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NNadir

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Current location: New Jersey
Member since: 2002
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Silver Hollow

Starts at 37:00

?t=2191

An epistomenological question has been troubling me and seems to have no resolution.

It's this:

Is Stevie Nicks the only thing you need to prove that cocaine is bad for you?

Mortality Associated With Carbon Releases Traced to Sources, Per Capita Releases and Deaths Caused.

The paper to which I'll refer is this one: Bressler, R.D. The mortality cost of carbon. Nat Commun 12, 4467 (2021).

I believe that Nature Communications is the open sourced journal of the Springer/Nature publishers, so anyone can read it and there is no need for me to quote it extensively.

Nevertheless, I'll offer a few excerpts after desultory editorial comments of my own. Feel absolutely free to ignore my comments (particularly if you find them uncivil) and proceed to the paper directly to find out how many humans are purported to die, per American living an average lifestyle, by the per capita carbon releases associated with that (our) life style. It's always a good idea to go the the original source, unfiltered. I do my best to do that myself, go to original sources. Doing so informs my thinking.

My comments:

I am sometimes confronted by some person who thinks the can mutter the word "Fukushima" or otherwise tell me that they once lived near a nuclear plant and - even though, they're apparently still alive and quite healthy enough to be able to mutter insipidly about the appalling ignorance driving their fear - their personal anecdotes how they were scared shitless all the time that something nuclear related would happen to prevent their otherwise certain immortality, this to "prove," for my benefit, that nuclear energy is "too dangerous."

Of course, there are people who are scared shitless by vaccines too, and rational people here and elsewhere around the world find their ignorance and their toxic indifference to reality appalling.

I believe that the position of the overwhelming number of members of DU is that antivaxxers are a scourge on humanity.

If so, I agree, both as a DUer and a human being.

Appalling indifference...

Recently I attended a webinar presented by Andrew Shaw of Imperial College in London on the subject of utilizing modern technology to monitor the polio virus, this one: New, Rapid Sequencing Tools for Poliovirus Surveillance. It contains and references this graphic:



Source: Polio by Sophie Ochmann and Max Roser, Our World In Data.

At the link just provided, one can download that actual data behind this graphic a spreadsheet, and find that in Africa in 1980 there were 35,888 Polio cases and 2016, six.

(I certainly mean no insult to any overly sensitive but oblivious person by providing data, this as I've recently interacted with people who find data insulting.)

There are two polio vaccines, the injectable Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV (the Salk vaccine) and the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV, the Sabin Vaccine). The former is a dead virus; the latter an attenuated, but live, virus.

The latter, being a live virus, is capable of mutation, and, according to Dr. Shaw's lecture, in areas where vaccination rates are very low, and thus the attenuated virus can circulate in fecal matter, the serological type 2 attenuated virus can mutate into a virulent form. For this reason, as of 2016, this vaccine is no longer utilized in Africa, where vaccination rates are low. Dr. Shaw had a slide showing a map of observed cases of vaccine derived polio, all in Africa. I paused on the slide, and crudely counted, by entering the numbers into an Excel spreadsheet, the number of such cases. The number of cases of people who have contracted vaccine derived serological type 2 vaccines according to my count is 374. Dr. Shaw went on to say in his lecture, 70% of infections detected are asymptomatic, 30% show signs of illness but recover without paralysis, and less than 1% have paralytic infections. That works out to roughly 3 people in all of Africa who have contracted polio in a paralytic form from Sabin vaccine mutants.

The Sabin Polio vaccine is not risk free, but it should be clear to anyone who's not a pernicious ignoramus of the Tucker Carlson/Robert F. Kennedy type, that risk of being receiving a vaccine in Africa is vastly lower than the risk of not being vaccinated in Africa. According to Dr. Shaw's map, Uganda had the highest number of cases of vaccine related virus, 59. In 2016, the population of Uganda was 39.65 million, suggesting a risk of 1 in 39,650,000/59 = 1 in 672,000. In 1980, even though presumably some, if not most Africans were already vaccinated, and the population of the continent was 476.4 million (it's more than doubled since then), the risk of contracting polio of a more virulent version than Dr. Shaw described for the vaccine derived form, was 1 in 35,882/476,400,000 = 1 in 13,877. This is 187 times larger than the worst case in Africa, Uganda. Thus, if only the Sabin vaccine were available in Africa, and, if and only if an ignorant and irrationally terrified and self absorbed portion of the population refused to get the vaccine, one would need to a moron or an ignoramus in the irrationally terrified class itself to not be vaccinated.

Fukushima...

Speaking of irrationally terrified people - may I use the word "morons" or perhaps "ignoramuses?" - in which I include the people who tell me how terrible nuclear power plants are because they lived near one and were afraid it would kill them, I often hear from people who want to tell me, "nuclear power is too dangerous."

In response, I often post a link to the Global Burden of Disease Survey, using text I've stored in a Word document for convenience, as follows:

Here is the most recent full report from the Global Burden of Disease Report, a survey of all causes of death and disability from environmental and lifestyle risks: Global, regional, and national comparative risk assessment of 79 behavioural, environmental and occupational, and metabolic risks or clusters of risks, 1990–2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015 (Lancet 2016; 388: 1659–724) One can easily locate in this open sourced document compiled by an international consortium of medical and scientific professionals how many people die from causes related to air pollution, particulates, ozone, etc...


Recently I was informed by a correspondent that posts containing references like this are lacking in civility.

One never knows what to say to remarks like that, but, um, well, whatever...

It should be pellucidly clear and obvious that this summer that a season of tragedy is before us, a preventable tragedy, and although many people may be inspired to think of the "season of tragedy" being about the very real tragedy being inflicted on our medical infrastructure by persistent anti-vax rhetoric, I am referring not referring to that but rather to rather the tragedy to the fires and the extreme weather all over the planet.

I live in New Jersey, and have lived in my house for a quarter of a century. Two days ago, F3 tornados were observed in Eastern Pennsylvania, near where I live. After tearing up people's homes and businesses on the Pennsylvania side of the river, one crossed the Delaware River in the exact spot where Washington famously crossed the Delaware in 1776, tearing up the lovely parks dedicated to this historical event. Washington's successful attack on Trenton was actually a rather small and trivial event on a world wide scale at the time, but it was not without vast long term implications. In a quarter of century of living here, until Thursday, the number of F3 tornados passing within miles of where I live was zero. Without engaging in a single Bayesian calculation, I feel fairly secure in attributing it, in the context of a large number of unprecedented weather events all around the world this summer, to climate change. Similar to Washington's jaunt on the icy Delaware, if this "small" F3 tornado in the same spot on the same river is a "small" event, it may have worldwide implications.

I'm not sure how "civil" one should be when discussing unnecessary wholesale deaths , deaths which I attribute to people making the absurd statement that "nuclear power is too dangerous" without making any statement comparing the death toll from air pollution to that associated with the more than half a century of experience with commercial nuclear power.

The paper cited at the outset, which people who find me uncivil may or may not have viewed, extends the death toll beyond air pollution, to heat related deaths.

My working figure from the above for air pollution is between six and seven million air pollution deaths per year, but being "uncivil" I use the higher figure, 7 million, which works out to roughly 19,000 people per day. If the death toll is "only" 6 million, that works out to 16,500 people per day.

What's 2,500 deaths per day between friends?

How many people died from radiation in the big bogeyman event at Fukushima again? Do tell. How many people died from seawater in the same event? Do tell.

What's "too dangerous," nuclear power plants or living in coastal cities where seawater is present? Speaking only for myself, and certainly not for "civil" people, given climate change and sea level rise, I'd go with coastal cities, but that's just me. Perhaps I'm "uncivil" since I'm really, really, really, really not willing to accept - may I use the word "horseshit?" - that horseshit that nuclear power is more dangerous than fossil fuels.

I can count.

If someone, by contrast, can't count, or worse, refuses to count, it pisses me off royally, and erodes any desire I might have to be civil. In my opinion, people who kill other people by the application of ignorance deserve no civility.

By the way, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is not only anti-vax; he's anti-nuclear as well. He's also anti-wind, if, and only if, someone is putting wind turbines off the coast of the Kennedy family compound in which he has an interest, derived not from any wisdom or intellectually respectable work he did to earn it, but by "virtue" of birth. To steal a phrase from Kurt Vonnegut, "He had been born into that cockamamie proprietorship."

