The Greening Continues – New Eclectic Examples of Environmental Technologies (October 31, 2010)

Posted: October 31, 2010 by docbabad in Environmental Posts, The Greening Continues, by Harry {doc} Babad
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By Harry Babad © Copyright 2010, All right Reserved.


Read about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes at:

That introduction also tells a little about my information sources, all of which — pro and con — are referenced. On the sometimes negative, to my views side, I also pick up items from Greenpeace and Union of Concerned Scientists, when they provide source references I can check, and authors whose technical credentials background I can verify.

Article selection — my blog – my choice — are obviously and intentionally biased by my education, training, experience and at rare times my emotional, philosophical and intuitive views of what works and what will not… But if you have a topic I neglect, send us feedback and I’ll give it a shot.

Since my tid-bits are only a partial look at the original article, click through on the links I always provide if you want more details, as well as <often> added references on the same topic(s).


Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order, The New Snippets

  • ‘Radioactive Boars’ on the Loose in Germany
  • Dog Poop Has a Bright side: Powering a Massachusetts Park lamp
  • How to Cool an Electric Power Plant
  • The Earth Doesn’t Care About What is Done To or For It.
  • The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale — INES is 20 years Old
  • In Weather Chaos, a Case for Global Warming
  • Recycling Land for Green Energy Ideas and projects
  • Clear-Cutting {forests} Has a High Cost
  • Pedego® Electric Bikes and SiGNa Chemistry Demonstrate a High Density Power Solution for Electric Bicycles

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‘Radioactive Boars’ on the Loose in Germany

Berlin – Radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster is still poisoning Germany’s boars nearly 25 years on, with authorities fighting to keep the {slightly} toxic meat off the market as the wild boar population rockets. The boars feed off mushrooms, truffles and wild berries which still contain higher than permitted levels of cesium-137, carried in the radioactive cloud that spread across Europe following the 1986 accident at the Ukrainian nuclear plant.

Cesium has a half-life of about 30 years so almost half of what was deposited as fall out had disappeared by natural decay. In addition, radio cesium contain compounds, indeed most cesium compounds are water-soluble. Much of that original fallout was washed deeply into the subsurface or diluted as runoff during the rains that keep the forests of Germany so green; but that’s another story.

“No one has fallen seriously ill after eating boar meat,” said Emrich, but all boar hunters in high-risk areas must have their game tested for radioactive contamination before it can go on sale in market stalls. According to the Bavarian health and food safety, nine of the 56 boars analyzed last year showed contamination well above the allowed level of 600 Becquerels per kilogram of meat, with some as much as twice the limit. < Snake oil anyone? >

The EPA has established a limit of 370 Becquerels per kilogram of meat in 1998 for imported food. The limit for domestic food is 1,200 Becquerels per kilo. As is usual with such guidelines, the calculations are based on the linear no threshold theory that is undergoing more scientific challenges and will ultimate be defined as invalid as this generation of regulators and health physicists, with vested interests in their reputations, dies out.

On the other hand the bioaccumulation of cesium in mushrooms, truffles and wild berries, which the boars feed off “still contained high levels of cesium-137 of up to 100 Becquerels”. < Help, this is below the regulatory limit so either this is much ado about nothing or is someone running for reelection. >  Note this too is a case of bioaccumulations (e.g., 100 to 600 Bqs since bears eat lots of mushrooms.

Doc wonders why American could eat all of these foods safely, when some German’s are concerned about them, however we were not in the direct path of the fallout from Chernobyl. …As far as the costs of all this European regulation to German tax payers, click though and find out why you pay the piper for over- regulation.

‘Radioactive boars’ on the loose. News, July 8, 2010

Background References

European Cesium Limits in Food —

EPA Food Safety Standards for Radionuclides. US Food and Drug Administration

Linear No Threshold [LNT] model. Wikipedia; See the first several paragraphs.

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Dog Poop Has a Bright side: Powering a Massachusetts Park lamp

It stinks and it’s a hazard to walkers everywhere, but it turns out dog poop has a bright side. Dog poop is lighting a lantern at a Cambridge dog park as part of a months long project that its creator, artist Matthew Mazzotta, hopes will get people thinking about not wasting waste.

