powerful grasp of the realities of his
job and a choice of words that makes this crystal clear. His
replacing of Robin Cook has probably been the most important
appointment of this
Labour government, on a par with that of Gordon Brown as Chancellor.]
UPDATE DEC 31st 2003
That decision on fusion generation has been postponed. Very wise. Too
much politics in the wind at the moment. In the mean time it is good to
see a growing realisation that in future we should be using the 50%
wasted by power stations via their cooling towers, and of course
setting and enforcing new standards of insulation on dwellings,
subsidising where appropriate. Then we might look at the quantities of
hot air pumped out of buildings where our growing farms of computer
equipment are cooled day and night. If the world economy does recover,
and China gets into growth mode, we will need more than the Kyoto
Protocol to keep global warming from going ballistic. We will need
technology and we will need to apply it. [update July 2005: France has been chosen as
the host country for the fusion project, on a site west of Marseille.
UPDATE FEB 05 2004
introduces a new material that will store and release hydrogen. If we
can produce hydrogen by non-pollutive and economical means, this new
development in the storage (and presumably transport in certain
circumstances) could complete the formula for the opening of the
hydrogen economy. Hydrogen can be considered here as an energy store,
rather than an existing (stored) source. As such, it could be an
additional means of storing electricity produced by irregular natural
energy sources such as wind and solar. Maybe we shall even see Concorde
flying again one day with hydrogen fuelled engines....
UPDATE FEB 10 2004
BBC's excellent Home Planet programme as drawn our attention (Feb 10)
to Anaerobic Digestion as a means of reducing the landfill problem
while producing methane. This falls into the same category as the other
ideas promoted on these pages. Instead of accepting a trade-off, it is
possible to go for a technology that is not zero-sum but uses the
energy already entered in the equation in the production of our food
and household materials and recycles it. Plentiful supplies of gas have
up till now meant there was no financial incentive to produce methane
by this method. For it to be efficient in its overall operation, it is
also true that plants and turbines must be of a certain size. But in a
few years time when landfill reaches crisis point and gas supplies are
sourced abroad, it will make sense to separate what is recyclable from
household waste leaving what is biodigestable. The product is methane
and compost - both will be in demand. The technology has been developed
and applied already in developing countries where the raw materials and
the need have been more available and more obvious. If properly
worked out, savings in transport of waste can make sure that there is a
true gain in the gas production, its use, and the recycling of the non
This link shows some guys doing what looks like a good job with
landfill. There is a good animated explanation of the process http://www.sita.co.uk/index.html
NOTES - FEB
20th 2004 - Read the first few
paragraphs of this page before reading these notes.
Channel 4 TV, a 2 hour programme The
gave a very
useful summary of what we know with some certainty and with strong
probability about the formation of planet earth. It was brilliantly
made and the material and science well selected. Astonishingly, at the end, it was apparent
that the makers of this excellent compendium of current scientific
theories had not understood its meaning at all. The message they
left the viewer with was that only a series of accidents had been the
cause of the development of animal and subsequently human life on earth.
probability of the formation of stars of the size and constituency of
our sun means that there are certainly very many of them in our galaxy.
Given one exactly like ours, at the position it is in our galaxy and
age, it will almost certainly be shown in a few more years of research
that it is likely that a planet the size of earth will form at the
distance from the sun that we find it, made up of the same materials.
Out of a selection of such planets, it is likely that most will in the
last stages of their formation produce (through collision between the
last two major masses in their orbit) a satellite or 'moon'. It
will be shown through physics and mathematics that are already
well understood, that a satellite such as the moon when associate with
a planet such as earth, made of the material already decided by is
distance from the sun, will automatically adjust its orbit until it has
the effect and appearance of a moon such as ours.
By now, you
should be getting an understanding as to how these things work. What
starts off as a rare but nevertheless inevitable statistical happening
becomes progressively channelled into increasingly determined
environmental states which transfer the developmental probabilities to
the next level where they again become, despite the randomness or later
'choice' of the components, part of the inevitable development of life,
animal life and finally human life.
development of human life in the universe is therefore paradoxically as
far from being an
accident as it is possible to envisage, even though it may be very rare
that it succeeds. Life could of course start on a
planet that did not turn out to permit its development to human, but
when one set of parameters are suitable they tend to cause the others
to fall progressively into place. What many 'western' scientists seem
to be unable to handle, however, is an understanding of universal
logic. They fail to understand the way the GEOMETRY of space-time works
to create masses and surfaces which tend towards environments and
possibilities and probabilities. Nothing has been discovered in my
lifetime to advance a proper understanding of these issues one iota for
those to whom it was already clear beforehand, and although everything
that is discovered confirms such an understanding, none of it appears
to relieve the insistent blindness of those who do not understand it in
the first place. Theologians have as many amongst their ranks as
scientist who just 'don't get it'. The ultimate irony is the opposition
of humanists to Christianity, and some Christians who fail to
understand that Jesus was the founder of humanism.
UPDATE JUNE 13th 2004
It has been pointed out by serious students of energy and climate
control that Nuclear Fusion (sorry
that was a typo, I meant FISSION.
Fusion is yet to come) Energy is still likely to be a essential
part of any global energy solution. The concerns of the anti-nuclear
lobby are safety of the nuclear piles, security of nuclear materials,
security of the storage of waste materials. None of these is a problem
in a well regulated, stable society. The waste storage problem has been
much exaggerated. There is no need to bury it below ground. The
volumes are very small. It can be encased in extremely secure
surroundings. However it is still true to say that nuclear power is
only safe in the hands of stable, well educated societies not suffering
from delusions of national destiny or religious fundamentalism, and
capable of self defense and controlling proliferation. The global
elements of the nuclear debate are the most complex. There is an
element of catch-22 about nuclear power. It may well be that a way must
be found to manage it successfully. However there are other energy
sources that may yet come to light. Cold fusion on a small scale is
still not a completely dead duck. Geothermal can play a part. What is
certain is that we will be forced to find ways of not wasting energy
they way we do now, and that is all to the good. To proceed without
learning this lesson would lead to certain disaster.
NOVEMBER 21st 2005
It looks increasingly likely that two sources of energy will play a
significant part in UK supplies for the future. I will call them NEW
COAL and NEW NUCLEAR. The closing down of the Coal Mines was a painful
necessity, for health and safety reasons as well as economic. The
hold-off on nuclear power was necessary for the same reasons. We are
now in a position where we have to make a decision on NEW NUCLEAR if it
is to play any serious part in the UK's efforts to reduce CO2
emissions. The waste problem is not as serious as has been claimed. New
processes and designs can ensure that the waste is not broadcast as it
was accidentally in the past. I can be stored safely on or near the
surface in massively but cheaply protected sites, where it can await
later decisions and techniques. But the question for NEW NUCLEAR is (a)
the cost, (b) what could be done by spending this money on renewables
(c) could renwables absorb this expenditure (d) how it affects the
balance of payments of the UK in view of the fact that many other
supplies will be important.
