Sweden constructs the world’s first “Dynamic Charging Road” which is a road that recharges EV (Electric Vehicles) batteries while they drive. The prototype public road is 2km long but nationwide charging road is already being drafted. The road is similar to electric trains in that a small rod slides along an electrical track which calculates energy consumption allowing costs to be debited per vehicle use.
Natural greenhouse effect versus man made greenhouse effect and global warming.
Learn the basics about climate change and how burning fossil fuels adds extra carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, and how this then leads to climate change.
Fossil fuels, like oil, coal and natural gas, are the remains of living things from millions of years ago. They are mainly composed of carbon with varying amounts of hydrogen. When the petrol burns, it joins with oxygen to build up hydrogen oxide and carbon dioxide.
Before the world became industrialised by burning fossil fuels the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere was about 0.028% tiny compared with oxygen at 21% and nitrogen at 78%, but enough to keep us warm. Without this natural blanket of insulating gas the earth would be too cold to support life as we know it. But this carbon dioxide released when fossil fuels burn adds to the existing carbon dioxide levels which are now nearly 50% higher than pre-industrial times. Although we get a daily supply of heat from the sun, the earth normally loses this (at night and in the colder seasons) so the average temperature of the earth remains constant.
But this status quo is starting to change: as humanity adds carbon dioxide into our atmosphere the extra layer isolates the heat and it cannot escape as easily. The earth cannot lose its greenhouse gases quickly – and we keep adding to them! By putting our planet in a sweat box, we are causing wide ranging consequences for our climate and life on the planet.
Some people think that living things contribute to the enhanced greenhouse effect because they breathe out carbon dioxide – but this carbon has come from their food and that has come from plants which took the carbon from the atmosphere in what is called the carbon cycle. Even burning wood does not contribute to the enhanced greenhouse effect as long as the trees you cut down are replanted.
However the carbon in fossil fuels has remained trapped underground for 100’s of millions of years so it is extra carbon that is being added to the natural cycle. We are also throwing away other gases into the atmosphere which help trap infra-red radiation, and so also enhance the natural greenhouse effect. They are methane, especially from rice paddy fields and from cows and nitrous oxide NON from car exhausts.
This rise in temperature cause our climate to change because extra energy is trapped on earth – already causing glaciers and ice caps to melt. With more energy in the atmosphere weather becomes more extreme, so there are more floods, droughts, and storms. Not everywhere will get warmer, but the climate is changing all because we have been using fossil fuels at an ever increasing rate.
What is Thorium?
Thorium is a slightly radioactive metal with small ammounts naturally being found in small amounts in most rocks and soils. It is three times more abundant than uranium. Within soil, there is an average of 6 parts per million of thorium. Thorium is insoluble and unlike uranium, is plentiful in sands but not in seawater. Thorium is a single isotope, Th-232, which decays very slowly. It has a half-life of about three times the age of the Earth.
What does Thorium look like?
Thorium is a silvery white metal that retains its lustre for several months. However, when it is contaminated with the oxide, thorium slowly tarnishes in air, becoming grey and eventually black. When heated in air, thorium metal ignites and burns brilliantly with a white light.
What do we use Thorium for?
Thorium oxide (ThO2), also called thoria, has one of the highest melting points of all oxides (3300°C) and so it has found applications in light bulb elements, lantern mantles, arc-light lamps, welding electrodes and heat-resistant ceramics. Glass containing thorium oxide has both a high refractive index and wavelength dispersion, and is used in high quality lenses for cameras and scientific instruments.
How much Thorium is there?
The most common source of thorium is the rare earth phosphate mineral, monazite, which contains up to about 12% thorium phosphate. World monazite resources are estimated to be about 16 million tonnes.Thorite (ThSiO4) is another common thorium mineral. A large vein deposit of thorium and rare earth metals is in Idaho,United States.
How can we use Thorium as an energy source?
Thorium (Th-232) is ‘fertile’ and upon absorbing a neutron will transmute to uranium-233 which is an excellent fissile fuel material similar to uranium-238 which transmutes to plutonium-239. All thorium fuel concepts require the Th-232 is first irradiated in a reactor to provide the necessary neutron dosing to produce protactinium-233. The Pa-233 that is produced can either be chemically separated from the parent thorium fuel and the decay product U-233 then recycled into new fuel, or the U-233 may be usable ‘in-situ’ in the same fuel form, especially in molten salt reactors (MSRs).