The “Park Spark” poop converter is actually two steel, 500-gallon oil tanks painted a golden yellow, connected by diagonal black piping and attached to an old gaslight-style street lantern at the Pacific Street Park.

After the dogs do their business, signs on the tanks instruct owners to use biodegradable bags supplied on site to pick up the poop and deposit it into the left tank. People then turn a wheel to stir its insides, which contain  the waste and water. Microbes in the waste give off methane, an odorless gas that is fed through the tanks to the lamp and burned off. The park is small but has proven busy enough to ensure a steady supply of fuel.

The lamp, a shining example of how humans can make use of an underutilized and perpetually renewable energy source — feces — is the brainchild of Matthew Mazzotta, a conceptual artist who studied at the nearby Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who wanted to give back to the community.

The Seattle Times by JAY LINDSAY Associated Press Writer September 22, 2010 …and …

AOL News:

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How to Cool an Electric Power Plant

Thermoelectric power plants, whether fossil-fueled or nuclear, require cooling water systems. The fuel source—uranium, coal or natural gas—heats water into steam, which drives a turbine generator that produces the electricity.

The exhausted steam from the turbine must be condensed back to water and recycled to the steam generator or boiler to begin the process anew. This condensation occurs by passing it through a heat exchanger—or condenser—where low-temperature cooling water absorbs the heat of the steam and cools it down to water again.

The majority of power plants use one of two types of cooling water systems. In a once-through or open-cycle cooling system, water is withdrawn from a water source, such as a lake, river or reservoir. The water passes through the condenser and is then returned to its original source, with a negligible amount of heat transferred to the aquatic environment.

In a recirculation or closed-cycle system, cooling water is pumped from the condenser to a “wet” cooling tower, where the heat of the water transfers to the ambient air by evaporation. The resulting lower temperature cooling water is then returned to the condenser, and the amount of water that evaporates in the cooling tower is replenished.

Once-through systems will draw more water than recirculating systems, but consume little of it—on average; only about 1 percent of the water withdrawn is ultimately consumed. Recirculating systems withdraw much less water than once-through systems, but consume about 70 percent to 90 percent of what they withdraw by evaporation in the cooling towers. Cooling towers consume about twice as much water as once-through systems.

Both systems typically withdraw only a very small quantity of water relative to the overall size of the water bodies on which they are located—typically 1 percent to 2 percent of the average river flow. The cooling water at nuclear plants that is returned to lakes and rivers is never made radioactive and is entirely safe.

The electric power industry is pursuing strategies to use less water, less fresh water, or no freshwater at all for plant cooling. There’s more, check it out.

Nuclear Energy Insight, July 2009.

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The Earth Doesn’t Care About What is Done To or For It. I know this violates the dreams of all faithful Gaia Worshipers

The cover of The American Scholar quarterly carries an impertinent assertion: “The Earth Doesn’t Care if You Drive a Hybrid.” The essay inside is titled “What the Earth Knows.” What it knows, according to Robert B. Laughlin, co-winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics, is this: What humans do to, and ostensibly for, the earth does not matter in the long run, and the long run is what matters to the earth. We must, Laughlin says, think about the earth’s past in terms of geologic time.

For example: The world’s total precipitation in a year is about one meter—“the height of a golden retriever.” About 200 meters—the height of the Hoover Dam—have fallen on earth since the Industrial Revolution. Since the Ice Age ended, enough rain has fallen to fill all the oceans four times; since the dinosaurs died, rainfall has been sufficient to fill the oceans 20,000 times. Yet the amount of water on earth probably hasn’t changed significantly over geologic time.

Damaging this old earth is, Laughlin says, “easier to imagine than it is to accomplish.” There have been mass volcanic explosions, meteor impacts, “and all manner of other abuses greater than anything people could inflict, and it’s still here. It’s a survivor.”