As more cars will have an electric component and more and more
machinery electrically powered, nuclear generated electricity will be
increasingly important. There are many comples issues to examine. The
simplistic question "Is Nuclear
Power the Future?" is as off target as "Should the Police be
armed". The balance of payments problem has been ignored by the UK and
the US recently for different reasons. It has to be taken seriously. So
has security of sources of which the cost will rise as non-renewables
NEW COAL is a runner. It depends on developments in mining that must
bring about a revolution in health, safety and economy compared to OLD
COAL, and developments in coal combustion and the recuperation of waste
gases. UK coal is highly sulfuorus, unfortunately, which presents more
of a problem in this. However the new technology will be essential if
we are to help China and the rest of the world to avoid catastrophic
atmospheric pollution in the future.
Recent objections that the mining of uranium is energy intensive and
carbon producing ignore the fact that new technology and locally
solar-generated energy for the uranium mines could improve this
progressively. We need to think short, medium, long and very long term.
It would be very unwise not to foster nationally the technology and
training of engineers, physicists and economists in nuclear power.
There is nothing to stop factories, blocks and homes being turned into
small generating stations, according to the appropriate available
resources, for self-supply and return to the grid. This does not need
to be given government supported nuclear funding to be put into
effect, it will be a profitable investment in the long term. We just
need to balance the funding with imaginative formulae and pricing.
JANUARY 02 2006
While I have no doubt that the dispute over the price of Gas between
Russia and the Ukraine will eventually be sorted, it highlights the
vulnerability of remote supply lines that pass through territories over
which we have little or no control. This is an aspect of Globalisation
which is truly fascinating to students of the phenomenon. We should in
a way be grateful for the opportunity to witness some of the moves.
President Putin is exacting what he considers the proper economic
penalties for the Ukraine choosing to join a sphere of western
influence in this stage of political evolution. One of the advantages
of staying in the Russian sphere is withdrawn. He did offer to do this
in two stages, but that was rejected by The Ukraine; whereupon Putin
reacted by withdrawing that offer and going for a one stage, immediate
implementation. A lesson for us in the UK is that we need to plan
future supplies on a belt-and-braces, many-eggs-in-many-baskets basis.
Quite so. There will be a nuclear basket. Of course Iran needs a
nuclear basket like a fish needs a bicycle, but that will not stop some
people for saying they can justify it. We have to work out deals on
both water and energy in a globalised economy. If we succeed, we can go
on without too much conflict; If not not, it will get dangerous. That's
just as it should be.
JANUARY 05 2005
Here is a welcome statement about the inefficiency of certain biofuels.
It is important to understand it and I am at a loss as to why the
government has not ensured earlier that it is understood.
Thu Jan 5, 6:47 AM ET
OXFORD (Reuters) - Waste products make a better biofuel
than traditional British crops such as rapeseed and grain
because of the energy it takes to grow them, a former chairman
of Shell Trading and Transport said on Thursday.
"The attractive thing about waste is that it represents a
problem," Lord Oxburgh told reporters at the annual Oxford
He said rapeseed and grain required fertiliser inputs,
effectively negating much of the savings they might otherwise
provide when changed into biofuels.
"You really have got to think very hard about the amount
the energy that goes into producing your biofuel," he said.
"I think if they (British farmers) grow the same crops in
the same way, it probably won't work," he told reporters.
Lord Oxburgh pointed to the production of ethanol from
waste straw in Canada as one example of a project which was
energy efficient and had environmental benefits.
By way of contrast, he said the most expensive method was
being employed in the United States using maize, which consumes
an enormous amount of energy before being turned into fuel.
"You put in nearly as much energy into producing energy as you get
out of it. It doesn't actually make a lot of
sense," he said.
Britain announced late last year plans to increase use of
biofuels over the next few years and British farmers hope that
domestic rapeseed oil will be used to produce biodiesel and
surplus wheat to make bioethanol.
Lord Oxburgh said if Britain imported biofuels from palm
oil produced in recently cleared rainforests in southeast Asia
there could be adverse environmental impacts.
"There isn't one solution for the
whole world," he said.
France to cut oil use by 2020 with new reactor
By Marguerita Choy Jan 05 2006
President Jacques Chirac announced plans
on Thursday to cut oil consumption in France, including the
launch of the latest nuclear reactor prototype so that French
trains will not use a drop of oil in 20 years' time.
Chirac sealed France's commitment to nuclear power by
announcing the launch of a fourth generation prototype reactor
to be in use by 2020.
France has become the world's second largest nuclear power
producer after it decided after the 1970s oil shocks to reduce
its oil dependence by building a fleet of 58 nuclear reactors.
Chirac also said in a New year's speech that France had to
develop solar energy, electronic and hybrid diesel cars, and
increase production of biomass fuels five times over the next
"I hope that the agency for industrial innovation will
contribute from this year to the launching of these projects.
The (railway firms) RATP and the SNCF should no longer consume
a drop of petrol in 20 years time," Chirac said.
State-owned nuclear operator Electricite de France has
already launched plans to start up a new 1,600 megawatt (MW)
European pressurized water reactor (EPR) in 2012, the so-called
third generation reactor.
But no new large power plants have been built since 1993
and France still needs to build more new power stations to meet
growing demand and to compensate for aging units, according to
a study by the French grid RTE.
The more sophisticated and supposedly safer fourth
generation reactors, that have a pebble-bed reactor, where
graphite pebbles are filled with particles of uranium dioxide
fuel, are still being developed.
"We will tie up with industrial or international partners
who wish to join the project," Chirac said.
Italy's biggest utility Enel has plans to take a stake in
the third generation EPR project, but a deal has been delayed
as it has yet to iron out the details of the framework
agreement with EDF.
(Additional reporting by Kerstin Gehmlich)
paragraph is an exract from RED
growing debate about decentralised energy, its potential has actually
been demonstrated in the Surrey town of Woking.40 The pioneering
borough council has constructed a series of 60 local energy generation
systems, including gas-fired combined heat and power, micro-wind
turbines and photo-voltaic arrays. These systems serve the council
itself, but also local hotels, a shopping centre, a doctor's surgery
and some social housing. Woking even has the UK’s first hydrogen fuel
cell, which powers the local sports centre and swimming pool.
To read the full PDF file go to http://www.designcouncil.org.uk/futurecurrents/downloads/FutureCurrents-RedesigningEnergyPolicy-18-10.pdf
See also http://www.woking.gov.uk/council/housing/policies/policy/energy2
MARCH 3rd 2006
farm near a particular National
I think the decision is correct. There is no doubt that wind farms can
and should make a serious contribution to energy supplies and climate
control, but the most beautiful national parks are not the place to put
them if there are alternatives. Logic must be applied. We know we do
not intend to cover the entire country in wind turbines. Significant
areas of natural beauty serve not just nearby residents but the whole
country and the tourism economy. If we destroy these, we don't just
upset the locals. That is not to say there might not be a national park
where a wind farm could be a planned feature. The way forward is not to
be found by hiding behind so-called principles that absolve us from
making appropriate decisions after dialogue, information sharing and
negotiation. Every principle in the hands of rigid and frightened
thinkers contains the seeds of its own destruction.