Using thorium as a fuel:
Another option for using thorium as a fuel is a ‘fertile matrix’ for fuels containing plutonium that serves as the fissile driver while being consumed (and even other transuranic elements like americium. Mixed thorium-plutonium oxide (Th-Pu MOX) fuel is an analog of current uranium-MOX fuel, but no new plutonium is produced from the thorium component, unlike for uranium fuels in U-Pu MOX fuel, and so the level of net consumption of plutonium is high. Production of all actinides is lower than with conventional fuel, and negative reactivity coefficient is enhanced compared with U-Pu MOX fuel. In fresh thorium fuel, all of the fissions (thus power and neutrons) derive from the driver component. As the fuel operates the U-233 content gradually increases and it contributes more and more to the power output of the fuel. The ultimate energy output from U-233 (and hence indirectly thorium) depends on numerous fuel design parameters, including: fuel burn-up attained, fuel arrangement, neutron energy spectrum and neutron flux (affecting the intermediate product protactinium-233, which is a neutron absorber). The fission of a U-233 nucleus releases about the same amount of energy (200 MeV) as that of U-235.
An important principle in the design of thorium fuel systems is that of heterogeneous fuel arrangement in which a high fissile (and therefore higher power) fuel zone called the seed region is physically separated from the fertile (low or zero power) thorium part of the fuel – often called the blanket. Such an arrangement is far better for supplying surplus neutrons to thorium nuclei so they can convert to fissile U-233, in fact all thermal breeding fuel designs are heterogeneous. This principle applies to all the thorium-capable reactor systems.
What type of reactors are able to use Thorium?
- Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs)
- High-Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactors (HTRs)
- Accelerator Driven Reactors (ADS)
- Molten Salt Reactors (MSRs)
- Fast Neutron Reactors (FNRs)
- Pressurised (Light) Water Reactors (PWRs)
- Boiling (Light) Water Reactors (BWRs)
- Thorium is a cleaner, safer, and more abundant nuclear fuel that has the potential to revolutionize energy production.
- Thorium is more abundant in nature than uranium.
- It is fertile rather than fissile, and can only be used as a fuel in conjunction with a fissile material such as recycled plutonium.
- Thorium fuels can breed fissile uranium-233 to be used in various kinds of nuclear reactors.
- Several significant demonstrations of the use of thorium-based fuels to generate electricity in several reactor types have been displayed in early trials.
- Molten salt reactors are well suited to thorium fuel, as normal fuel fabrication is avoided.
- A thorium fuelled reactor operated from 1977 to 1982 at Shippingport in the USA.
- The use of thorium as a new primary energy source can be a cost effective, clean fuel due to its latent energy value.
- Norway’s Thor Energy is developing and testing two thorium-bearing fuels for use in existing nuclear power plants.
- In India, some heavy water reactors have been used thorium-bearing fuel bundles.
- Several North America and Europe utilities are initiating feasibility studies to investigate the use of Thorium as a fuel source.
- The thorium-fuelled MSR is sometimes referred to as the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor which has been bred in a liquid thorium salt blanket.
Global climate change, driven by human emissions of greenhouse gases, is already affecting the planet, with more heatwaves, droughts, wildfires and floods, and accelerating sea-level rise.
Devastating impacts on our environment, health, social justice, food production, coastal city infrastructure and economies cannot be avoided if we maintain a slow and steady transition to a zero-carbon society.
According to Stefan Rahmstorf, Head of Earth System Analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, we need an emergency response.
A big part of this response needs to be transforming the energy sector, the principal contributor to global warming in Australia and many other developed countries.
Many groups have put forward ideas to transition the energy sector away from carbon. But what are the key ingredients?
Technology is the easy bit
At first glance the solution appears straightforward. Most of the technologies and skills we need – renewable energy, energy efficiency, a new transmission line, railways, cycleways, urban design – are commercially available and affordable. In theory these could be scaled up rapidly.
But in practice there are several big, non-technical barriers. These include politics dominated by vested interests, culture, and institutions (organizational structures, laws, and regulations).
Vested interests include the fossil fuel industry, electricity sector, aluminum smelting, concrete, steel and motor vehicles. Governments that receive taxation revenue and political donations from vested interests are reluctant to act effectively.
To overcome this barrier, we need strong and growing pressure from the climate action movement.
There are numerous examples of nonviolent social change movements the climate movement can learn from. Examples include the Indian freedom struggle led by Gandhi; the African-American civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr; the Philippine People Power Revolution; and the unsuccessful Burmese uprising of 1988-90.
