Ecology And Environment

Compare Wind Power and Nuclear Power

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"Compare Wind Power and Nuclear Power"
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The fundamental difference between wind power and nuclear power may not be what you think. It's storage. As of yet, science has not developed a storage system for wind created energy. The prospect of massive storage systems necessary to store and provide at peak-hour usage may be fifty years into the future. Nuclear power is, by its molecular structure, a storage system and that can be tapped and fed into the power grid as needed. That is not possible with wind power.

But differences between the two power systems are vast. It is claimed that wind power is environmentally friendly and renewable. While that may be accurate from one point of view, wind energy creation is extremely negative when it comes to birds and bats, visual pollution and the amount of land windmills require to create energy. The land to consistent-power-generation ratio for wind power is horrendously out of proportion.

A startling statistic was reported by Rockefeller University's Jesse Ausubel , who calculated that "To power a toaster [by wind power], you need about 100 square metres of windy land. And to power the city of New York," he added, "you'd need a wind farm the size of Connecticut." The reason for the immense amount of land necessary is that each wind powered turbine gets a maximum of thirty per cent efficiency over a twenty-four hour period. The problem is that the wind does not blow consistently and turbine efficiency ratings drop to six to ten per cent as a general average for all wind turbines.

Wind power efficiency also suffers another decline when the time at which the wind blows does not coincide with the peak usage periods. Power utilities have no way to store the energy developed, further reducing the effectiveness of wind power.

A little known problem comes from environmentalists themselves. Since wind power geography is of a specific kind, meaning open spaces in specific locations, the power must use new transmission lines. Unfortunately, environmentalists have filed law suits stopping the construction of these transmission lines, even though it is from what enviros consider an absolutely necessary power source. Without the transmission lines, wind power is useless.

Another of the lesser known problems of wind power is it's propensity to kill bats and migratory birds that use the same wind currents where turbines are placed to take advantage of the more consistent wind patterns. reports: In Juno Beach, Fla.- FPL Energy, a sister company to Florida Power & Light Co., is part of the national effort to develop diverse - and more environmentally friendly - sources of energy. The problem is they're killing thousands of bats a year.

It was thought that the bats were hitting the blades, but autopsies by scientists show that the back-draft wind suction created by the spinning blades literally sucks the air out of the bat's lungs collapsing them.

Birds too, are being killed at alarming rates. USA Today reports: ALTAMONT PASS, Calif. "The size of the annual body count - conservatively put at 4,700 birds - is unique to this sprawling, 50-square-mile site in the Diablo Mountains between San Francisco and the agricultural Central Valley because it spans an international migratory bird route regulated by the federal government. The low mountains are home to the world's highest density of nesting golden eagles."

Nuclear power has had a bad reputation, not because of its efficiency, but because a possible threat and the fear of storage and transportation of nuclear spent fuel. It's a specious argument. Just how specious the argument it is, is illustrated by comparing nuclear power to natural gas.

Five hundred persons per year in the US die of CO2 poising related to natural gas (that's about 12,000 deaths in thirty years), while in 3,400 operating man-years, not one person in the U.S. has died of radiation poisoning from U.S. nuclear energy and yet we have an inordinate fear of nuclear power, not natural gas.

Jimmy Carter's fear of the potential theft of plutonium created during the creation of nuclear power, caused him to stop the development of breeder reactors which, simply put, recycle spent nuclear fuel. Nuclear reactors, at the time, used only five per cent of the fuel rod. Today's closed system reactors can use that spent fuel and not only extract the power but can, reduce the amount of waste and take the half-life from twenty-five thousand years to an estimated one-hundred years.

Another highly effective reactor system, that would have helped nuclear power development, was dumped by Bill Clinton. It was a system developed by Argonne National Laboratories in Chicago. A large scale working model had been constructed of an Integral Fast Reactor, which again used spent nuclear fuel. A critical factor is that the waste that is left is much less toxic, has a shorter half-life and there's much less of it.

Even Microsoft founder Bill Gates, is investing in IFRs. He and NASA Climatologist, James Hansen, have both suggested IRFs be re-evaluated as part of America's energy mix. Reactors do not create CO2 emissions making them much more earth friendly.

One additional factor is the transportation of the spent fuel. It is much safer today. Those who promote the fear that transporting nuclear fuel is unsafe have not read the transportation record. More than a million miles of nuclear waste transport has not cause a single case of contamination either to persons or property.

But of all the factors relating to wind and nuclear power, the most important is the ability to use nuclear power when it is needed. It is its own storage system. Japan and France have both developed regulatory systems to speed the construction of nuclear power reactors. In Japan is can take as little as 3 years to construct a plant.

Wind power is unsightly, inefficient, inconsistent, consumes huge amounts of land destroying the environment in the process and it cannot be stored. Nuclear power can be stored, used when needed and with today's new technology is safer than ever to use and waste transport has shown to be safer than any other toxic material

More about this author: Rand E Oertle

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