Fuck you Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

(See, I lack in civility.)

I'm a very lazy person, and I haven't updated the above cited text to include the latest Global Burden of Disease Survey, that of 2019, published in 2020. It is here: Global burden of 87 risk factors in 204 countries and territories, 1990–2019: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019 (Volume 396, Issue 10258, 17–23 October 2020, Pages 1223-1249). This study is a huge undertaking and the list of authors from around the world is rather long. These studies are always open sourced; and I invite people who want to carry on about Fukushima to open it and search the word "radiation." It appears once. Radon, a side product brought to the surface by fracking while we all wait for the grand so called "renewable energy" nirvana that did not come, is not here and won't come, appears however: Household radon, from the decay of natural uranium, which has been cycling through the environment ever since oxygen appeared in the Earth's atmosphere.

Here is what it says about air pollution deaths in the 2019 Global Burden of Disease Survey, if one is too busy to open it oneself because one is too busy carrying on about Fukushima:

The top five risks for attributable deaths for females were high SBP (5·25 million [95% UI 4·49–6·00] deaths, or 20·3% [17·5–22·9] of all female deaths in 2019), dietary risks (3·48 million [2·78–4·37] deaths, or 13·5% [10·8–16·7] of all female deaths in 2019), high FPG (3·09 million [2·40–3·98] deaths, or 11·9% [9·4–15·3] of all female deaths in 2019), air pollution (2·92 million [2·53–3·33] deaths or 11·3% [10·0–12·6] of all female deaths in 2019), and high BMI (2·54 million [1·68–3·56] deaths or 9·8% [6·5–13·7] of all female deaths in 2019). For males, the top five risks differed slightly. In 2019, the leading Level 2 risk factor for attributable deaths globally in males was tobacco (smoked, second-hand, and chewing), which accounted for 6·56 million (95% UI 6·02–7·10) deaths (21·4% [20·5–22·3] of all male deaths in 2019), followed by high SBP, which accounted for 5·60 million (4·90–6·29) deaths (18·2% [16·2–20·1] of all male deaths in 2019). The third largest Level 2 risk factor for attributable deaths among males in 2019 was dietary risks (4·47 million [3·65–5·45] deaths, or 14·6% [12·0–17·6] of all male deaths in 2019) followed by air pollution (ambient particulate matter and ambient ozone pollution, accounting for 3·75 million [3·31–4·24] deaths (12·2% [11·0–13·4] of all male deaths in 2019), and then high FPG (3·14 million [2·70–4·34] deaths, or 11·1% [8·9–14·1] of all male deaths in 2019).


The bold is mine, of course, uncivilly so.

Let's do math! Females (2.92 million deaths) + males (3.75 million deaths) = 6.67 million human deaths, "only" around 18,250 deaths per day.

Really, it's uncivil for me to exaggerate. What's 750 deaths per day among friends?

Well, there are confidence limits, more about that later. Most good measurement science will include an estimation of the probability of accuracy, based on estimates of precision.

These are epidemiological estimates, and rely on statistical interpretations, and are therefore subject to limitations.

Here's a paper that takes issue with the Global Burden of Disease Survey with respect to the largest single component of air pollution deaths, PM 2.5: Global mortality from outdoor fine particle pollution generated by fossil fuel combustion: Results from GEOS-Chem (Karn Vohra, Alina Vodonos, Joel Schwartz, Eloise A. Marais, Melissa P. Sulprizio, Loretta J. Mickley, Environmental Research 195 (2021) 110754)

Here's some text from the paper:

Previous estimates of the GBD for 2015 suggest that exposure to total PM2.5 causes 4.2 million deaths (Cohen et al., 2017), whereas here we estimate more than double (10.2 million) the number of premature deaths from fossil fuel combustion alone in 2012.


Note that this statement refers to only one component of air pollution, PM2.5. (Particulate mater 2.5 microns or smaller.) It excludes sulfates, ozone, etc...and thus is not the only component of air pollution.

10.2 million deaths from just one component of air pollution works out to around 28,000 deaths per day. What's 9,000 deaths per day among friends?

Not all that long ago, in this space, I was asked about what I thought the death toll from the nuclear accident at Chernobyl might be, the correspondent having heard a figure as low as "50 people" and I referred to a rather famous nuclear accident liquidator, former President Jimmy Carter, to explain the difficulty of obtaining precision and accuracy of these kinds of estimates.

To wit:

President Carter is among roughly 350,000 "liquidators" involved in nuclear reactor "clean ups."

Of course, he had no involvement in Chernobyl, but in the early 1950s, fuel rods at the Chalk River Nuclear NRX Research Reactor in the Ottawa Valley region of Ontario partially melted. (December 1952). It was the first melt down of a nuclear reactor in history of which we know. The experience of the future President nonetheless is rather similar to the experience of the roughly 350,000 Soviet Military Personnel involved in the Chernobyl clean up; it involved short exposure to possibly intense radiation to move highly radioactive components of a failed reactor.

This Stanford under graduate student's term paper describes Carter's experience there: Carter at Chalk River

A CNN piece around the time of Fukushima, when Carter was 86 years old, directly quoted the former President on this experience: Jimmy Carter's exposure to nuclear danger:

"We were fairly well instructed then on what nuclear power was, but for about six months after that I had radioactivity in my urine," President Carter, now 86, told me during an interview for my new book in Plains in 2008. "They let us get probably a thousand times more radiation than they would now. It was in the early stages and they didn't know."

Despite the fears he had to overcome, Carter admits he was animated at the opportunity to put his top-secret training to use in the cleanup of the reactor, located along the Ottawa River northwest of Ottawa.

"It was a very exciting time for me when the Chalk River plant melted down," he continued in the same interview. "I was one of the few people in the world who had clearance to go into a nuclear power plant," he said.

"There were 23 of us and I was in charge. I took my crew up there on the train..."

..."It was the early 1950s ... I had only seconds that I could be in the reactor myself. We all went out on the tennis court, and they had an exact duplicate of the reactor on the tennis court. We would run out there with our wrenches and we'd check off so many bolts and nuts and they'd put them back on.

And finally when we went down into the reactor itself, which was extremely radioactive, then we would dash in there as quickly as we could and take off as many bolts as we could, the same bolts we had just been practicing on. Each time our men managed to remove a bolt or fitting from the core, the equivalent piece was removed on the mock-up..."


(Later President Carter, while President, would walk through the Three Mile Island Reactor while the situation was, excuse the pun, fluid, much to the consternation of the Secret Service.).

I mention this as an indication of how difficult it is to ascertain the "true numbers" associated with the exposure to radioactivity at Chernobyl. President Carter is the oldest of four siblings, and is the only one of them who is still alive. The other three, Ruth Carter Stapleton, Gloria Carter, and "Billy" Carter all died, Ruth in her 50's, from the same disease, pancreatic cancer.

As an advocate of nuclear energy, I could point to this anecdotal evidence about President Carter and make the specious claim that being exposed to a nuclear meltdown, two in Carter's case, the big bogeyman at Three Mile Island included, is a potential way to protect people with a clear familial history of pancreatic cancer, for them to avoid dying from the disease. This of course would be exceedingly misleading, since we really don't know what effect, if any, his participation in the clean ups had on his pancreas cells. It might be that is other three siblings inherited a different set of genes from their parents than he did.

On the other hand, if President Carter were to die at the age of 100, a nuclear opponent could easily claim that he would have lived to 110 if he hadn't cleaned up Chalk River and toured Three Mile Island while its core was melting. Some of them are indeed this stupid.

This points out something about the complexity of your excellent question.

I personally very much doubt that the "death toll" - which involves considerable complexity to discern - associated with Chernobyl is "under 50." I would expect a higher figure, although the figure is nowhere near the figures I was trained to believe would result by stupid journalists, anti-nuke "activists," the curious fellows at the poorly named so called "Union of Concerned 'Scientists'" - an organization I joined at one point in my life without making any reference whatsoever to whether I was a journalist, someone who never passed a college level science course with a grade of C- or better, or whether I was a Nobel Laureate Physicist. No information was required to join; the only thing required was sending a check.

In fact, that the observed results of the accident, the serious study of which led me to leave the class of dumbass anti-nukes and join the class of nuclear energy advocates, played a huge role in my current opinions on the topic, since I compared lazy expectations based on general reading from weak sources, to observed reality from legitimate sources.