MARCH 7th 2006
The Government's advisory committee on sustainable energy - The
Sustainable Energy Commission - has reported negatively on the
proposition of nuclear power. However the report relied for its
negative judgement on disadvantages of cost (uncertainty), security
(uncertainty) and waste disposal (uncertainty). If that is the best
case against nuclear power, for which the report acknowledges many
certain advantages (national independence of supply, reliability,
controllability, scalability, balance of payments advantage, then Sir
JP, whose work I have greatly admired, has made the case for nuclear
much easier to establish. At the very least the renewal of the existing
nuclear power stations will be hard to resist, if the sites and the
connection to the grids can be used into the next century. The cost
should be manageable and the uncertainties mentioned are subject to
intelligent efforts to reduce them continually. The most serious risks
could very likely be eliminated to well below that from many other
uncontrollable possible events.
FEBRUARY 1st 2007
The ITER project for the generation of energy by Nuclear Fusion is nw
said to be about 1 years away from a sustainable pilot project at its
new site in the South of France. Wikipedia entry extract:
On November 21, 2006, the
seven participants formally agreed to fund the project.
The program is anticipated to last for 30 years—10 years for
construction, and 20 years of operation—and cost approximately €10 billion
(US$12.1 billion), making it the third most expensive scientific megaproject
project after the Manhattan Project and the International Space Station.
It will be based in Cadarache, France.
It is technically ready to start construction and the first plasma
operation is expected in 2016.
ITER is designed to produce approximately 500 MW
peak of 16 MW for less than a second). A future fusion power plant
would generate about 3000-4000 MW of thermal power. Although ITER will
produce net power in the form of heat, the generated heat will not be
used to generate any electricity.
Nuclear Fission is best considered as a temporary fix. But I still
maintain that while we need an energy supply commensurate with the
consumption demanded by the developing populations of the world
community, it does not follow that we should leave the growth of
population and its needs to the unconsidered selfish desires of
The density of population on the planet can of course be considered as
limitless. We can live in ever more congested proximity, We can, with
sufficient energy, turn sea-water into drinking water. With sufficient
energy we can not only stop global warming, we could reverse it and
even control it. But I believe we are making a serious mistake in
thinking that this will be achieved before nature brings about its next
big change in the development of life on earth. The way forward in my
view is to realise that we already have the best Nuclear Fusion
generation system for
in the sun. We should control our population numbers or Nature will do
it for us, and we should control our consumption of fossil and even
contemporary vegetable energy or again Nature will bring about
circumstances which will bring this about.
While it seems that the ITER developers have finally solved the
containment problem (the fusion plasma had a tendency to diffuse
through the magnetic containment field) there is another project which
may also reach the critical proof-of-concept stage within 10 years, at
rather less expenditure. Here's the publicity:
HiPER is a proposed European High Power
Research facility dedicated to demonstrating the
feasibility of laser driven fusion as a future energy source.
extreme material studies, astrophysics in the laboratory,
miniaturised particle accelerators and a wide range of fundamental
energy is an attractive, environmentally clean power source using sea
water as its principal source of fuel. No greenhouse gases and
long-lived radioactive waste are produced. Demonstration of the
scientific proof of principle is expected between 2010 and 2012 as part
of an ongoing international program. What is now needed is to move from
the scientific proof of principle stage to a commercial reactor. HiPER
provides the critical next step along this route.
energy supply, appropriate for the appropriate population and
activity levels of a human race that can live without destroying the
planet. The natural systems will not allow us to become a disease of
planet Earth. So by all means continue but don't spend money that could
control our wasteful ways today.
DECEMBER 2nd 2007 This is the sort of thing I was looking
for when I started this file in 2002.
How Africa's desert sun can bring Europe power
£5bn solar power plan, backed by a Jordanian prince, could
EU with a sixth of its electricity needs - and cut carbon emissions
- Robin McKie, science editor
- Sunday December 2 2007
under the plan proposed by Prince Hassan bin Talal.
Photograph: Alamy Europe is considering plans to
more than £5bn on a string of giant solar power stations along
Mediterranean desert shores of northern Africa and the Middle East.
than a hundred of the generators, each fitted with thousands of huge
mirrors, would generate electricity to be transmitted by undersea cable
to Europe and then distributed across the continent to European Union
member nations, including Britain.
Billions of watts of power
could be generated this way, enough to provide Europe with a sixth of
its electricity needs and to allow it to make significant cuts in its
carbon emissions. At the same time, the stations would be used as
desalination plants to provide desert countries with desperately needed
supplies of fresh water.
Last week Prince Hassan bin Talal of
Jordan presented details of the scheme - named Desertec - to the
European Parliament. 'Countries with deserts, countries with high
energy demand, and countries with technology competence must
co-operate,' he told MEPs.
The project has been developed by the
Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Corporation and is supported by
engineers and politicians in Europe as well as Morocco, Algeria, Libya,
Jordan and other nations in the Middle East and Africa.
would provide initial funds for developing the solar technology that
will be needed to run plants as well as money for constructing
prototype stations. After that, banks and financial institutions, as
well as national governments, would take over the construction
programme, which could cost more than £200bn over the next 30
don't make enough use of deserts,' said physicist Gerhard Knies,
co-founder of the scheme. 'The sun beats down on them mercilessly
during the day and heats the ground to tremendous temperatures. Then at
night that heat is radiated back into the atmosphere. In other words,
it is completely wasted. We need to stop that waste and exploit the
vast amounts of energy that the sun beams down to us.'
estimate that sunlight could provide 10,000 times the amount of energy
needed to fulfil humanity's current energy needs. Transforming that
solar radiation into a form to be exploited by humanity is difficult,
One solution proposed by the scheme's engineers is to
use large areas of land on which to construct their solar plants. In
Europe, land is costly. But in nations such as Morocco, Algeria, and
Libya it is cheap, mainly because they are scorched by the sun. The
project aims to exploit that cheap land by use of a technique known as
'concentrating solar power'.
A CSP station consists of banks of
several hundred giant mirrors that cover large areas of land, around a
square kilometre. Each mirror's position can be carefully controlled to
focus the sun's rays onto a central metal pillar that is filled with
water. Prototype stations using this technique have already been tested
in Spain and Algeria.
Once the sun's rays are focused on the
pillar, temperatures inside start to soar to 800C. The water inside the
pillar is vaporised into superhot steam which is channelled off and
used to drive turbines which in turn generate electricity. 'It is
proven technology,' added Knies. 'We have shown it works in our test
Only small stations have been tested, but soon plants
capable of generating 100 megawatts of power could be built, enough to
provide the needs of a town. The Desertec project envisages a ring of a
thousand of these stations being built along the coast of northern
Africa and round into the Mediterranean coast of the Middle East. In
this way up to 100 billion watts of power could be generated: two
thirds of it would be kept for local needs, the rest - around 30
billion watts - would be exported to Europe.
An idea of how much
power this represents is revealed through Britain's electricity
generating capacity, which totals 12 billion watts.
