Industrial Changes

Many of the most difficult problems concerned with the development of technology arise when a well-established industry is suddenly rendered obsolete by a new invention. There are many examples of this, such as the numerous improvements in machinery for spinning cotton, the replacement of horse-drawn stage coaches by railways and automobiles, and canal transport by the railways, and the replacement of large passenger liners by huge jet planes. Other dramatic changes, such as the almost...

Contents

World Energy Consumption 12 1.4. Wood 15 References 15 2. Non-Renewable Energy Sources 17 2.4. Natural Gas 25 References 26 3. Renewable Energy Sources 27 3.12. Conclusion 47 References 48 4.1. Energy from the Atom 49 4.3. The Capacity of Nuclear Power 52 4.5. Nuclear Radiations 55 4.7. New Nuclear Reactors 71 4.8. Fusion Reactors 76 References 79 5. The Safety of Energy Sources 81 5.2. Comparative Safety 81 References 86 6. Pollution of the Environment 87 6.2....

Nuclear Waste

In 1976, a report by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution in the UK under the Chairmanship of Lord Flowers stated that 'There should be no commitment to a large programme of nuclear fission power until it has been demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that a method exists to ensure the safe containment of long-lived highly radioactive waste for the indefinite future'. Since that time the problem of nuclear waste management has loomed large in the public discussions on nuclear power...

The Problems of Democratic Societies

The increasing sophistication of our technologically-dominated society raises many problems that are likely to affects millions of people. For example, shall we welcome genetically-modified foods Should we rely on wind-power for our future energy supplies Should we forbid smoking because it causes lung cancer How can we obtain the best answers to these and many other questions We can try to do this democratically, by a popular vote, or we can ask experts to decide for us. Both these methods are...

Education

Looking to the future, much depends on the quality of education. The aim must be to ensure that existing and future technological advances are applied for the benefit of society, and that decisions are based on objective facts, uninfluenced by any political or psychological factors. We are now faced by a wholly new situation. For the whole of human history up to the nineteenth century technology developed as an empirical craft. The skills needed to work wood and metal were passed on from...

Energy Conservation

It is frequently argued that we could solve the energy crisis simply by using energy more efficiently. At present we are very wasteful. We leave lights on in empty rooms, heat parts of our houses that are not in use, and allow the rooms in use to be too hot, so that most of the heat escapes through the windows and walls. In many warm countries air conditioners are over-used in summer so that the rooms become too cold. Much larger amounts of energy are wasted by inefficient processes in...

Fusion Reactors

The most stable nuclei are those of medium weight around iron in the periodic table. This implies that we can obtain energy either by breaking up very heavy nuclei, as in fission, or by combining light nuclei. The latter possibility is the basis of the fusion reactor. The sun is a giant fusion reactor that produces its heat by chains of nuclear reactions that have the net result of combining four hydrogen nuclei to form an alpha-particle of mass four. It is not practicable to produce energy in...

Pollution of the Atmosphere

Energy generation also pollutes the atmosphere as well as the land and the sea. Several estimates of the atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions are given in Table 6.2. They agree reasonably well and show very clearly the overwhelming preponderance of emissions from the fossil fuels coal, oil and gas. In sharp contrast, the emissions from nuclear, wind and hydro are only around 1 of those due to the fossil fuels. The relative emissions due to various sources in the European Union are oil 50 , coal...

Hydropower

Hydropower is often described as a renewable source, but it is so different in many respects from the other renewable sources that it is best treated by itself. It is a well-tried source that now accounts for about 3 of world energy production at prices comparable to those of the major energy sources. Renewables are expensive because the available energy, though very abundant, is spread over huge areas and has to be collected. In the case of hydropower the collecting is done for us by the river...

Energy Units

The basic energy unit is the erg, defined as the work done by a force of 1 dyne moving a distance of 1 cm. The dyne is the force which, acting on a mass of 1 gram produce an acceleration of 1 cm per sec. A joule (J) is 10 ergs, and is also defined as the kinetic energy of a mass of 1 kg moving at 1 metre per second. Since this is very small for practical purposes, large multiples of the joule are frequently used, particularly the megajoule (MJ) (10(6)J), the gigajoule (GJ) (10(9)J), the...

Nuclear Radiations

One of the main differences between nuclear and other power stations is the presence of nuclear radiations. The fission fragments produced when the uranium nuclei split are highly radioactive and emit alpha-particles, beta and gamma rays until finally a stable nucleus is formed. There are many different nuclei among the fission fragments, and their half-lives vary from a small fraction of a second to many thousands of years. These decay rates are characterised by a half-life, which is the time...

Climate Change

By climate we mean the time averages of the many variables describing the condition of the atmosphere the temperature, purity and humidity of the air, the rainfall, the strength of the winds and storms, and the clouds, mists and fogs. All these are constantly changing, and we can describe it by taking averages for a local region or for the whole world. It is useful to distinguish between the climate and the weather. The weather is what we experience from day to day it is always changing and...