This topic is covered by vast scientific literature. I would refer to an excellent journalistic consideration of bias among anti-nukes and pro-nukes like myself, by Mary Mycio, a Ukrainian-American author who traveled to Chernobyl in the early years after the accident to flesh things out for herself: Wormwood Forest A Natural History of Chernobyl (2005) It's not all that technical, but as a social science document, I found it excellent, and on the part of nuclear advocates, I felt a bit chastised myself.

An excellent overview of the scientific consequences, including mortality, is found the "UNSCEAR report" put together by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation." The tortured bureaucratic name of this committee suggests some level of irony. Here's a link to the 2008 report: Annex D, Health Effects Due to Radiation from the Chernobyl Accident. The list of references to the primary scientific literature starts on page 205 and ends on page 219 in relatively small print.

Of course, anti-nukes completely dismiss this report, since they apparently believe that Chernobyl wiped out Kiev and most of Eastern Europe, in fact, and parts of Scotland.

If it said that two million people died from Chernobyl - it doesn't - I of course, engage in "whataboutism" by noting that millions of people die in a continuous fashion from air pollution, which is also continuously dismissed by faith based anti-nukes in this (and other) space. A recent related post on the subject of Diablo Canyon I made on this site produced, as well I should expect, stupid accounts of the geological faults near the plant, pointing to an unrealized risk being elevated to the obvious effects of climate change in that State.

This is why Ms. Mycio's book is, in my view, a "must read" for anyone considering bias in this discussion.

It is clear to me, nonetheless, that whatever the risks of nuclear energy - and they are very real - these risks pale in comparison to the vast and observed risks of not using nuclear energy.

I could write for hours on the topic of radiation exposure, which has been included in my work over the last 30 years, and may at some point take the liberty of saying more in this space, or at least refer to my earlier writings on the topic, but the question is not, as the anecdotal evidence of President Carter's experience as a "liquidator" in the early 1950's suggests, simply answered.

Thanks for your excellent question. Stay tuned.


The problem with claiming by pointing to Jimmy Carter to prove that liquidating nuclear reactor accidents prevents developing pancreatic cancer is sample size.

It is now believed that the genetic predisposition to pancreatic cancer involves a mutation in the CDKN2A-p16 protein (Cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 2A), wherein a dominant mutation resulting from the substitution of a deoxyguanosine by thymidine at codon 47, resulting in the substitution of a leucine residue by an arginine residue.

Both of Jimmy Carter's parents died from pancreatic cancer, Lillian at an old age, 85, and Jimmy Carter's father at the age of 58. I note that if both of Jimmy Carter's parents were both heterozygous for the dominant cancer gene, that we would expect the highest probability would be that for 4 children, three would inherit the dominant oncogene, and one would not, precisely the ratio observed among the 4 Carter siblings, one of whom became President of the United States and lived to his late 90's and three of whom died from pancreatic cancer.

So there is at least one completely rational, and even likely, explanation for Jimmy Carter having nothing to do with cleaning up the NRX meltdown and flying in, as President, to tour the reactor building of the melted Three Mile Reactor. On the other hand, Jimmy Carter did not die of any form of cancer, although in the last decade he recovered, after radiation treatments, from a brain tumor.

Go figure.

If we wanted to know whether engaging in nuclear clean ups has an effect leading to surviving a predisposition to pancreatic cancer related to the L16R mutant CDKNA2A-p16 protein, we would need to locate among the 350,000 Chernobyl liquidators a subset who possessed this mutation, and compare them to a subset of non-liquidators also possessing this gene. Note that President Carter might not meet the inclusion criteria for such a study, were he to prove homozygous for the recessive normal gene, which again, given the number of siblings he had, does have a 1 in 4 probability.

The statistical power of the study would be improved the larger the number of liquidators genetically mapped whose health outcome was known. A sample of 100 sequenced liquidators with the L16R mutant CDKNA2A-p16 protein would give more evidence than 10 such liquidators, and a sample size of 1000 would be even better. The larger the sample size, the narrower the range producing a 95% confidence limit.

No one is likely to conduct such a study to find out why Jimmy Carter lived so long; it won't happen.

Recently a correspondent in this space informed me that nuclear energy was "too dangerous" because...um...uranium mines. Perhaps she or he assumed I knew as little as he or she did about uranium as she or he obviously did. As it turns out I wrote about the subject of uranium mining elsewhere, with reference to the scientific literature some years ago: Sustaining the Wind Part 3 about my experience of wandering around Princeton's Firestone Library to read about uranium miners.

To wit:

As I prepared this work, I took some time to wander around the stacks of the Firestone Library at Princeton University where, within a few minutes, without too much effort, I was able to assemble a small pile of books[50] on the terrible case of the Dine (Navajo) uranium miners who worked in the mid-20th century, resulting in higher rates of lung cancer than the general population. The general theme of these books if one leafs through them is this: In the late 1940’s mysterious people, military syndics vaguely involved with secret US government activities show up on the Dine (Navajo) Reservation in the “Four Corners” region of the United States, knowing that uranium is “dangerous” and/or “deadly” to convince naïve and uneducated Dine (Navajos) to dig the “dangerous ore” while concealing its true “deadly” nature. The uranium ends up killing many of the miners, thus furthering the long American history of genocide against the Native American peoples. There is a conspiratorial air to all of it; it begins, in these accounts, with the cold warrior American military drive to produce nuclear arms and then is enthusiastically taken up by the “evil” and “venal” conspirators who foist the “crime” of nuclear energy on an unsuspecting American public, this while killing even more innocent Native Americans.

Now.

I am an American. One of my side interests is a deep, if non-professional, reading of American History. Often we Americans present our history in triumphalist terms, but any serious and honest examination of our history reveals two imperishable stains on our history that we cannot and should not deny. One, of course, is our long and violent history of officially endorsed racism, including 250 years of institutionalized human slavery. The related other stain is the stain of the open and official policy of genocide against Native Americans: There is no softer word than “genocide"...


Later on in the same work, I referred to this paper: Radon Exposure and Mortality Among White and American Indian Uranium Miners: An Update of the Colorado Plateau Cohort (Mary K. Schubauer-Berigan, Robert D. Daniels, and Lynne E. Pinkerton, Am J Epidemiol 2009; 169: 718–730)

I continued:

...Of the 779 “non-white” we are told that 99% of them were “American Indians,” i.e. Native Americans. We may also read that the median year of birth for these miners, white and Native American, was 1922, meaning that a miner born in the median year would have been 83 years old in 2005, the year to which the follow up was conducted. (The oldest miner in the data set was born in 1913; the youngest was born in 1931.) Of the miners who were evaluated, 2,428 of them had died at the time the study was conducted, 826 of whom died after 1990, when the median subject would have been 68 years old.

Let’s ignore the “white” people; they are irrelevant in these accounts.

Of the Native American miners, 536 died before 1990, and 280 died in the period between 1991and 2005, meaning that in 2005, only 13 survived. Of course, if none of the Native Americans had ever been in a mine of any kind, never mind uranium mines, this would have not rendered them immortal. (Let’s be clear no one writes pathos inspiring books about the Native American miners in the Kayenta or Black Mesa coal mines, both of which were operated on Native American reservations in the same general area as the uranium mines.) Thirty-two of the Native American uranium miners died in car crashes, 8 were murdered, 8 committed suicide, and 10 died from things like falling into a hole, or collision with an “object.” Fifty-four of the Native American uranium miners died from cancers that were not lung cancer. The “Standard Mortality Ratio,” or SMR for this number of cancer deaths that were not lung cancer was 0.85, with the 95% confidence level extending from 0.64 to 1.11. The “Standard Mortality Ratio” is the ratio, of course, the ratio between the number of deaths observed in the study population (in this case Native American Uranium Miners) to the number of deaths that would have been expected in a control population. At an SMR of 0.85, thus 54 deaths is (54/.085) – 54 = -10. Ten fewer Native American uranium miners died from “cancers other than lung cancer” than would have been expected in a population of that size. At the lower 95% confidence limit SMR, 0.64, the number would be 31 fewer deaths from “cancers other than lung cancer,” whereas at the higher limit SMR, 1.11, 5 additional deaths would have been recorded, compared with the general population.