But there is
an added twist to the system. The superheated steam, after it has
driven the plant's turbines, would then be piped through tanks of sea
water which would boil and evaporate. Steam from the sea water would
piped away and condensed and stored as fresh water.
you get electricity and fresh water,' said Knies. 'The latter is going
to be crucial for developing countries round the southern Mediterranean
and in north Africa. Their populations are rising rapidly, but they
have limited supplies of fresh water. Our solar power plants will not
only generate electricity that they can sell to Europe, they will
supply drinkable water that will sustain their thirsty populations.'
are drawbacks, however. At present electricity generated this way would
cost around 15-20 eurocents (11 to 14p) a kilowatt-hour - almost twice
the cost of power generated by coal. At such prices, few nations would
be tempted to switch to solar. 'Unless it is extremely cheap, it won't
stop people using easy-to-get fossil fuels,' John Gibbins, an energy
engineer at Imperial College London, told Nature magazine last week.
Desertec's backers say improvements over the next decade should bring
the cost of power from its plants to less than 10 eurocents a
kilowatt-hour, making it competitive with traditionally generated
Other critics say the the plants would be built in
several unstable states which could cut their supplies to Europe.
Again, Knies dismisses the danger. 'It's not like oil. Solar power is
gone once it hits your mirrors. It would simply be lost income.' The
European Parliament has asked Desertec to propose short-term
We do seem to be agreed on this. Although all sorts of other
energy sources will be tapped and decentralisation will play a vital
part of energy security, Nuclear will play a vital part in giving us
the energy to get there. We have to move fast now because of the great
delay in coming to this decision, although much of the delay was
Nuclear 'is energy future'
Britain will become increasingly reliant on nuclear
power for its energy needs over the next two decades, Business
Secretary John Hutton said.
an interview with the Financial Times, he said that he had been "very
encouraged" by the response from investors to the Government's plans to
build a new generation of nuclear power stations.
He said that as
the new stations came on stream, he expected that they would supply
"significantly" more than the 19% of Britain's energy which comes from
need the maximum contribution from nuclear sources in the next 10 to 15
years," he said. "I'd be very disappointed if it's not significantly
above the current level."
Mr Hutton said the Government was now
keen to fast-track the replacement of the UK's 10 current nuclear power
stations, all but one of which is due to close by 2023.
of the new plants could be operational in 2017, he said, a year ahead
of the target set in the Government's energy white paper published in
"If we can accelerate the timescale we should. We've got
to be completely serious about this. We should keep the foot down on
the pedal," he said.
"I've been very encouraged by the reaction
(from investors). It's completely confounded all those people who said
it's not going to happen.
"It's going to happen and in a shorter timescale than our critics
The Reuters report below underlines the obvious truth that in the next
50 years nuclear power and its application as distributed, reliable
electrical power is an essential element in the global energy equation
for technologically dependent countries. If the lights go out we are
all fucked (to use the vernacular of an eminent UK civil servant), and
GWB has belatedly understood that getting energy from growing crops on
agricultural land is equivalent to shooting oneself in the foot.
Russia, U.S. to sign civilian nuclear pact: source
By Guy Faulconbridge -
Russia and the United States will sign a
long awaited civilian nuclear cooperation pact on Tuesday that
will allow firms from the world's two biggest atomic powers to
expand bilateral nuclear trade significantly.
The deal will be signed in Moscow on the last full day of
Vladimir Putin's presidency, a Russian official said on
condition his name was not used.
The deal will open up the booming U.S. nuclear market and
Russia's vast uranium fields to firms from both countries.
Without a deal cooperation was severely limited and required
"The potential value of this agreement is the value of all
the contracts which could be signed between the two countries'
firms in the nuclear sphere, which is obviously billions of
dollars," a Russian source said.
At the 2006 Group of Eight summit in St Petersburg, U.S.
President George W. Bush and Putin asked their governments to
move forward on the deal but it has faced opposition from some
U.S. congressmen because of Russia's cooperation with Iran.
"It is symbolic that it will be signed on the last day of
Vladimir Putin's presidential term," the Russian official said.
The Russian source said the deal would be signed by Sergei
Kiriyenko, chief of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom,
and U.S. Ambassador to Russia William Burns, who is leaving
Moscow to take up the No. 3 post in the State Department.
A 123 agreement, so-called because it falls under section
123 of the Atomic Energy Act, is required before countries can
cooperate on nuclear materials.
Some U.S. politicians have said nuclear cooperation with
Russia should be shunned because Russia is helping Iran build
an atomic power station in Iran, but the Bush administration is
keen to have the pact approved this year.
Once the agreement is signed Bush will have to send it to
Congress, which has 90 days to act. If Congress does nothing,
the agreement goes into effect. If lawmakers want to block it,
they must pass a resolution of disapproval.
Russia's parliament, which is controlled by Putin's party,
must also ratify the Treaty.
Russia, one of the world's biggest sellers of enrichment
services, has been trying to break into the prosperous nuclear
markets of the United States and European Union.
Tuesday's deal creates a legal base that will allow
companies to make agreements themselves on trade in nuclear
"You cannot overestimate the importance of this agreement
because it opens up the giant north American market for nuclear
materials to Russian companies," Vladimir Yevseyev, a senior
researcher at the Moscow Centre For International Security.
Putin, who steps down on Wednesday, has reformed Russia's
nuclear sector to boost competition and open it up to world
atomic firms such as Japan's Toshiba Corp, which owns
U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric.
Russia has crafted a nuclear behemoth called Atomenergoprom
-- which officials say is an atomic version of Russian gas
giant Gazprom -- to compete with the biggest nuclear companies
on the world market.
Competitors include the partnership between France's Areva
and Germany's Siemens AG; Japan's Toshiba; and GE Hitachi, the
nuclear venture of General Electric and Japan's Hitachi.
Russia has about 870,000 tonnes of uranium in reserves and
more than 1 million tonnes if joint ventures abroad are
included. That excludes a strategic reserve of highly enriched
uranium and plutonium whose size is a state secret.
Russia already sells to the United States only uranium from
dismantled Russian nuclear weapons under a program known as
megatons to megawatts. Sales are made through USEC Inc..
(Editing by Christian Lowe and Charles Dick)
The general subject of Climate Change is covered elsewhere on this
website: see CLIMATE CHANGE.
But today as the price of crude moves towards $150 per
barrel and he
average UK price for a litre of unleaded petrol is now about 114p,
while diesel costs, on average, 126.4p.
That the price to the consumer should rise is realistic, but it must be
understood that this price is not related to the current or immediate
future cost of production. There is rather more profit being made by
oil traders and producers together than is necessary. It is being
inflated by restrictions on the supply by OPEC members who hold most of
the world's reserves. This would be OK if the profit being made was
being invested in revolutionary technologies to replace oil, to develop
energy economy, to research carbon capture, and in general to enabke
the world to stop global warming. The problem is it is not, or at least
not enough. It is being used to expand economies that are globally
malign from the point of view of the survival of life on this planet
There will be pressure on the government to abandon the fuel tax
escalator, and this they may have to do temporarily, as the correct
approach right now is to restrict our energy use but NOT to add to our
energy costs. Let me be clear: a tax on energy of all forms is
essential, but if the raw price is being inflated this is not sensible
unless very significant cuts in other taxes are introduced to balance
these. This is not easy to arrange in a fair way. A great deal of
imagination will be needed.
