Energy Topics


A collection of short news items addressing energy-related topics, including atomic waste storage, energy efficient homes, small scale hydroelectric power, and more.

A SHORT HALF-LIFE MEMORY:

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Alvin M. Weinberg, one of the pioneers of atomic power, wrote recently: To sequester [radioactive] wastes for 1,000 years simply does not strike me as being beyond reason.” Yet when the Beatty, Nevada atomic dumping ground was closed down because leaking waste drums were discovered outside the fence, a spokesman said he thought the containers had been buried in 1964 or 1965… but had assumed that they were all stored in another area entirely!

MORE REALISTIC, on the other hand, is this statement by Dr. Mark Reader, associate professor of political science at Arizona State University: “Most likely, we will have forgotten where we stored these [atomic waste] substances within a short time, just as we’ve forgotten where we put all the gas canisters produced in World War II, or as we forgot the locations of the turn-of-the-century radium mines upon which part of modern Denver has been built.”

NO ONE CAN OWN THE SUN?
Don’t bet on it! Take a look instead at two studies that document attempts at a solar takeover on the part of utilities, oil companies, and other big businesses. “Solar Energy vs. Big Business” and “Opposing Utility Involvement in Solar Commercialization” were compiled by the Citizens’ Energy Project.

POTENTIAL POWER: The Senate Finance Committee has adopted a measure that would provide tax incentives to encourage the development of small-scale hydroelectric plants at existing dam sites. It’s estimated that there are as many as 5,200 such dams, which could produce a total of about 27,000 megawatts per year… the equivalent of almost 140 million barrels of oil and enough to supply the electrical needs of about 8.5 million people.

TOO ENERGY EFFICIENT:
Casey and David Gluckman designed and built their new home in north Florida to be so energy efficient that it would require no air conditioning or central heating system. However, their house didn’t qualify for Florida Power Company’s “Energy Saver New Home Award” because-the company says-it has no way of rating a home without any air conditioning at all! “I guess,” Casey decided, “what they’re saying is they want to save energy, but not too much of it!”

THE DAM-ATOLL—a 260-foot dome-shaped structure developed by Lockheed California Company—harnesses the massive energy of ocean waves and (it’s claimed) can be used to generate electricity, clean up oil spills, protect beaches from wave erosion, form calm harbors in the open sea, and even desalinate ocean water. So far, no one can foresee any negative environmental impact from this cross between a dam and an atoll.

COLOMBIAN CREATIVITY: In order to lure settlers into Colombia’s isolated and ecologically delicate Orinoco River Basin, engineers have invented—among other things—a windmill so sensitive that it spins in 4 MPH breezes and can pump nearly 4,000 gallons of water per day… and a small hydroelectric generator that can use a four foot-high dam to supply power for a farm or school.