Lung cancer, of course, tells a very different story. Ninety-two Native American uranium miners died of lung cancer. Sixty-three of these died before 1990; twenty-nine died after 1990. The SMR for the population that died in the former case was 3.18, for the former 3.27. This means the expected number of deaths would have been expected in the former case was 20, in the latter case, 9. Thus the excess lung cancer deaths among Native American uranium miners was 92 – (20 +9) = 63...


Later I went on to point out that 7 million people would die from air pollution in the year I wrote that piece, 2015, but as noted above, it could have been "only" 6 million people. What's a million deaths per year among friends? Since 2015 through 2021, the death toll could have been (2021-2015) years X 6 million deaths per year = 36 million deaths, or it could have been (2021-2015) years X 7 million deaths per year = 49 million deaths. What's 13 million deaths among friends?

Fukushima...

But I'm being uncivil in attempting to discuss air pollution deaths with people who are only interested in uranium miner deaths, aren't I? Where's Robert F. Kennedy Jr. when you need him? Playing "river keeper" on the "White Nile" in Uganda perhaps, trying to "save" people from the scourge of vaccines?

I can count, even if Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and his fellow anti-nukes can't.

Counting...

Epidemiological reports like those contained in the Lancet Global Burden of Disease Surveys, three of which are in my files, rely on correlations, that is, reports of concentrations of air pollutants in a particular region and the rates of death of known respiratory diseases and coronary diseases in that same region to produce statistical associations. As is the case with Jimmy Carter, other nuclear meltdown liquidators, people with the CDKNA2A-p16 mutant oncogene, and for that matter, uranium miners, there are many other ways to die besides exposure to a particular risk status, and it is quite possible that other confounding issues may play a role, things like access to health care, nutrition, the ethnic make up of a region, cultural factors, etc...

Still, these studies, managed by highly trained and highly competent statisticians have merit, and, accordingly all attempt to quantify the "error bars," that is the confidence limits.

Another point: There is a difference between people who were killed instantly by seawater in the same tsunami that destroyed the Fukushima reactors, than someone who may live 20 or 30 years before dying from what may be a radiation release related cause. A man who drowned on the day of the tsunami at the age of 30, were his life expectancy 80, will have lost 50 years, whereas a subject exposed to radiation leaks at the age of 30 who lives to be 60 will have lost only 20. This is the rationale one sees behind measurements that take this into account by calculating risk in terms of "DALYs" or "Disability Adjusted Life Years," which combines the statistical concepts of "YLL" "Years Life Lost" and "YLD" which reflects years of healthy life lost to disability.

In 2014, an explosion at a plant in Japan for producing trichlorosilane, a highly toxic chemical when inhaled which is used to make, um, solar cells, killing 5 people instantly and injuring 12 others. This was reported, in a rare burst on honesty, by the "solar will save us" press. PV Tech: Explosion at Mitsubishi polysilicon plant in Japan causes deaths

Fukushima...

There is no confirmed evidence that five or more people have died from radiation exposures at Fukushima, although, again, lots of people about whom we couldn't care less died from seawater. Unless they the radiation exposed people were killed instantly, the DALYs would be different even if five radiation exposed people died tomorrow, since it is ten years after the explosion at the nuclear reactors were destroyed by a natural disaster. If 20 years from now, radiation exposed people, unlike former President Carter, got cancer and were disabled by it, the DALYs would also be different than they would be for the 12 people injured in the trichlorosilane explosion.

The world is risky, which is why everyone, me included, has a 100% chance of dying. But the things we buy and the lives we live affect how long other people will live healthy lives, and we should do our best, if we are ethical, we will do our best to minimize - we cannot eliminate - the risks with which we burden our fellow human beings.

I recently had a CAT scan, involving a high burst of radiation. I'm an old, cynical man, embittered by the head up the ass stupidity of people like Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Tucker Carlson and their fellow trust fund kids, and in fact, my own dependence on my American life style which, to quote Joni Mitchell, "brings me things I really can't give up just yet."

Being old, I don't have many DALYs left to give if my CAT scan, designed to monitor my health, kills me by inducing cancer. I guess Jimmy Carter, who was exposed to large amounts of radiation as a young man, made the same calculation when he had radiation treatments for the brain tumor he developed as a very old man. I accepted the lower risk to understand and address a higher possible higher risk. I don't have many DALYs left to give, but as cynical as I am, I do have fucks left to give. I will never give up caring about the future, even if the future will not contain me.

This involves something called "ethics," even if my ethics do not include being civil to people who don't deserve civility.

We are screwing future generations with our lifestyle, which for many people, involves announcing that "nuclear power is too dangerous" as being something we know all about because we put solar cells on our suburban roofs and as a result are collecting subsidies and saving money. We are mining all the world's best ores chasing after a so called "renewable energy" nirvana that did not come, is not here, and won't come. We are living in fear of something that most of us, myself excluded since I have made the effort to understand it, are incompetent to understand, nuclear energy.

From Madam Curie: I rather like this quote.

Nuclear energy is not risk free, nor does it need to be risk free to vastly superior to everything else. The tautology I often repeat is that "To be vastly superior to everything else, nuclear energy only needs to be superior to everything else, which it is."

Opposing nuclear energy is thus in my unshakable view is as immoral as if Robert F. Kennedy Jr., idiot trust fund kid, would be marching along the banks of the White Nile as a "river keeper" in Uganda announcing polio vaccines were "too dangerous."

Our lifestyle...

Waiting endlessly, with all kinds of tiresome hype, for solar energy to save us, an affectation little different than an ancient Sumerian praying to some invented Sun God to save him, is entrenching the use of dangerous fossil fuels, the use of which is growing, not falling despite half a century of cheering for how solar energy would save us.

It hasn't saved us; it isn't saving us; it won't save us, and it has done nothing, since it is ineffective at addressing climate change, other than to entrench the use of dangerous fossil fuels, notably dangerous natural gas.

Our lifestyle:

It is clear that air pollution kills people in vast numbers, numbers exceeding those killed by the Covid virus. We pay attention to the virus, but not to air pollution, and now we are being forced, kicking and screaming and whining to confront the death toll associated with climate change. Deaths from heat exposure are not new of course, deaths at the outset of this anti-nuke century were discussed previously:

The 2003 European heatwave is said to have killed 70,000 people, upon analysis.

Death toll exceeded 70,000 in Europe during the summer of 2003 (Plus de 70 000 décès en Europe au cours de l'été 2003) (Robine et al Comptes Rendus Biologies Volume 331, Issue 2, February 2008, Pages 171-178.)

We couldn't care less.

Fukushima...

Maybe we'll care now, with forests all around the world in flames because of excessive heat, and people dying when the evaporation of sweat can't save them from extreme temperatures. I can't say.

Ignorance kills, but ignorance persists.

Our lifestyle...

From the introductory text of the paper cited at the outset, which is open sourced:

The social cost of carbon (SCC) is arguably the single most important concept in the economics of climate change1. It represents the marginal social damage from emitting one metric ton of carbon dioxide-equivalent at a certain point in time2. According to standard economic theory, it represents the price that should be put on carbon dioxide to reduce emissions to socially optimal levels along the optimal emissions trajectory3. The SCC has been highly influential in informing climate policy. For example, regulations with benefits totaling over $1 trillion in the United States have used the SCC in their economic analysis1. The SCC is commonly estimated using climate-economy integrated assessment models (IAMs), which synthesize the state of scientific knowledge to inform policy4,5. Climate-economy IAMs that produce an SCC also project the optimal path of future emissions by comparing climate damages with the cost of reducing emissions.

Despite the theoretical and policy importance of the SCC, many commentaries have argued that current estimates of the SCC remain inadequate5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12. One major line of criticism is that IAMs do not represent the latest scientific understanding of climate impacts. Although substantial advances in climate impact research have been made in recent years, IAMs are still omitting a significant portion of likely damages13,14. Another major line of criticism is that a wide variety of climate damages—sea level rise, extreme weather, the direct effects of heat on productivity, agricultural impacts, and many more—must be monetized and summarized into a single number, and the relative contribution of these damages is often unclear11,13,15. In addition, the magnitude of climate damages is sensitive to subjective choices around the monetization of non-market damages, and, since damages occur over long timescales, the discount rate at which future damage is converted into present value5,10,11,15.