We should realise that the deterrent force is now already there thanks
to OPEC and the growing demand from China, India and elswhere, not to
mention the internal consumption of the oil-priducing countries
themselves and speculators in the oil futures market. Unfortunately the
developing oil-producing countries are
giving it away cheap to their own citizens. It is therefore up to the
developed consuming countries without sufficient energy sources of
their own to come up with the technology and to economise drastically.
The price of oil will drop if we just learn not to waste it. That is
fair and right. That we do not appear to have seen this coming is
entirely the fault of our ourselves - by that I mean our own citizens
and not particularly the government, which as ever is in the hands of
its citizens and the media.
MAY 28th 2008
Yesterday the situation discussed in the first entry in this file came
Power Set To Return After UK Blackouts
By Sky News SkyNews - Wednesday, May 28 03:34 pm
Electricity supplies should return to normal today
after the countrywide blackouts, the National Grid has said.
of thousands of homes and businesses across London, Cheshire,
Merseyside and East Anglia were affected between 11am and 1pm on
The blackouts happened when the Sizewell B nuclear power station in
Suffolk and the Longanett coal-fired power station in Fife both went
off-line within several minutes of each other.
In total, nine generating units across the country became
Stuart Larque, spokesman for the National Grid, said: "We think it
will be a case of business as usual.
"We have a very robust system in the UK. It rarely fails and that's
why everybody is talking about it so much."
blackouts were caused by the opposite of a power surge as the National
Grid deactivated local stations to maintain the required 50hz frequency.
When demand is greater than generation, the system fails.
The Government has come under pressure from the largest independent
energy consultancy, McKinnon Clarke, to build new power stations or
face further power cuts.
Hunter, energy analyst at McKinnon Clarke, said: "The Government's
inability to make long-term energy security decisions over the last
decade is coming home to roost.
"Since the 'dash for gas' in the 1990s, the lack of political will
to make tough decisions has left Britain short of power."
The UK energy markets have previously been thought of as a jewel in the
crown of de-monoplised and competitive industries. Now, our consumers
are suffering more that other EU countries. We considered that any
temporary advantage for European consumers that derived from cosy
relationships or even identity of producers, suppliers and distributors
would give way in time to inefficiency and featherbedding of such
protected monopolies. However it seems that Europe is getting the best
of both worlds, with increasing confidence in free EU markets. What
none of our politicians has the courage to point out is that it is the
full monetary union, the adoption of the Euro, that has allowed those
EU members to move forward in confidence. We gained unfairly from our
opt out from the Euro. Now the British public is going to pay the
price, and it is going to hurt, hard and long. The strength of the Euro
has a downside too for its members, but it is its own protection
against many elements of this downside and the advantages are huge.
JUNE 8th 2008
FROM THE INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE
The IEA said
coal-fired power plants like this one in Shanxi, China, needed to be
equipped with equipment for capturing and storing emissions of carbon
dioxide. (Natalie Behring/Bloomberg News)
$45 trillion urged in
battling carbon emissions
In one of the strongest warnings so far about the world's thirst for
energy, the International Energy Agency said Friday that investment
totaling $45 trillion might be needed over the next half-century to
prevent energy shortages and greenhouse gas emissions from undermining
global economic growth.
The executive director of the agency, Nobuo Tanaka, called for
"immediate policy action and technological transition on an
unprecedented scale." Tanaka said the world needed to "completely
transform the way we produce and use energy."
The IEA report said that the combination of growing demand for
energy, especially in countries like China and India, the dangers of
climate change and the scarcity of resources was going to require huge
shifts in the way the global economy was organized. To meet those
challenges, it said, nations would have to overcome objections to
building nuclear power plants and storing large amounts of carbon
dioxide underground or beneath the ocean floor.
"I am very pleased the International Energy Agency has put such a
high figure on the cost of making this transition," said Pierre
an energy expert and senior policy fellow at the European Council on
Foreign Relations. "It is high time we got rid of the myth that we can
decarbonize our economies on the cheap," he said.
In its report, the IEA, which gives advice on energy policy to its
27 member nations, which include the United States, Canada, Japan,
Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and most of Europe, described
emissions-cutting measures that broadly match the advice of some
leading scientists, who have recommended cutting emissions in half by
2050 as a way of avoiding devastating climate change. Environment
ministers from the Group of 8 have backed this target, and they have
said governments should officially endorse the goal at a G-8 summit
meeting in July in Japan.
The report did not say how such large sums of money should be
raised. The IEA said member nations of the UN Framework Convention on
Climate Change, or Unfccc, the parent treaty of the Kyoto Protocol,
must negotiate ways of encouraging governments and businesses to
John Hay, a spokesman for the convention, said markets operating
under the Kyoto treaty that put a price on carbon pollution, like
Europe's Emissions Trading System, were already playing an important
role in driving investment, but could not be solely relied on to raise
the sums described by the IEA. Two years ago, Yvo de Boer, the
executive secretary of the Unfccc, estimated that carbon trading could
generate investments in climate-friendly technology in the developing
world worth about $100 billion annually - a fraction of the amounts the
IEA said was required.
The IEA report foresees "a dramatic transformation of the energy
industry, and how that level of investment can be achieved is a major
question," said Robert LaCount, head of climate change and clean energy
research at Cambridge Energy Research Associates. "Governments at all
levels will need to help and support the emergence of new technologies
so that they can reach commercialization," he said.
Among the energy agency's chief messages is that current energy
policies are unsustainable, with emissions of carbon dioxide expected
to climb 130 percent and demand for oil to rise by 70 percent by 2050.
Tanaka warned that oil demand could be five times the current
production of Saudi Arabia by that time, and that carbon emissions of
such a magnitude could raise global average temperatures by 6 degrees
Celsius (10.8 degrees Fahrenheit), changing all aspects of life and
creating irreversible changes in the natural environment.
A major problem for the planet is that the rising cost of oil and
natural gas is prompting a switch to coal, particularly in India and
China. Coal is inexpensive and plentiful but highly polluting, and its
increasing use is contributing to the accelerating growth in emissions
of carbon dioxide. But Noël, of the foreign relations council,
rising cost of fossil fuels should be a cause for optimism, because
they would be the main factor driving large-scale investments.
"It's not primarily a global agreement between heads of state that
will make technologies like nuclear power or like carbon capture reach
take off," Noël said. "It's primarily expectations about energy
prices," he said.
The IEA recommended taking measures now that would ensure that
carbon emissions were down to at least present-day levels by
mid-century by using technologies that already exist, including steps
for improving energy efficiency and reducing emissions from power
generation. Such measures would cost $17 trillion between now and 2050,
or 0.4 percent of global output, costing about $400 billion a year.
The agency also mapped out a second, more ambitious plan aimed at
reducing emissions to half their current levels by mid-century by
emphasizing technologies and strategies for "weaning the world off
oil." The agency estimated the cost of that process at $45 trillion, or
1.1 percent of annual global output, over the period to 2050.
Investments of $100 billion to $200 billion would be needed each year
over the next 10 years, rising to $1 trillion to $2 trillion each year
in the coming decades.
To reach the goal of halving emissions, the agency said, among the
most important measures would be equipping more than 50 natural gas and
coal power plants each year with equipment to capture and sequester
carbon dioxide. Such measures would double the generating costs of a
coal power station not equipped with capture and storage, and many
plants that could not be converted to the new technology would have to
close before the end of their useful lives.