Laughlin acknowledges that “a lot of responsible people” are worried about atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. This has, he says, “the potential” to modify the weather by raising average temperatures several degrees centigrade and that governments have taken “significant, although ineffective,” steps to slow the warming. “On the scales of time relevant to itself, the earth doesn’t care about any of these governments or their legislation.”

This is an incisive and deeply troubling, to me, article. Check the link and read the rest — feedback is welcome. Why troubling? It goes against all my beliefs.

Laughlin concludes his article by noting Six million years ago the Mediterranean dried up. Ninety million years ago there were alligators in the Arctic. Three hundred million years ago Northern Europe was a desert and coal formed in Antarctica. “One thing we know for sure,” Laughlin says about these convulsions, “is that people weren’t involved.”

Newsweek, by George F. Will, September 12, 2010

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The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale — INES is 20 years Old

Jointly developed by the IAEA and the NEA in 1990, in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident, the international nuclear and radiological event scale helps nuclear and radiation safety authorities and the nuclear industry worldwide to rate (1) nuclear and radiological events and (2) to communicate their safety significance to the general public, the media and the technical community.

INES was initially used to classify events at nuclear power plants only. It was subsequently extended to rate events occurring in any nuclear facility and during the transport of radioactive material, thus also covering events related to the overexposure of workers. Since 2008, INES has been extended to any event associated with the transport, storage and use of radioactive material and radiation sources, from those occurring at nuclear facilities to those associated with industrial use.

More generally, INES has also become a crucial nuclear communications tool. Since its inception, it has been adopted in 69 countries, and an increasing number of countries have expressed their interest in using INES and have designated INES national officers. Over the years, national nuclear safety authorities have made growing use of INES, while the public and the media have become more familiar with the scale and its significance. This is where the true success of INES stands, having helped to foster transparency and to provide a better understanding of nuclear-related events and activities, the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency said.

Doc Sez: Just because something happened and was reported, doesn’t make it a big deal. This is a universal truism, but one not accepted by news and fear mongers, and those afflicted with nuclearphobia. Although I’ve not succeeded, I’ve attempted to create a comparable scale for gas, oil and mineral extraction and for releases from chemical and heavily chemistry based production facilities. Any Ideas?

Certainly on a fatality per serious incident basis, respiratory illness caused by routine and accidental releases, and ground water contamination comparisons such a scale might also prove a useful communications tool. I wonder where Beijing and Denver smog, the BP oil Spill, and the enormous toxic waste spill recently reported in Hungry would rank against Chernobyl. Note the headline sucking TMI accident let to no fatalities and to no measurable increases in health effects. You can Google the actual TMI off site health and environmental consequences for your selves.

Nuclear Engineering International, October 22, 2010; and

The International Nuclear Event Scale, Wikipedia,

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In Weather Chaos, a Case for Global Warming

Event Log

  • The floods battered New England, then Nashville, then Arkansas, then Oklahoma — and were followed by a deluge in Pakistan that has upended the lives of 20 million people.
  • RUSSIA Wildfires stoked by the country’s worst heat wave on record have caused clouds of smoke and burned 1.9 million acres.
  • CHICAGO June storms brought high winds and heavy rains, knocking out windows and leaving thousands without electricity.

The summer’s heat waves baked the eastern United States, parts of Africa and eastern Asia, and above all Russia, which lost millions of acres of wheat and thousands of lives in a drought worse than any other in the historical record.

Seemingly disconnected, these far-flung disasters are reviving the question of whether global warming is causing more weather extremes. The collective answer of the scientific community can be boiled down to a single word: probably.

“The climate is changing,” said Jay Lawrimore, chief of climate analysis at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. “Extreme events are occurring with greater frequency, and in many cases with greater intensity.”

He described excessive heat, in particular, as “consistent with our understanding of how the climate responds to increasing greenhouse gases.”

Theory suggests that a world warming up because of those gases will feature heavier rainstorms in summer, bigger snowstorms in winter, more intense droughts in at least some places and more record-breaking heat waves. Scientists and government reports say the statistical evidence shows that much of this is starting to happen.