One source of climate damages not updated to the latest scientific understanding in IAMs is the effect of climate change on human mortality. A 2017 National Academy of Sciences report specifically mentioned mortality as a damage source that could be immediately updated in IAMs5. A large body of literature suggests that climate change is likely to have a significant effect on temperature-related mortality16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32,33,34,35,36,37,38,39,40,41,42,43,44,45,46,47,48,49,50,51,52,53,54,55,56. A Lancet report concluded that “Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century”16. Yet, climate-mortality damages are currently limited in the most widely used IAMs...


A graphic from the paper, reflecting the deaths caused, per capita, by the lifestyles of people in various countries, including that so called "renewable energy" nirvana, Germany, and of course, the US, "us:"



The caption:

Average lifetime emissions are calculated as 2017 carbon dioxide emissions production per capita multiplied by 2017 life expectancy at birth. The error bars show the low (90th percentile) mortality estimates (see “Methods” section for more details on uncertainty). A The 2020 MCC in the baseline emissions scenario is 2.26 × 10−4 excess deaths per metric ton of 2020 emissions in the central estimate. This implies that the lifetime emissions of an average American (1,276 metric tons) causes 0.29 excess deaths in expectation if all added in 2020, the lifetime emissions of an average Indian (127 metric tons) causes 0.03 excess deaths in expectation if all added in 2020, and the lifetime emissions of an average person in the world (347 metric tons) causes 0.08 excess deaths if all added in 2020. B The 2020 MCC in the optimal emissions scenario is 1.07 × 10−4 excess deaths per metric ton of 2020 emissions in the central estimate. This implies that the lifetime emissions of an average American (1,276 metric tons) causes 0.15 excess deaths in expectation if all added in 2020, the lifetime emissions of an average Indian (127 metric tons) causes 0.01 excess deaths in expectation if all added in 2020, and the lifetime emissions of an average person in the world (347 metric tons) causes 0.04 excess deaths if all added in 2020.


A lot of us here complain about China's emissions, because they didn't agree to remain impoverished so we could all prattle on about how "green" we are. Nevertheless, their position on the graphic is ethically superior to ours, even if they chose to pull themselves out of poverty by using the same tool to build their industrial infrastructure that we historically used to produce ours: Burning coal.

Please don't deign to tell me about the solar cells on your suburban roof if you have them. Don't tell me about your solar powered electric car. Just as we, collectively, couldn't care less about 70,000 people killed by heat in Europe in 2003, and people dying this year from heat, I. Couldn't. Care. Less. about your self-declared solar nobility.

I'm not, given my extreme anger at what we have done, inclined to respond civilly.

History will not forgive us, nor should it.

Have a wonderful Sunday.

The Growth of Solar Capacity In California, Capacity Utilization, and Solar Energy Production.

This post, about solar energy in California, is rather similar to the one I wrote yesterday about Wind Energy in California, with some differences. The remarks on nuclear energy capacity utilization are repeated verbatim here, but as California is one of the rare places where solar energy produces more energy than wind energy, I will compare the total energy produced by solar means in California, with the total energy demand of the State, using the figures from 2019, since these are the most recent available.

Accessed today (7/28/21), the amount of energy consumed by California in 2019, for all purposes, was 7082 trillion BTU according to the EIA Web Page devoted to California. I will use SI units throughout the rest of this post. The SI unit of energy is the Joule (J), and the prefix "Peta" (P) refers to 10 raised to the 15th power, and "Exa" (E) to 10 raised to the 18th power.

A BTU = 1055 J. Thus California's Energy Consumption in 2019 was 7.472 EJ.

In 2019, total US energy consumption was 106 EJ

As of this writing, 17:02 (5:02) PDT 7/28/21, California is under an electrical energy alert:

CAISO Grid Restricted Maintenance Operations [202102558]

The California ISO is declaring CAISO Grid RESTRICTED MAINTENANCE OPERATION for the period
from 07/27/2021 12:00 through 07/28/2021 21:00.

Reason:
The ISO is anticipating high loads and temperatures across t|he CAISO Grid. Transmission Operators and Generation Operato|rs will be contacted if any currently scheduled outages need| to be cancelled or revised.

Refer to the ISO System Emergency Fact Sheet (http://www.caiso.com/Documents/SystemAlertsWarningsandEmergenciesFactSheet.pdf)
for additional detail.

Restricted Maintenance Operations, as detailed in ISO Operating Procedure
4420, will be in effect.

Market Participants are cautioned to avoid actions which may
jeopardize generator and/or transmission availability.

Monitor system conditions on Today's Outlook (http://www.caiso.com/TodaysOutlook/Pages/default.aspx)
and check with local electric utilities for additional information.

Notice issued at: 07/23/2021 12:34


California's energy demand peak will occur just about at the time the sun is going down. At that time, solar energy will be essentially useless.

The data in the table in post comes from a web page of the California Energy Commission in table to which one can scroll down on this page: Solar PV and Solar Thermal Electricity Production (Annual Totals; Includes Imports)

I have imported the table into Excel, and then did some calculations using this data. Solar plant power ratings, which are often cited by advocates of this form of energy which has failed spectacularly to address climate change after half a century of cheering, are cited as peak power, which is the maximal power the turbine would manage under perfect windy conditions, which in practice are never observed.

It is dishonest - not that anyone cares anymore about dishonesty - to represent a solar plant, which is dependent on whims of weather as well as the time of day as a plant that can, in theory run continuously at full power, such as a gas plant or a coal plant, or even a plant of a type that has been observed to run at 100% (or better) of capacity, something observed only in nuclear plants.

For example, one can find the capacity utilization of all of the nuclear reactors operating in the United States as of 2020 here: EIA Nuclear Energy Page by clicking on the 2020P Excel File in the table on the right. Of 94 nuclear reactors operating the in the United States in 2020, 70 operated at 90% capacity utilization or better, and of these, 24 operated at 100% of capacity or more. Five operated at capacity utilization of less than 80%. One of these was Diablo Canyon reactor #2, which operated at 74.8% of capacity, apparently for refueling and maintenance. It produced 7,348,123 MWh of electricity, or 26.5 PetaJoules of electricity (0.0265 EJ) in one small building. Diablo Canyon #2 operated at 90.4% capacity utilization, producing 8,910,575 MWh of electricity, or 32.1 PetaJoules, or (0.0321 EJ).

In the table below, I have included a theoretical amount of energy that solar plants would produce if they operated at 100% of capacity utilization, using the SI unit of energy, the Joule. I have also converted the power actually produced from MWh to Joule in order to calculate the ratio of the latter to the former to give capacity utilization. I have then calculated the average continuous power of all the solar plants in California, by the number of seconds in a sidereal year, 86400 seconds/day*365.24 days/year = 31,556,736 seconds. This gives the average power in Watts, but the spreadsheet divides this number by 1,000,000 to give a MW. Theoretically, ignoring the inherent lumpiness in wind power which produces what it produces without respect to demand, this gives a feel for the capacity of a nuclear powerplant that could produce more energy than all the solar plants in California. The next two columns give the growth or decline in name plate capacity compared to the previous year, as well the growth or decline in actual energy produced by all the solar plants in California.

I have also included a column for the size of a putative plant, operating at 100% capacity utilization, that would represent the growth in solar energy output, which has increased monotonically since 2007. For example, building a small 100 MW power plant of any type, would match the increase in solar power output from 2019 to 2020. This too, is misleading, since solar plants do not produce energy - in fact the wires connected to them draw power out of the grid, at night. Thus solar plants always require a redundant system to back it up. The fantasy - and it is certainly not a clean fantasy since battery production is neither environmentally benign nor sustainable - is that batteries can deal with this issue. As a practical matter, however, it is dangerous natural gas combustion, with the waste dumped directly into the waste dump, the planetary atmosphere, that is the redundant system.

The table of California's Solar Energy performance in the 21st century:



Comparison of the total production of all of the solar installations in the State of California with the State's overall energy demand, as well as the sum of all solar energy produced in the 21st century by this popular form of energy:



In this entire century, from 2001 to 2020, all of the solar facilities in California, the state having the largest solar capacity in the United States, have not produced even one exajoule of energy, this on a planet where humanity is consuming each year about 600 exajoules of energy.

By the way, I moved to California three times in my life, the first being in 1974. I left the State for good in 1993. The whole time I lived there, everyone was cheering, myself included, for an expected solar energy nirvana. It's not like California was producing just 1.58% of its energy by solar means when people began cheering for it. On the contrary, it's after half a century of cheering.