"It is recognized that this will be a large step for countries
heavily reliant on coal, but a necessary step requiring careful
management," the report said.
There would also be a need for 32 new nuclear plants each year,
while the number of wind turbines would need to increase by 17,500
annually. Other strategies included accelerating the development of
solar electricity and so-called second-generation biofuels, made from
sources that do not compete with food for farmland.
The report acknowledged that numerous objections to these
technologies would need to be overcome, in particular local opposition
to building new nuclear power stations and to long-term nuclear waste
repositories. Geologically stable sites also would need to be found for
storing carbon dioxide.
But the most difficult and costly step, it said, would be reducing
carbon emissions from transportation at a time when the use of cars,
airplanes and ships would still be growing rapidly but few technologies
would exist to limit emissions from those sources.
'Lights will go out' by 2015 if Lords rejects Planning Bill
By Nick Clark
The Independent - Monday,
14 July 2008
lights will go out across the UK in seven years if the Planning Bill
coming up for review this week is rejected in the House of Lords,
according to a leading business trade body. It estimates the country
needs £100bn of investment in major energy plants by 2020.
The CBI has urged the House of Lords to pass the Planning Bill,
consideration tomorrow, to help secure the nation's energy and
It also accused the Conservatives of
playing politics in opposing the Bill, with potentially damaging
ramifications for the UK's future.
John Cridland, deputy director
general of the CBI, said: "To keep the lights on, heat our homes and
meet climate change targets, approximately £100bn needs to be
in major energy infrastructure projects by 2020."
To avoid the
power outages that have dogged South Africa and California in the past
few years, the UK needs dozens of individual infrastructure projects
from gas and coal-fired plants to wind and nuclear. The CBI said that
with current complicated planning, legislation was "not fit for
purpose", adding the Government's Planning Bill was crucial to speed up
the process of approving these projects.
"The current planning
system has always struggled with such projects and there is no way the
number of projects necessary would come through the current system in
time. The reforms ... in the Planning Bill are essential if business is
to commit to the necessary investment," Mr Cridland said.
UK needs seven new gas and coal-fired stations, 12 new nuclear stations
and 40 wind farms, as well as 12 major
gas storage plants, according to
The second reading of the Bill is in the Lords
tomorrow, before it goes to committee. It should be voted on before the
end of the year.
The Bill was first proposed in a White Paper in
May last year and is based around the creation of an independent body
to oversee the planning applications for major energy infrastructure
projects. The CBI supports the move, pointing to major infrastructure
planning permission, such as Sizewell B, taking five years. It hopes a
streamlined process would take as little as nine months.
the final decision sits with ministers and politicians fear that by
handing the power to an independent body they are stripping democratic
accountability out of the planning process, and taking power away from
The CBI disagreed. It said the Independent
Planning Commission, which would comprise up to 30 experts, would act
in a similar way to the Monetary Policy Committee at the Bank of
England, with the final decision taken by a body of experts rather than
I do not know if this is bad news or good but either way it is a fact
and is unlikely to speed up the building of new Nuclear power stations.
If that delay is significant it is bad news. We need to proceed, EDF is
certain to be involved one way or another. [See September 24 2008]
UK nuclear energy deal collapses
Talks which would have seen eight of the UK's nuclear power
sold to a French state-owned energy firm have broken down without
EDF had been expected to announce a £12bn deal to buy British
However, it is understood that shareholders argued that the soaring
price of energy meant they should be able to command a higher offer.
The rejection is a major setback to the UK's plans to cut
greenhouse gases by relying more on nuclear energy.
The government holds a 35% stake in British Energy and is believed
have backed the deal, which would have raised as much as £4bn for
But Invesco and Prudential, who together own about 22%
of the firm, felt that that the 765 pence-per-share offer was too low,
said the BBC Business Editor, Robert Peston.
Arguably all of this mess could have been
avoided if BERR last year hadn't sold part of its British Energy stake
BBC Business Editor
On Friday, British Energy shares closed 4% lower at 700 pence.
EDF said that it still hoped "to be a major actor in the nuclear
rebirth of Britain".
Although the deal could yet be revived, the latest development was
bound to be a disappointment for the government which wants to get the
building of new nuclear power stations under way as soon as possible to
replace the ageing Magnox reactors, our business editor said.
He added it was an "embarrassment" to the Department of
Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) which has
responsibility for energy policy and controls.
"The department was planning to hail the deal as
facilitating plans to fill the gap between our energy needs and
generating capacity that will yawn open in the coming decade."
In a statement, BERR said that it would continue to watch
closely, but closing the deal was a matter for the private sector.
But it reaffirmed the UK government's commitment to
nuclear power, and it said that the rise in oil prices had only made
the case for new nuclear plants even stronger.
Both companies issued terse statements about the breakdown of the
EDF said that conditions were not right for it to proceed with the
| The level of interest in nuclear
new build remains high... there are
strong signals of an appetite for this from the market
Department for Business spokesman
British Energy said "advanced discussions" had continued but that
no agreement had been made to date.
It added that there could be no certainty that the talks would lead
to an offer being made.
The chairman of the Commons Business and Enterprise Committee,
Conservative MP Peter Luff, said the collapse of the deal was not
necessarily a bad thing.
The French firm buying BE would have meant "a massive
concentration of power in the electricity sector in the hands of EDF",
"They'd have had over a quarter of all electricity generation and
the competition effect would've been very serious."
EDF, which is 85% owned by the French government, is the biggest
nuclear power generator in the world.
"After in-depth discussions, EDF considers that the conditions for a
major development in Great Britain are not met to date," the
Paris-based company said in a statement.
The announcement came shortly before the firm was due to release
its half-year earnings.
British Energy, which generates about 20% of the UK's electricity,
part-owned by the British government which wants to sell its stake.
The firm was privatised in 1996 but ended up being
bailed out in 2002 by the government after running into severe
Centrica was negotiating with EDF to be its minority
partner in the acquisition, and was expected to pay around £3bn
British Energy's sites are considered prime locations for the
government's proposed new generation of nuclear power plants.
EDF has other options for developing nuclear facilities
in the UK, having bought land adjacent to two existing nuclear plants.
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Enterprise
& Regulatory Reform said: "Our commitment to nuclear power is
"The go ahead for new nuclear power, alongside our
action to promote energy saving and renewables is in Britain's long
term national interest.
"The level of interest in nuclear new build remains
high and recent months have shown there are strong signals of an
appetite for this from the market."
Correction: In earlier versions of this story, the name of one
shareholding companies was incorrectly given as Investec.
AUGUST 10th 2008
A radical breakthrough in solar power from MIT. Decentralised
electrical energy, beamed wirelessly from our own nuclear fusion
generator (Sol), should be able to convert sea water to drinking as
well as all the uses mentioned in the ENS report
click above for the full article
Solar Power Breakthrough Stores Energy for Later
CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, August 2, 2008 (ENS) - Within 10
years, homeowners could power their homes in daylight with solar
photovoltaic cells, while using excess solar energy to produce hydrogen
and oxygen from water to power a household fuel cell. If the new
process developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology finds
acceptance in the marketplace, electricity-by-wire from a central
source could be a thing of the past.