But the averages do not necessarily make it easier to link specific weather events, like a given flood or hurricane or heat wave, to climate change. Most climate scientists are reluctant to go that far, noting that weather was characterized by remarkable variability long before humans began burning fossil fuels and releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

There are more details and event images in the article.
Even the Russians are paying more attention.

Thermometer measurements show that the earth has warmed by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since the Industrial Revolution, when humans began pumping enormous amounts of carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. For this January through July, average temperatures were the warmest on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported recently. NOAA scientists think is only the beginning of a trend that most experts believe will worsen substantially.

If the earth were not warming, random variations in the weather should cause about the same number of record-breaking high temperatures and record-breaking low temperatures over a given period. But climatologists have long theorized that in a warming world, the added heat would cause more record highs and fewer record lows.

The recent annual statistics suggest that is exactly what is happening. In the United States these days, about two record highs are being set for every record low. This seems to be telltale evidence that amid all the random variation of weather, the trend is toward a warmer climate.

Climate-change skeptics dispute such statistical arguments, contending that climatologists do not know enough about long-range patterns to draw definitive links between global warming and weather extremes. They cite events like the heat and drought of the 1930s as evidence that extreme weather is nothing new. Those were indeed dire heat waves, contributing to the Dust Bowl, which dislocated millions of Americans and changed the population structure of the United States.

But most researchers trained in climate analysis, while acknowledging that weather data in parts of the world are not as good as they would like, offer evidence to show that weather extremes are getting worse.

Doc Sez: It’s not a question of either whether mankind is the cause, or we’re just in a natural cycle upswing in temperature. The real issue {aka ethical question} is what are we, mankind going to do to protect all of us from the after affects of climate changes and the likelihood of drastic changes to the way we live. — Oh, my choice of pictures… ‘a rose by any other name still has thorns.’

The New York Times, Article by Justin Gillis, August 14, 2010, and links therein

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Recycling Land for Green Energy Ideas and Projects

Lemoore, Calif. — Thousands of acres of farmland here in the San Joaquin Valley have been removed from agricultural production, largely because the once fertile land is contaminated by salt buildup from years of irrigation. But large swaths of those dry fields could have a valuable new use in their future — making electricity.

Farmers and officials at Westlands Water District, a public agency that supplies water to farms in the valley, have agreed to provide land for what would be one of the world’s largest solar energy complexes, to be built on 30,000 acres.

At peak output, the proposed Westlands Solar Park would generate as much electricity as several big nuclear power plants.

Unlike some renewable energy projects blocked by objections that they would despoil the landscape, this one has the support of environmentalists. Check it out, for a change this is not a ‘wet’ dream.

The first phase of the project would consist of 9,000 acres leased from farmers. When covered in solar panels, that acreage would generate 600 to 1,000 megawatts of electricity. One megawatt is enough to power a Wal-Mart Supercenter.

The New York Times, by Todd Woody Published: August 10, 2010

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Clear-Cutting {forests} Has a High Cost

For people living in poverty in the Amazon, cutting down the rain forest often appears to be the only way to thrive economically—first by selling the lumber, later by farming and ranching on the land. A study published in Science in June indicates otherwise. Despite gaining some temporary benefits, communities that clear-cut their forests end up no better off than those who do not.

Ana Rodrigues of the Centre for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology in France and her colleagues found that Amazonian towns in the midst of a deforestation binge initially see higher life expectancies, literacy rates, and incomes. But once the local forest is gone, income from timber typically dries up, the researchers believe; many farms and cattle ranches are abandoned after a few years because the nutrient-poor soil rapidly becomes depleted.

“The current development strategy results in a lose-lose-lose situation,” Rodrigues says. It destroys the rain forest habitat, fails to alleviate poverty, and contributes to global warming by eliminating trees that would absorb and store carbon dioxide. “The challenge now is to create a development path that is win-win-win.” One possibility, Rodrigues suggests, could be to create a provision in the next international climate-change treaty requiring wealthy countries with high carbon emissions to pay Brazilians for the environmental benefits of keeping their forests standing.