Some people, myself included, think that the outbreak of massive fires on the West Coast of the United States, as well as in many other parts of the world, Siberia, Sardinia, Australia, etc...etc...etc... ad nauseum are related from climate change.

This should - although it won't - produce some dose of reality about how effective all this cheering, endless cheering, for a putative solar nirvana has been at addressing climate change.

The Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant, due to shut because of appeals to fear and ignorance, has been producing today, in California, between 2,262 and 2,267 MW of electricity reliably all day long in two small buildings, the footprint of which, including its parking lot, is about 12 acres of land, located on a 700 acre plot of land that is mostly undisturbed marine chaparral. In terms of average continuous power, two such plants could produce more energy, more reliably, and more predictably, than all of the solar energy facilities in the State of California as well as solar plants in neighboring states that export electricity to California.

The Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant is something of an antique, having been designed around 1970's technology. Its thermodynamic efficiency is around 33%.

I was telling my son, who visited briefly yesterday, about a path, via heat networks, by which the thermal efficiency of a nuclear plant with a slightly larger foot print, might achieve or approach efficiencies of approximately 80%, via a network of Brayton, reverse Allam, thermochemical hydrogen production, supercritical water, and rankine cycles, all run off the same heat stream, albeit not necessarily in this order. The little brat engineer found this argument credible.

By the way, if one spends a lot of time reading the primary scientific literature about displacing the chemicals obtained by using fossil fuels utilizing putative solar thermal plants, like the one at Ivanpah in California, which fries birds in flight, about 6,000 per year. There are thousands upon thousands of papers about solar furnace liquid fuel production published, too many in fact to count. The only chemical energy produced by Ivanpah is the chemical energy available from the combustion of charred birds.

The poor performance of the Ivanpah plant, which sometimes ends up burning dangerous natural gas to improve it's poor performance, may account for the years in which California's solar capacity utilization fell below 20%.

These papers are not, however, useless. They are probably structured the way they are to appeal to popular enthusiasm, insipid popular enthusiasm, but nonetheless real popular enthusiasm, for solar energy to get research grants. The heat source need not be solar however. Nuclear heat is more reliable, and more environmentally sustainable, since it is continuously and reliably available. Continuous processes are almost always economically and environmentally superior to batch or discontinuous processes.

I regard opposition to nuclear energy as morally and intellectually equivalent to opposition to Covid vaccines. Both kill people by appeal to popular ignorance.

Solar energy has not addressed or even slowed climate change; it is not addressing or slowing climate change; it will not address or slow climate change. It may be time to wake up.

The rate of climate change is climbing not falling. It is worse than ever. People are literally dying in the streets from excessive heat.

That's a fact. Facts matter.

Have a nice day tomorrow.

Capacity Changes, Capacity Utilization, Energy Production: Wind Power in California 2001-2020.

The source data from the table below can be found by scrolling down this page from the California Energy Commissions Web Page:

Electricity From Wind Energy Statistics and Data

It is the table labeled, Total Wind Production (Annual Totals; Excludes Imports)

I have imported the table into Excel, and then did some calculations using this data. Wind turbine power ratings, which are often cited by advocates of this form of energy which has failed spectacularly to address climate change after half a century of cheering, are cited as peak power, which is the maximal power the turbine would manage under perfect windy conditions, which in practice are never observed.

It is dishonest - not that anyone cares anymore about dishonesty - to represent a wind turbine, which is dependent on whims of weather as a plant that can, in theory run continuously at full power, such as a gas plant or a coal plant, or even a plant of a type that has been observed to run at 100% (or better) of capacity, something observed only in nuclear plants.

For example, one can find the capacity utilization of all of the nuclear reactors operating in the United States as of 2020 here: EIA Nuclear Energy Page by clicking on the 2020P Excel File in the table on the right. Of 94 nuclear reactors operating the in the United States in 2020, 70 operated at 90% capacity utilization or better, and of these, 24 operated at 100% of capacity or more. Five operated at capacity utilization of less than 80%. One of these was Diablo Canyon reactor #2, which operated at 74.8% of capacity, apparently for refueling and maintenance. It produced 7,348,123 MWh of electricity, or 26.5 PetaJoules of electricity (0.0265 EJ) in one small building. Diablo Canyon #2 operated at 90.4% capacity utilization, producing 8,910,575 MWh of electricity, or 32.1 PetaJoules, or (0.0321 EJ).

In the table below, I have included a theoretical amount of energy that wind turbines would produce if they operated at 100% of capacity utilization, using the SI unit of energy, the Joule. I have also converted the power actually produced from MWh to Joule in order to calculate the ratio of the latter to the former to give capacity utilization. I have then calculated the average continuous power of all the wind turbines in California, by the number of seconds in a sidereal year, 86400 seconds/day*365.24 days/year = 31,556,736 seconds. This gives the average power in Watts, but the spreadsheet divides this number by 1,000,000 to give a MW. Theoretically, ignoring the inherent lumpiness in wind power which produces what it produces without respect to demand, this gives a feel for the capacity of a nuclear powerplant that could produce more energy than all the wind turbines in California. The next two columns give the growth or decline in name plate capacity compared to the previous year, as well the growth or decline in actual energy produced by all the wind turbines in California. Where declines occur, this reflects the short life time of wind turbines and the failure to replace those decommissioned. Renewable energy advocates love "percent talk" and so, since I'm so familiar with their patois, I've put in "percent."

The table:




There you have it folks, the total energy, produced in two small buildings, in 2020 with a total in use footprint of about 12 acres, on a 700 acre plot of largely undisturbed marine chaparral, produced 16,258,698 MWh of electricity, or 58.5 petajoules of electrical energy, more than all of wind plants in California, distributed over thousands of square km.

For reference, as of 2019, humanity was producing and consuming on the entire planet was consuming about 600 ExaJoules (EJ) of energy, dominated by an increasing share of dangerous fossil fuels.

If there's any sense to shutting the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactor, this when the entire West Coast is laced with fires, droughts, and extreme temperatures, I'm missing it.

From where I sit, anti-nukes are the exact equivalent of anti-vaxxers, inasmuch both assert arrogant ignorance to do harm.

Have a nice evening.

Even in Sacremento, Sacramento of all places, they're waking up.

While Nuclear Energy has proved to be, beginning in the 1990's, the cleanest reliable form of energy, and is the only one that can be scaled to eliminate dangerous fossil fuel use, there were a number of nuclear power plants that were operated poorly. Probably the worst operated nuclear reactor in the United States outside of Three Mile Island - which has long served as an inspiration for people to ignore the routine and massive death toll associated with fossil fuels - was the Rancho Seco Nuclear Reactor, operated by SMUD (Sacramento Municipal Utility District.) The performance of this reactor was so bad, that its reliability was only slightly better than the very best wind parks in the world. In the period which it operated, from April 1975 to June 1989, when it was shut by public referendum, it's capacity utilization was less than 40%.

A former head of SMUD, David Freeman referred to nuclear energy as the "most expensive and dangerous source of energy on Earth."

This may be an indication of why Rancho Seco was so poorly run. Apparently SMUD was incapable of hiring senior engineering staff that could do math. It's rather absurd to call nuclear power the "most dangerous source of energy on Earth" when between six and seven million people die each year from air pollution, caused by combustion of dangerous fossil fuels. It appears that SMUD engineering supervisors can't count.

Freeman "replaced" the 913 MWe nuclear reactor with an 11 MWe solar farm that probably at best, meets recent solar capacity utilization in California, about 24%, meaning it's really, in terms of average continuous power, 3 MW at best. Then quietly, SMUD built a 600 MWe dangerous natural gas plant Cosumnes Power Plant, which has now operated for 17 years, spewing, without restriction the dangerous fossil fuel waste carbon dioxide into the planetary atmosphere, where it causes droughts, fires, heat deaths, extreme weather, what have you and so on...

Given the hostility to nuclear power in California, and Sacramento in particular, it was somewhat surprising to read this editorial in the Sacremento Bee:

To fulfill promises of Diablo Canyon closure, California ignores fossil fuel emissions

Excerpts:

The pitch to close PG&E’s Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant was hard to refuse. It sold California on the best version of itself, where environmentalism and public safety harmonized with our goals for powering the grid exclusively with renewable sources.