"This is the nirvana of what we've been talking about for
years," said MIT's Daniel Nocera, senior author of a paper describing
the simple, inexpensive, and efficient process for storing solar energy
in the July 31 issue of the journal "Science."
"Solar power has always been a limited, far-off solution. Now we can
seriously think about solar power as unlimited and soon," Nocera said.
As time passes it becomes more and more obvious that our energy
supplies will come as ever from our own global nuclear fusion furnace,
Sol. Here is just another example.
Making ice while the sun shines
By Duncan Geere Tech Digest - Wednesday, September 3 11:13 am
is quite nifty. A team of scientists from San Jose University have
worked out a way to make ice with zero carbon footprint and no moving
parts. There's no electricity involved either. All you've got to do is
keep the machine clean.
the science: A big mirror focuses the sun's rays on a tube of coolant.
The coolant evaporates and travels through pipes into a chamber where
it's absorbed by an unnamed material. When the sun goes down, this
material slowly cools until it hits 40°C. At that point, the
turns to a liquid and due to pressure differences, it rapidly cools to
below 0°C. You then put some water next to it, and voila, it'll
The next day, you just do exactly the same thing all over again.
could be incredibly useful in tropical countries, or in places where
the electricity supply is iffy, like war zones. The ice produced could
be crucial for medical uses, or even for food storage and
refrigeration. The whole system is completely sealed too, so if it
doesn't leak then you'll never need to top it up.
reckon it can make 14 pounds of ice each day - but obviously, the
bigger you make the machine, the more ice you'll be able to get out.
I'm sure that time will also produce more efficient models. You can't
get it yet because it's just a prototype, but based on the brief
science description above and a bit of knowledge of coolants, you might
be able to put your own version together. If you do give it a shot,
then be sure to let us know.
University of San Jose (via DVice)
posts: IFA 2008: Portable Solar Panels from Onlink | Turning roads into
solar collectors - why has no-one thought of this before?
EDF made a better offer, and the UK shareholders have seen sense. It
was a no-brainer
EDF set to
buy British Energy
French energy firm EDF is expected to announce a £12.4bn
deal to buy
British Energy, the firm which operates the UK's eight nuclear power
In addition, Centrica,
which owns British Gas, will take 25% of all power generated by British
Energy once it is in French hands, the BBC has learnt.
It will also take a 25% stake in all new nuclear plants built by
The deal with EDF is seen by Centrica as vital to reducing its
dependence on imported gas.
The cost to Centrica of this investment will be around £3bn.
EDF's acquisition of British Energy is due to be announced on
The deal will be controversial, BBC business editor Robert Peston
because it will be seen by some as handing the UK's nuclear future to a
company owned by the French state.
Centrica's investment may placate some critics.
The involvement of Centrica also helped to persuade British Energy's
recalcitrant shareholders to back the sale to EDF, since they are also
holders of Centrica shares, our correspondent adds.
Second time around
British Energy owns the UK's eight nuclear power stations and
generates an estimated 14% of its electricity supply.
BRITISH ENERGY'S NUCLEAR PLANTS
Hinkley Point B
EDF is expected to build four new nuclear plants on existing
British Energy sites and sell-on the remaining ones.
The UK government, which owns 35% of British Energy, is keen to
more than one company is involved in building the next generation of
EDF was set to buy British Energy in July, but the deal
was called off on the eve of the announcement when shareholders
protested that it was being sold too cheaply.
Talks continued and EDF returned with an improved offer which has
EDF is understood to have offered 774 pence a share for British
Energy, nine pence more than its initial offer.
It is time to remind people that although a new series of coal fired
electricity generating stations should be avoided unless really
effective and economically sustainable carbon capture is mastered, we
need to build at least ONE modern coal-fired plant in order to develop
the carbon-capture technology. This technology will be a global
requirement regardless of the balance of generation technology used in
the UK. The development of nuclear fission plants by EDF does not
prejudice the development of any other power sources.
Solar generated hydrogen is the long term future for energy storage for
transport and domestic and much industrial use. Generation can be
localised as well as centralised. Centralised nuclear fusion
development can be stopped now in my view as it is absorbing funds that
are needed on other energy projects. It is not even a desirable goal if
it were to work right now.
APRIL 08 2009
The awkwardness and bulkiness of hydrogen energy torage is enough to
make my hasty generalisation of last year seem now to be only
applicable in certain cases. Technological advances in all other areas
will as usual ensure there is no one answer or methodology but a
judicious mix. The new developments in battery technology are the most
important for our electric cars providing battery life and
recycling/renewing fall into the right frame. These last considerations
JULY 28th 2009
US breakthrough promises "solar panels" that work in the dark
Research team predicts commercially available products
within five to 10
As every good physicist knows, just because it is dark does not mean
Or, to put it another way, we are constantly surrounded by infrared
that the earth radiates as heat after absorbing energy from the sun
Now researchers at the US Department of Energy's
Laboratory (INL) claim to have unlocked the secret of
that energy through the development of microscopic nanoantennas, each
diameter 1/25 the size of a human hair, capable of absorbing infra red
And they are confident commercial products based on the technology
available within five years.
Speaking to BusinessGreen.com, INL physicist Steven Novack
that the microscopic antenna work in the same way as conventional
as those used by televisions or cell phones, but because of their size
soak up energy in the infrared spectrum that is invisible to the human
This is not a new idea," he said. "But advances in nanotechnology in
years have finally allowed us to build these structures."
The development, which was debuted today at the
American Society of
Engineers International Conference on Energy Sustainability in
has been heralded as a major breakthrough that has the potential to
revolutionise the solar industry and provide a cost effective, highly
"solar panel" capable of generating energy day or night.
The INL team claimed that while conventional solar panels typically
up to 20 per cent of the sun's energy, computer models suggested that
nanoantenna boasting the right combination of materials, shape and size
harvest up to 92 per cent of the energy at infrared wavelengths.
Prototype silicon-based nanoantennas built using conventional
production methods backed up these computer models, absorbing more than
cent of the energy from the intended wavelength range. Initial
also shown that the antennas continue to work effectively when embedded
sheets of plastic to create a panel or "skin" capable of capturing
potentially paving the way for "solar panels" that work during both the
Novack admitted the technology still faces one major technical
turning the captured energy into usable electricity. He explained that
nanoantennas create alternating currents that oscillate trillions of
second, and harnessing such high frequencies is beyond the existing
technologies typically used to convert alternating to direct currents.
However, he added that the researchers were working on using the
nanotechnology manufacturing techniques used to create the antennae to
means for harnessing the energy and were confident the energy could be
"We believe it is achievable," said Novack, adding that the team
to delivering a complete, commercially viable cooling device based on
technology within five to seven years, and a device capable of turning
rays into to usable electricity within seven to 10 years.
Should the researchers deliver a means of harnessing the electricity
applications for the technology are potentially limitless.
Novack said that embedding the antennae into plastic-based "skins"
allow the technology to be integrated into everything from cars to
buildings to electronic devices. Meanwhile, their ability to capture
be harnessed to waste heat generated by electronic devices or even
stations is captured and reused.
