Monday, May 30, 2011

The 2011 International Year of Chemistry: Advancing Our Search For Clean and Free Energy?

Given that one of its goals is drawing attention on is sustainable development, can the celebration of the 2011 International Year of Chemistry really aid humanity’s search for clean and free energy sources?

By: Ringo Bones

Even though the declaration of UN’s 2011 International Year of Chemistry was decided as far back as December 2008 in New York and Paris during the 63rd General Assembly of the United Nations when it adopted a resolution proclaiming 2011 as the International Year of Chemistry, humanity’s search for a reliable source of energy to run the global wheels of industry that doesn’t break the bank and the environment was decided even further back. But in what aspects of our search for reliable clean and almost free – i.e. low-cost – energy sources where the celebration of the 2011 International Year of Chemistry can provide the most help?

The field of rechargeable chemical rechargeable battery technologies could probably be the primary beneficiary of this year’s celebration of the 2011 International Year of Chemistry. Given that the current state-of-the-art technology of lithium iron phosphate batteries already made it as having almost the same power-to-weight ratio to gasoline-fueled internal combustion engines, could more cleaver advances in the science of chemistry this year provide us with batteries that has the same power-to-weight ratio of gasoline-fueled internal combustion engines or even better them? That alone could make electric cars run without emitting a single gram of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere – given that the electricity used to charge the batteries are produced via non-carbon dioxide emitting means of course.

Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Disaster: The Death Knell for Commercial Nuclear Power?

Despite of having been compared to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster even though the spread of radioactivity is still localized does the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster the death knell of commercial nuclear fission power generation?

By: Ringo Bones

As one of the most famous casualties of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami that hit the north-eastern part of Japan, the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster got a Level-7 Rating comparable to that of the April 26, 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster, even though the spread of most of the radioactive debris due to the meltdown was confined to the immediate area of the Fukushima plant. Sadly the people and the press at large have perceived it as the death knell for commercial nuclear power generation.

The oft cited reason for the renewed anti-nuclear power activism raised by the Fukushima nuclear disaster is that if it happened in a technologically advanced and rich country like Japan with a culture that holds discipline and dedication to one’s job with such a high esteem that a much worse nuclear disaster could happen anywhere. But is this sound reasoning, or is it rather based on politics – make that the politics of ignorance - rather than the science of nuclear fission power generation? Well, all of this reminds me of what Isaac Asimov once said about “new” problems created by technology – he says: “If technology is the root cause of our current problems, then, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them.”

Sadly, a much bigger problem is looming – i.e. the accelerating greenhouse effect in our atmosphere caused by our inconvenient failure to wean ourselves out of fossil fuel based power generation that could create much stronger storms, longer droughts, higher than average temperatures and raise sea levels before the end of the 21st Century. Commercial nuclear fission power generation has always been touted – and it is the only commercially and technologically viable one we have – of a carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases free power generation. Before solar, wind and other carbon-free alternative / renewable energy power generation schemes can fully replace coal and even nuclear fission power plants, nuclear fission power generation is - unfortunately – here to stay.