The twin-reactor facility along the San Luis Obispo coast powers millions of homes, and the lost output is supposed to be substituted with sources that do not emit greenhouse gases. That was a highlight of the agreement with labor and environmental groups when PG&E announced in 2016 that it would not renew the plant’s license and decommission it by 2025. It was also a key selling point for Californians outside the SLO community.

Five years later, that promise has become obsolete. As California absorbs the constant gut punches from global warming’s quickening pace, the added stress on the power grid has increased the state’s reliance on fossil fuels — even with Diablo Canyon’s 2,200 megawatts of energy still online. California is facing unnerving realities with its power supply that are undermining the transition to a 100% green energy grid by 2045. Recurring heat waves have hiked electricity demand statewide to the point where we experienced rolling blackouts last summer for the first time in almost two decades. That’s forced California to burn cheaper carbon-emitting sources to keep the lights on. Natural gas accounted for over 48% of in-state power generation last year, up from 43% in 2019, according to the California Energy Commission...

...The extreme weather this summer has only deepened our dependence on it...

...In a cruel twist, California needed to burn excess fossil fuels to meet the electricity demand caused by extreme heat that experts say would have been impossible without climate change. That’s right — we need fossil fuels to protect us from the environmental dangers that grew more severe because of our over-reliance on them...


Don't worry, be happy, batteries, batteries, batteries.

Screw those cobalt digging slave children in the "Democratic" "Republic" of Congo, and don't pay attention to the source of all those ketones, or all those lithium mines. Screw the laws of thermodynamics.

It's a shame that the people at SMUD never hired competent engineers, since they helped give nuclear energy a largely undeserved bad name, giving anti-nukes, masters not of engineering, but masters of selective attention, all the more power to dig more dangerous natural gas, more wires to connect unreliable so called "renewable energy" facilities in order to cause more fires, more heat deaths, and faster climate change, all the time, in Trumpian scale mendacity, declaring themselves "green."

Astronomers push for global debate on giant satellite swarms

This is a news item in Nature: Astronomers push for global debate on giant satellite swarms (Alexandra Witze, Nature, News, July 16, 2021.)

I believe it may be open sourced and not behind a fire wall.

A rather disturbing, and in my ethical purview, obscene picture from the text:



Some excerpts from the text:

Aerospace companies have launched about 2,000 Internet satellites into orbit around Earth over the past 2 years, nearly doubling the number of active satellites. This has sparked concerns among astronomers and other skygazers, who worry about interference with observations of the night sky.

Now, in what would be the biggest international step yet towards addressing these concerns, diplomats at a United Nations forum next month might discuss whether humanity has a right to ‘dark and quiet skies’. The debate could initiate a framework for how scientists and the public would deal with the flood of new satellites — with many more expected.


How satellite ‘megaconstellations’ will photobomb astronomy images

Tens of thousands of satellites could be added to Earth orbit in the next few years to provide broadband Internet, if companies and governments build and launch all the networks, or ‘megaconstellations’, they have publicly announced. The sheer number of these could mean that hundreds are visible all night long, affecting the sky like never before in human history. “These constellations are changing dramatically the way space has been used,” says Piero Benvenuti, an astronomer at the University of Padua in Italy and a former general secretary of the International Astronomical Union (IAU)...

...Many astronomers were caught by surprise in 2019, when the first batch of Starlink Internet satellites launched by SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, turned out to be brighter than expected in astronomical images. In response to complaints, SpaceX tested several strategies to darken the satellites; it now launches all of its Starlinks with sunshades attached, to make them less visible when sunlight reflects off them. Astronomers and representatives of several companies, including SpaceX, have settled on a brightness threshold for satellites that is slightly fainter than the human eye can see in a dark sky. Starlinks are close to that brightness threshold but do not currently meet it, says Meredith Rawls, an astronomer at the University of Washington in Seattle.

The threshold is a goal and not a requirement. Even if companies adhere to it, the satellites will be visible in telescopes. They are particularly disruptive to telescopes that survey large swathes of the sky. Up to 40% of images to be taken by the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, a major US telescope that is under construction in Chile, could be marred by satellite streaks near twilight and dawn1. Transmissions from some satellites could also interfere with radio telescopes such as the Square Kilometre Array, a major international observatory being built in South Africa and Australia.


If anyone is familiar with my writings, I never hold back on my contempt for that ethical Lilliputian Elon Musk, who reminds me of characters in that paean to moral indifference, the appallingly dull book by that very dull woman Ayn Rand, in the dry and barely readable novel/treatise Atlas Shrugged.

He just throws his money around to do whatever the fuck he wants at the expense of the rest of humanity and wants to be worshipped for doing so.

I note that the same people who worship the hedonistic errant intellectual homunculus Donald Trump are also prone to worship the dullard narrow minded Ayn Rand.

This kind of disregard for the future of human vision has got to stop.



I was somehow inspired to get "The Big Lebowski" out of the library. I never saw it. Should...

...I actually watch it?

People have told me I should.

Would time spent otherwise be better used?

A racist scientist built a collection of human skulls. Should we still study them?

This a news item from a recent issue of Science: A racist scientist built a collection of human skulls. Should we still study them? (Lizzie Wade, Science July 8, 2018).

I'm not sure if it's open sourced. A pop up appeared, and I just logged in using my AAAS membership.

Some excerpts:

They were buried on a plantation just outside Havana. Likely few, if any, thought of the place as home. Most apparently grew up in West Africa, surrounded by family and friends. The exact paths that led to each of them being ripped from those communities and sold into bondage across the sea cannot be retraced. We don’t know their names and we don’t know their stories because in their new world of enslavement those truths didn’t matter to people with the power to write history. All we can tentatively say: They were 51 of nearly 5 million enslaved Africans brought to Caribbean ports and forced to labor in the islands’ sugar and coffee fields for the profit of Europeans.

Nor do we know how or when the 51 died. Perhaps they succumbed to disease, or were killed through overwork or by a more explicit act of violence.

What we do know about the 51 begins only with a gruesome postscript: In 1840, a Cuban doctor named José Rodriguez Cisneros dug up their bodies, removed their heads, and shipped their skulls to Philadelphia.

He did so at the request of Samuel Morton, a doctor, anatomist, and the first physical anthropologist in the United States, who was building a collection of crania to study racial differences. And thus the skulls of the 51 were turned into objects to be measured and weighed, filled with lead shot, and measured again.

Morton, who was white, used the skulls of the 51—as he did all of those in his collection—to define the racial categories and hierarchies still etched into our world today. After his death in 1851, his collection continued to be studied, added to, and displayed.

In the 1980s, the skulls, now at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, began to be studied again, this time by anthropologists with ideas very different from Morton’s. They knew that society, not biology, defines race. They treated the skulls as representatives of one diverse but united human family, beautiful and fascinating in their variation. They also used the history of the Morton collection to expose the evils of racism and slavery, sometimes using skulls in lectures and exhibits on those topics.

Then, in summer 2020, the history of racial injustice in the United States—built partly on the foundation of science like Morton’s—boiled over into protests. The racial awakening extended to the Morton collection: Academics and community activists argued that the collection and its use perpetuate injustice because no one in the collection had wanted to be there, and because scientists, not descendants, control the skulls’ fate...

...WHEN THE SKULLS of the 51 were sent to Morton, he was already the world’s leading skull collector. Active in the esteemed Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Morton had an extensive network of scientifically minded contacts who responded enthusiastically to his requests to send skulls from every corner of the world. Rodriguez Cisneros wrote that he “procure[d] 50 pure rare African skulls” for Morton’s collection. The doctor claimed the Africans had recently been brought to Cuba, but some skulls may have belonged to enslaved Africans born on the island, or to Indigenous Taíno people, who were also enslaved in Cuba at the time. (Whether Rodriguez Cisneros sent 53 skulls or 51 is also somewhat unclear.)...

...Morton sought a diverse collection of skulls because his life’s work was to measure and compare the cranial features of what he considered the human races. Like many scientists of his time, Morton delineated five races: Caucasian, Mongolian, American, Malay, and Ethiopian. Their geographic origins are jumbled to modern eyes, showing how social categories determine race. For example, “Caucasians” lived from Europe to India; the Indigenous people of northern Canada and Greenland were considered “Mongolian,” like the people in East Asia; and the “Ethiopian” race included people from sub-Saharan Africa and Australia.

Morton thought skulls could reveal telltale differences among those races. When a skull arrived, he carefully inked a catalog number on its forehead and affixed a label identifying its race; many of the 51 still bear the words “Negro, born in Africa.”...