New Nuclear Reactors

There are very many types of nuclear reactors, both actual and potential, and continual studies are in progress to design reactors that are safer and more efficient, reliable and economical. Reactors may be classified according to their purpose, their fuel and moderator and the energy of the neutrons when they cause another fission. A reactor may be built for experimental purposes, or to produce fissile material or to generate useful power. The fuel can be uranium, or uranium enriched with a...

Pollution of the Land

The area affected by energy generation depends on the degree of concentration of the source. The energy in the diffuse sources such as wind and solar is widely spread and so collectors occupy a large area. Some sources, such as wind, require the generators to be sited on high ground, and so the area they affect is much larger than that occupied by the collectors themselves, and so is the corresponding visual and aural pollution. Most people dislike the intrusive presence of many wind turbines,...

Peter E Hodgson

Energy, the Environment and Climate Change Energy, the Environment and Climate Change Imperial College Press 57 Shelton Street Covent Garden London WC2H 9HE World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd. 5 Toh Tuck Link, Singapore 596224 USA office 27 Warren Street, Suite 401-402, Hackensack, NJ 07601 UK office 57 Shelton Street, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9HE British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. ENERGY, THE...

World Energy Consumption

Before considering each energy source in detail it is useful to compare their contributions to world energy consumption. This serves to keep their relative importance in perspective. Figures 1.3 and 1.4 and Table 1.1 provide some figures for past consumption and estimates for the future. The four main producers are coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear, with smaller contributions from other sources. Hydro is the next in importance but as it is limited by the number of suitable rivers its...

Nuclear Power and World Peace

It is sometimes argued against nuclear power and nuclear weapons that it poses such a serious threat to world peace that all nuclear activities, including nuclear power plants, should be abandoned. However, nuclear weapons certainly pose a serious danger, but there are already several nations with nuclear weapons and it is too late to abolish them the cat has already been let out of the bag. Furthermore, a major source of international conflict is the scramble for the remaining oil, which has...

The Contribution of the Churches

It is a characteristic of human beings that we tend to take effective action only when it is too late. The problem of continuing to supply industrial countries with enough electrical energy to power their various activities has been evident for years and many scientists have issued statements warning everyone of the crisis that will soon arise as the oil and then coal are exhausted. Details of the technical aspects of this problem have been given in Chapter 3. Here we are concerned with the...

Wind

Windmills have been used to grind corn since ancient times, and they are still widely used to pump water from wells on farms. In such cases it does not matter that the wind is not always blowing, because the water can be stored in reservoirs above ground until it is needed. Windmills can easily be connected to a generator to produce electricity. Modern windmills are not like those in pictures of Dutch rural scenes they are large propeller blades driving turbines mounted on high towers. About a...

Biomass

As already mentioned, wood is still extensively used as a major source of fuel in poorer countries. If more wood is used than is replaced by additional growth this can lead to desertification. It is therefore desirable to replace wood by more efficient and less damaging fuels, and certainly the use of wood cannot hope to solve the energy crisis in the developed countries. Biomass in general is an organic material that can be burned to produce heat or allowed to decay and emit natural gas. In...

Misleading and Irresponsible Statements

Many statements on technological matters are subtly misleading or irresponsible, and it may be useful to give a few examples. Language is a delicate instrument, and it is very easy to make a statement that conveys a meaning different from what it actually says. The examples given below are taken from statements made by Church and other bodies on nuclear power, but similar ones may be found in other contexts. They include a whole range of statements from those that are just false but plausible...

The Energy Crisis

Our civilisation and our standard of living depend on an adequate supply of energy. We need energy to light and heat our homes, to cook our food, to drive our transport and power our communications and to provide the motive force that drives the factories. Without energy all this would be impossible on the scale needed, and our civilisation would soon collapse into barbarism. Our dependence on energy is strikingly illustrated by the connection between average life expectancy and energy...

The Opposition to Nuclear Power

We can begin by asking why there is such sustained and vociferous opposition to nuclear power. This campaign has now convinced so many people that nuclear power is unacceptable as an energy source that Governments refuse to build nuclear power stations. If they seem to favour nuclear power in any way, they know that they will lose votes, and that is what Governments want to avoid at all costs. The arguments in favour of nuclear power are now so strong that this all seems incomprehensible. It is...

Climate as a Determining Feature of Civilization

It is notable that over the last six thousand years many great civilizations have arisen, enjoyed a few centuries of power, and then faded into insignificance. Why has this happened when and where it did There are many conditions necessary for the rise of a civilization. The land area must be large enough to support at least a few hundred thousand people. The land must be fertile enough to support a range of edible crops, and there must be available animals that can be domesticated and are...