Several authors, including Australian climate scientist Matthew England, point out that nations made rapid socioeconomic changes during wartime and that such an approach could be relevant to rapid climate mitigation.
Learning from war
UNSW PhD candidate Laurence Delina has investigated the rapid, large, socio-economic changes made by several countries just before and during World War 2.
He found that we can learn from wartime experience in changing the labor force and finance.
However, he also pointed out the limitations of the wartime metaphor for rapid climate mitigation:
- Governments may need extraordinary emergency powers to implement rapid mitigation, but these are unlikely to be invoked unless there is support from a large majority of the electorate.
- While such support is almost guaranteed when a country is engaged in a defensive war, it seems unlikely for climate action in countries with powerful vested interests in greenhouse gas emissions.
- Vested interests and genuinely concerned people will exert pressure on governments to direct their policies and resources predominantly towards adaptation measures such as sea walls, and dangerous quick fixes such as geoengineering. While adaptation must not be neglected, mitigation, especially by transforming the energy sector, should be primary.
Unfortunately it’s much easier to make war than to address the global climate crisis rapidly and effectively. Indeed many governments of “democratic” countries, including Australia, make war without parliamentary approval.
Follow the leaders!
According to Climate Action Tracker, the 158 climate pledges submitted to the United Nations by December 8 2015 would result in around 2.7℃ of warming in 2100 – and that’s provided that all governments meet their pledge.
Nevertheless, inspiring case studies from individual countries, states and cities could lead the way to a better global outcome.
Iceland, with its huge hydroelectric and geothermal resources, already has 100% renewable electricity and 87% renewable heat.
Denmark, with no hydro, is on track to achieve its target of 100% renewable electricity and heat by 2035.
Germany, with modest hydro, is heading for at least 80% renewable electricity by 2050, but is behind with its renewable heat and transport programs.
It’s easier for small regions to reach 100% renewable electricity, provided that they trade electricity with their neighbors. The north German states of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Schleswig-Holstein are generating more than 100% net of their electricity from renewables.
The Australian Capital Territory is on track to achieve its 100% renewable electricity target by 2020. There are also many towns and cities on programs towards the 100% goal.
If the climate action movement can build its strength and influence, it may be possible for the state of Tasmania to achieve 100% renewable energy (electricity, heat and transport) and for South Australia to reach 100% renewable electricity, both within a decade.
But the eastern mainland states, which depend heavily on coal for electricity, will need to build new renewable energy manufacturing industries and to train a labor force that includes many more highly trained engineers, electricians, systems designers, IT specialists and plumbers, among others.
Changes will be needed to the National Electricity Market rules, or at least to rewrite the National Electricity Objective to highlight renewable energy, a slow task that must obtain the agreement of federal, state and territory governments.
Australia has the advantage of huge renewable energy resources, sufficient to create a substantial export industry, but the disadvantage of a declining manufacturing sector.
There are already substantial job opportunities in renewable energy, both globally and in Australia. These can be further expanded by manufacturing components of the technologies, especially those that are expensive to ship between continents, such as large wind turbine blades, bulk insulation and big mirrors.
Transport will take longer to transform than electricity generation and heat. Electric vehicle manufacturing is in the early stage of expansion and rail transport infrastructure cannot be built overnight, especially in car-dependent cities.
For air transport and long-distance road transport, the only short-term solution is biofuels, which have environmental and resource constraints.
How long would it take?
The timescale for the transition to 100% renewable energy – electricity, heat and transport – depends on each country or region and the commitment of its governments.
Scenario studies (see also here), while valuable for exploring technological strategies for change, are not predictions. Their results depend upon assumptions about the non-technical strategies I have discussed. They cannot predict the timing of changes.
Governments need to agree on a strategy for transitioning that focuses not just on the energy sector, but includes industry, technology, labor, financial institutions, governance and the community.
Everyone should be included in developing this process, apart from dyed-in-the-wool vested interests. This process could draw upon the strengths of the former Ecologically Sustainable Development process while avoiding its shortcomings.
The task is by no means easy. What we need is a strategic plan and to implement it rapidly.
Written by Mark Diesendorf for The Conversation
Environmentalists warn that Shanxi’s fight to save its ailing coal industry by handing out tax cuts will increase pollution, damage the environment and hurt it’s people.
The centre of China’s coal industry is in steep decline. Shanxi province, in northern China, has long relied on its natural coal resources, but is now suffering from a drop in domestic demand amid China’s economic downturn. Coal prices have plunged to their lowest level in four years.
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