The article contains a quote from one of the three great Americans who started the all too slow process, obviously still uncompleted, of freeing the United States from virulent racism, at that time, in it's most vicious form, human slavery, Frederick Douglass. (The other two would be Lincoln and Grant, who defined their contributions in the political and military/political field, whereas Douglass defined it in the moral sphere.)

"It is strange that there should arise a phalanx of learned men—speaking in the name of science—to forbid the magnificent reunion of mankind in one brotherhood." Fredrick Douglass


Interesting article, I think.

Have a nice weekend.

Hydrogen Production by Reforming of Sodium Alginate in the Liquid Phase over Pt/C Catalysts

The paper I'll discuss in this post is this one: Hydrogen Production by Reforming of Sodium Alginate in the Liquid Phase over Pt/C Catalyst (Vinayak N. Kalekar and Prakash D. Vaidya Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research 2021 60 (27), 9755-9763)

We have, as people paying attention have noted, a real problem with algae overgrowth, much of it connected with run off from agricultural and landscaping fertilizers, as well as climate change.

Whether at sea, as in the case of the now dead offshore Mississippi Delta region, once a rich source of seafood, the Red Tides of Florida, where rotting fish are piling up on the beaches or the the famous cases of microcystin in Lake Erie area which rendered the water supply of major cities toxic, these algae blooms kill by the following mechanism: The photosynthetic algae experience a burst of growth so thick that lower layers of the algae mats lose access to light and die. The dead algae sinks or rots in place. As a result bacteria multiply to feed on the dead algae, consuming oxygen at a level which makes it impossible for large organisms, like fish, or shellfish to survive. Everything then dies, pretty much.

In theory, this process might be stopped by removing the algae before it gets thick enough to kill lower layers, either by filtration, skimming, or similar mechanisms.

If this is done in a timely or continuous fashion, it can actually be a carbon negative approach, in particular when the carbon is recovered and put to use in carbon based materials such as alloys, certain polymers, carbon fibers, nanotubes, etc. Such use may allow for the displacement of the use of dangerous fossil fuels to the extent that they, notably dangerous petroleum and dangerous natural gas, but also albeit more limited, dangerous coal, are used to produce industrial chemicals.

This particular paper describes the utilization of water as an oxidant; however carbon dioxide oxidants may offer certain advantages in situations that I call "the reverse Allam cycle." A problem with biomass reforming is that it is wet, but if the drying is conducted at high temperatures, such as might be produced with nuclear energy, with a mixture of steam and carbon dioxide, "syn gas" - from which any petroleum commodity chemical (or its equivalent) can be made - with adjustable hydrogen to carbon oxide ratios reflecting the ultimate target for synthesis.

From the paper's introductory text:

Macroalgae (or seaweeds), which are large multicellular plants growing in salty or fresh water, represent an attractive renewable energy resource.(1) They are especially promising because they are productive, fast-growing, and easily cultivated and harvested. They are cultivated in many Asian countries for making chemicals, pharmaceuticals, food products, and cosmetics. Even so, they are relatively untapped for making biofuels. Traditional biomass conversion processes such as pyrolysis and gasification are not suited for wet macroalgae, due to high water content and drying energy constraint. Preferably, water should be used as the reaction medium for conversion of such wet biomass. Marine macroalgae are classified as brown, red, or green seaweeds. Although they do not contain lipids or lignin, they are rich in carbohydrates. Alginate is a carbohydrate that is abundantly found in the outer cell wall of brown macroalgae. It comprises mannuronic and guluronic acid units linked by β-1,4-glycosidic bonds. Alginate is used in textile printing, drug delivery system, and food industry. There are a few reports suggesting alginate conversion into organic acids by hydrothermal treatment. For instance, Aida et al.(2) reported the formation of organic acids (lactic, malic, and succinic acids) in the 150–400 °C range. It was found that an increase in temperature favored alginate conversion and acid yields. Jeon et al.(3) found that glycolic acid and furfural were formed in acidic medium, whereas fumaric, lactic, and malic acids were formed in alkaline solutions.

Catalytic aqueous-phase reforming (APR), which reforms biofeeds in the liquid phase,(4) represents a further option for the valorization of seaweeds. Dumesic’s APR process is CO2-neutral because this co-product is utilized in biomass growth. APR produces higher-quality H2 (with less CO) and CO2 from weak solutions of biocarbohydrates in a single reactor at low temperatures near 225 °C. Water is maintained in the liquid state by applying high pressures. The energy constraint is low because the feed is not vaporized. The water gas shift (WGS) reaction is thermodynamically favored under such conditions, and an extra WGS reactor is avoidable. Extra H2 is produced through WGS, and the CO content of the product is lowered...


The authors report the work of others using different approaches. In their work, they use a platinum catalyst supported on carbon. Platinum is an expensive and relatively rare element falling into the critical element category. Notably, they also discuss ruthenium and palladium catalysts. These elements may be more readily available to future generations inasmuch as they are constituents of used nuclear fuel, and thus access to them may not be strictly limited to ores.

From my perspective, a carbon support in a reforming system is less than ideal, and they do report some associated difficulty with catalyst degradation, but anyway, some pictures from the text:



The caption:

Figure 1. Typical product gas profile for a trial over Pt/C (at T = 225 °C, t = 3 h, alginate = 1 wt %, catalyst loading = 2 kg/m3).


Characterization of the catalyst included the use of a scanning electron micscrope:



The caption:

Figure 2. SEM images of the unused Pt/C catalyst.


The catalyst was noted to have significant porosity by use of imaging and BET (Brunauer–Emmett–Teller) nitrogen adsorption device, and the active sites characterized by ammonia desorption experiments.

Two tables from the paper touch on the efficacy of two elements other than platinum:



While the ruthenium and palladium experiments gave lower hydrogen yields, they were explored only at one temperature. Modern materials science gives access to higher temperatures. This would justify exploring the use of more readily available - over many generations - palladium and ruthenium catalysts, albeit on different supports than porous carbon.

As it is, the platinum catalyst loses activity, and various analytical techniques show the changes to unused catalysts by use:



The caption:

Figure 3. XRD patterns of the unused and spent Pt/C catalysts.


IR:



The caption:

Figure 4. FTIR spectra of the unused and spent Pt/C catalysts.


X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy:



The caption:

Figure 5. (a) XPS wide spectra of the unused Pt/C catalyst. (b) Carbon (C 1s) spectra of XPS. (c) Oxygen (O 1s) spectra of XPS. (d) Platinum (Pt 4f) spectra of XPS.




The caption:

Figure 6. TEM image of the unused Pt/C catalyst.


Ammonia desorption (TPD = "temperature programmed desorption) shows the loss of acidic sites on the catalyst upon use:



The caption:

Figure 7. Results of NH3-TPD analysis of the unused and spent Pt/C catalyst.


Finally, reaction pathways leading to the products, mostly by decarboxylation reactions.:



The caption:

Figure 8. Reaction pathway for alginate reforming.


This is just one of many thousands, tens of thousands, of papers along these lines, the reforming of biomass. I mention it only as a signpost along the way for the reversing of climate change, turning a pollutant, algae, into a resource. The added benefit is the recovery of phosphate, which is decidedly not a renewable resource.

The paper's conclusion:

Alginate is a major constituent of the outer cell wall of brown macroalgae. Using this carbohydrate as feedstock, the aqueous-phase reforming (APR) process was investigated using Pt/C catalyst. APR trials were performed in the 200–230 °C range at 2.5 MPa pressure in a stirred batch reactor. The gaseous (H2, CO, CO2, and CH4) and liquid (acetic, propionic, lactic, and succinic acids) reaction products were identified. The effects of reaction variables (such as temperature, reaction time, alginate concentration, and catalyst loading) on the carbon conversion to gas (X), hydrogen selectivity (S-H2), and hydrogen yield (Y-H2) were studied. Using Pt/C catalyst, the carbon-to-gas phase conversion and H2 selectivity after 3 h were 9.7 and 35.5%, respectively. Other catalysts such as Ru/C and Pd/C were less selective to H2. The Pt/C catalyst was comprehensively characterized, and probable alginate conversion pathway was discussed.


A fun little paper, not necessarily the best paper on this subject, but worth reading if one has the chance.

Have a pleasant Friday.
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