Tuesday, March 15, 2011

We just lost the electric car

For all those following the Fukushima disaster the story keeps going from bad to worse. In case you haven't been keeping up with current events, their have been multiple hydrogen gas explosions at each reactor. There have also been a pair of fires, which may turn out to be one fire not completely extinguished.

We are now certain that there has been a partial meltdown in the fuel rods, and cracks have developed in the suppression chamber. Aerial photographs of the plant show that the building housing reactor 2 has been almost completely destroyed.

As a result of all this, a plume of Noble gases (helium, neon, argo, krypton, xenon, and radon) has been released. Mixed in this cloud are two byproducts of the nuclear fission process: Iodine-131 and Caesium-137. Incidentally, Caesium-137 has a radioactive half-life of 30 years.

Japanese authorities now fear that that this plume of radioactive gas will be blown west by sea winds towards Tokyo.

How much Iodine-131 and Caesium-137 has been released? Nobody knows, but it was enough to raise radiation levels outside the plant 400 millisieverts per hour. Just how high is that? A chest X-ray will expose you to 0.1 millisieverts. A full brain scan will expose you to 25 millisieverts, and a full body scan will expose you to 125 millisieverts.

1,000 millisieverts will cause temporary radiation sickness including nausea and vomiting. This is because radiation interferes with cellular mitosis, and the cells of our digest track are the fast dividing cells in the human body. 1,000 millisieverts is sufficient to cause a break-down inyour digestive track's normal repair process, bringing on nausea.

50% of all people exposed to 5,000 millisieverts have died of radiation poisoning. 6,000 is almost always fatal.

Those working at Fukushima got 1,000 millisieverts in just 2.5 hours. They have probably been exposed to more than that overall. The radiation level was high enough to cause emergency workers to suspend their operations and evacuate their skeleton crew of 50 for an unspecified period of time.

It boggles the mind, but they actually abandoned ship during this nuclear crisis leaving the plant in massively out-of-control state, and un-attended. The good news is that a crew did return when radiation levels went down to less dangerous levels.

To put this in perspective: in Chernobyl, among people who became sick the radiation dose ranged from 800 to 1.6 million millisieverts - much higher than what's being measured so far in Japan.

The amount of political damage the pro-nuclear energy movement has suffered is quantum. I'm not just speaking of the United States, but the world. I basically believe than any pro-nuclear energy policy is now effectively dead, regardless of your country. After Fukushima, I am not sure how any politician in any modestly democratic republic is going to sell a new nuclear power plant to any general population.

Would you like the job of trying to sell a new nuclear plant to your electorate?

There is one terrible casualty in all of this: The electric car. When they make part 2 of Who Killed the Electric Car? the answer is going to be plain and clear: Fukushima killed the electric car.

Why will the new movement towards the electric car die? It is simple folks: we need terra-watts of power to fuel a complete fleet of electrical vehicles in this and other countries. That is what it will take to manufacture and power-up electric cars, trucks, tractor trailers, and construction equipment.

Without the cheap and nearly infinite amount of energy you can generate from nuclear fission, and without a workable nuclear fusion system, I see no way we can ever generate that much electricity. Insufficient electricity, no fleet of electric cars.

Of course, you can generate electricity from coal and oil, but this will fix nothing.

Would I like to see a bunch of nuclear fission plants go up to support a fleet of electrical cars? Not now. Frankly, I am wondering how we can decommission some of these plants, particularly the two on the California coast line.

Right now, I agree with several economic experts I have heard: The T. Boone Pickens agenda to fuel our automotive fleet on natural gas and propane will move forward at a greatly accelerated pace.