Bottom Line — Selling the lumber gets money in the short term but is a “lose-lose-lose” in the long term.

Discover Magazine, by Eliza Strickland, January 25, 2010

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Pedego® Electric Bikes and SiGNa Chemistry Demonstrate a High Density Power Solution for Electric Bicycles Electric bicycle gets 60-mile range with a portable hydrogen fuel cell

LAS VEGAS, NV: September 23, 2010 – Pedego®, Electric Bikes and SiGNa Chemistry have developed an ultra-high-performance range extender for electric bicycles.  The announced battery-fuel cell hybrid system is compatible with all existing Pedego bicycles and batteries.  For every 1.5 lbs. of weight a rider carries, an additional 700 watt-hours of energy is available (compared to ~350 watt-hours for an ultra-high performance lithium-polymer battery at a weight of 7 lbs.).

Compared to advanced Li-ion batteries, which have an energy density of about 65 Watt-hours per kilogram, SiGNa’s cartridges have an energy density of more than 1,000 Watt-hours per kilogram. The hydrogen cartridge produces up to 200 Watts of continuous power, and excess energy is stored in a Li-ion battery for climbing hills and energy-intensive acceleration.

The new hybrid system utilizes the battery for peak conditions such as acceleration and hill climbing, while the fuel cell to extend the operating range of a Pedego bicycle by over 40 miles for each additional cartridge.

Riders can carry additional cartridges, which are real-time hot swappable.  A key innovation is the use of sodium silicide to liberate hydrogen from water as needed by the hybrid fuel cell. The hydrogen system is safe, as the hydrogen is produced at just 50% of the pressure in a soda can. The system’s only emission is water vapor, and sodium silicate, an environmentally safe byproduct of sodium silicide, which is fully contained in the cartridge.

PhysOrg News, October 6, 2010

By Charlie Sorrel October 4, 2010, Wired,

Pedego Electric Bicycles —

SiGNa Chemistry —

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Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles listed in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledge and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

Sources & Credits: — Many of these items were found by way of the links in the newsletter NewsBridge of ‘articles of interest’ to the national labs library technical and regulatory agency users. NewsBridge is electronically published by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, in Richland WA.  If using NewsBridge as a starting point, I follow the provided link to the source of the information and edit its content (mostly by shortening the details) for information for our readers. I also both follow any contained links, where appropriate, in the actual article, and provide you those references as well as those gleaned from a short trip to Google-land. Obviously if my source is a magazine or blog that the material I work with.

In addition, when duplicating materials that I cite, I do not fill the material with quotation makes, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another source.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

In Closing

I’ll be posting articles for your comfort and anger in the next few months. I never respond to flaming, but will take time to provide evidence in the form of both primary technical and secondary {magazine articles} references for those who ask. However, most of you can reach out and Google such information for your selves.

I compulsively again share Dr. Isaac Asimov thoughts on evidence.

Paraphrasing: The Paradigm I’ve Live By, a quote from Dr. Isaac Asimov writer, thinker and scientist. 

  • “I believe in evidence.
  • I believe in observation, in measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers.
  • I’ll believe any thing, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.

I would also add Albert Einstein’s comment Scientific-Technical “insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Emphasis Added – The same holds true for half-truths and fear mongering by those with vested interests and/or undocumented and presently un-documentable beliefs.

Readers Please Note — Many of the technologies I share still have to prove that they are reliable, durable and scalable — and if you Google them in detail, you will find studies saying they are capable of being commercialized and often as many studies that are skeptical.

A reminder, conditions, both technical and geopolitical continuously change – So if you’ve made up your mind about either the best way to go, or about its all a conspiracy, move on to the next article in our blog. Today’s favorite is tomorrow unintended consequence. However, that’s better than sticking one’s head in the sand or believing in perpetual motion. Remember, there’s no free lunch and as a taxpayer and consumer you must always end up paying the piper!

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.
The important thing is not to stop questioning.” — Albert Einstein.

I seem to have a thing for Albert Einstein this month, coming soon Feynman and Hawking my other heros.

Harry, aka doc_Babad


Previous Greening Columns

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