He added that because the antennae are mechanical devices they
prove far cheaper to manufacture than chemical-based solar photovoltaic
making it easier for them to attain commercial viability.
"The applications are potentially huge," he concluded. "I envision
the technology that allows us to deliver a genuinely decentralised
SEPTEMBER 21st 2009
There have been quite a few developments on plans for solar and wind
farms in the Sahara as suggested a few years back on this web site. The
proposal of a DC Grid to transport alternative energy may confuse
readers. You may wonder why, if DC transmission is so efficient, why we
went to AC. The reason is AC could be easily changed from one voltage
to another by transformers with no moving parts. High voltage
transmission needs far less current flow in amps to carry the same
amount of energy. AC, pioneered by Tesla in the face of Edison's
opposition, was the secret to electrifying the world and powering all
our appliances at voltages that were not dangerous or incendiary. But
DC could have its use now to transmit wholesale energy over long
distances to distribution centres.
NOVEMBER 10th 2009
At last the government has approved 10 sites for new nuclear power
stations. Objectors are now concentrating on economic arguments and
waste disposal. They base both on past experience, on the assumption
that we cannot learn and improve. They could be proved right, and they
could be proved wrong. Of course many of them will try to ensure they
are proved right by adding to the cost through their actions. As for
safety, it is not necessary to bury the waste from new nuclear until an
agreed place and method is found. It can be safely stored above ground
and may well remain there is there is not a better solution. Once again
it is illogical to assume we need make the same mistakes as last time
that rendered the waste unmanageable.
It has been said that it would only take one more nuclear accident,
anywhere, that caused fall-out or deaths to yet scupper the UK nuclear
plans. Why? When an airline crashes a time-expired plane piloted by
poor pilots, we don't stop UK commercial aviation. What is required is
the employment of well trained and selected personnel to build and run
new nuclear stations that are not necessarily the cutting edge of new
technology but based on the best and using genuine fail-safe design.
Fully fail-safe design is not possible in aviation. For a nuclear power
station, it can be, up to a point where a significant failure would
require circumstances that would render the failure itself not the main
problem or cause for concern. Ensuring a good, clean power supply is
part of the means of avoiding such circumstances. Those who are still
puzzled by the chicken-and-egg riddle will not understand this of
course. There are still some around.
I used the BBC calculator to work out how a mix of nuclear, fossil and
renewables could enable us to meet the targets we are committed to to
mitigate carbon emissions. Unless the BBC calculator is wrong, it looks
possible. This is assuming no success in reducing demand through
insulation and other sensible methods. 2020 is only a check-point. This
process will continue and sophisticated energy storage systems must be
developed to allow demand and supply to have a big buffer.
DECEMBER 1st 2010
It has been a year since I added anything to this file. That helps to
give some perspective and see what we should be panicking about next.
It seems we have accepted that nuclear power is an essential part of
the energy mix for the UK and some other countries, with solar, wind,
tidal and lean coal all to be necessary where appropriate globally.
However, efficiency is going to be the real key and that is where the
big problem lies. The inexorable growth in a world where growth has
been the only way forward causes congestion in key areas (a major cause
of inefficiency) and many efficient solutions cause unemployment. All
soloutions that rely on growth demand natural resources.
The growing global
demand for natural resources risks undermining Europe's economy, a
report has warned.
The outlook, produced by the European Environment Agency, said the
increases were driven by a need to satisfy changes in global
The agency said there were no "quick fixes" but called on
businesses, individuals and policymakers to work together to become
It added that Europe had made progress on emissions, but more had to
"We are consuming more natural resources than is ecologically
stable," said EEA executive director Jacqueline McGlade ahead of the
formal launch of the fourth Environment
State and Outlook Report (SOER 2010).
JANUARY 13th 2011
While many countries are showing new reservations on wind-farms, the
North Sea offshore environment is being taken more seriously. It is an
asset we can exploit with benefits to all.
What we now have to attend to is the security of the national grid
which is computer controlled minute by minute through digital networks
that are not independent from the Internet that is accessible to
hackers. Its means of security against failure is also a source of
vulnerability, so some very careful planning is required to put in
place mitigation measures to deal with possible problems.
MAY 11th 2011
As noted often above, the key to energy supply and climate control is
the storage and timely release of electrical energy from renewable,
sustainable resources. The Falkland Islands are on the right page here:
In the UK, wireless charging points should be made available in all
appropriate car parks, to charge parked cars automatically on a need
basis balanced between individual and collective supply and demand
values, so that no renewable-source energy is wasted.
The news that Germany is to shut down its nuclear power plants early,
rather than extend there life according to the plans in place before
the Japanese disaster caused by the quake/sunami, was greeted at first
with scepticism, and then criticised. It is said they will end up
buying nuclear generated electricity from France and Poland.
Well, that may be true. But look at it from Germany's point of view.
Upgrading their current plants to new safety levels and extending their
life would cost billions. At the end of that extended life they would
still end up with out of date plants, making nuclear waste, and not the
most efficient to run. They would then have to be replaced UNLESS
(!!!).... instead of that, their life was not extended in the first
place, and all these billions were instead spent on ensuring a home
market for every renewable energy device and exploitable resource that
could play a part in the renewable energy mix, along with all the
systems to control and integrate them.
By creating a home market to lead the way, Germany will have the
economy of scale to justify the investment in the technology,
manufacturing and human resources to build an export market to supply
the world competitively. I seem to remember many years ago the then
West Germany passed a law that decreed all new domestic plumbing must
be in stainless steel. The result was they became the chosen suppliers
of stainless steel plumbing (and other stuff) to most other countries.
So France will go MORE nuclear, because they EXPORT NUCLEAR POWER, and
can develop renewable as well from their huge coastline (wave and
tide), wind, solar and hydro. Germany will do it differently, and both
will be right.
AUGUST 18th 2011
The unfolding revelations of the events in Japan following the March
11th earthquake and tsunami are disturbing.
If the following is true, it is not surprising that they would like to
shut other plants down for major refurbishing.
It is suggested that:
1. The cooling system was shut down by the quake. Recirculation and
cooling pipes in poor repair were broken, large amounts of coolant lost
and from that moment overheating was inevitable.
2. The emergency cooling system kicks in but due to broken pipes cannot
3. Nearly an hour after the quake the tsunami washes out the back-up
generator that powers the cooling system when the main is down, but it
couldn't have worked anyway.
So what happened was as if there had been no safety system at all other
than 'shutting down' the core from its fully active state and expecting
it to be OK with no coolant. That is ridiculous.
New claims of a nuclear fusion break through using lasers. Budgetary
restraints have hit the JET and ITER projects (I am glad to say)
and I have reservations about this one (NIF or Nif- The National
Ignition Facility) also, in principle, theory and (I estimate) practice.
Meanwhile I return to the theme
throughout this file from its first pages - if we don't wake up the
lights can go out. Grid instability is a growing danger.
infrastructure investment could leave Britain in the dark
Britain faces a
very real chance that the lights could go out in the next five to 10
years, as its ailing energy infrastructure struggles to attract the
massive investment needed to ensure
Comments welcomed at: firstname.lastname@example.org