Post-9-11 events and analyses
Ken Novak's Weblog
Friday, August 18, 2006
Uranium moved from Poland to Russia
: "The International Atomic Energy Agency secretly completed the removal of 40 kilograms of highly enriched uranium from a nuclear reactor near Warsaw on Wednesday and transferred the material to a secure site in Russia for disposal, according to an IAEA document.
The operation is part of an ongoing effort by American and United Nations officials to secure and recover high-risk nuclear and radiological materials around the world. Similar operations over the past three years have returned material from Libya, Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Latvia, the Czech Republic and Uzbekistan to Russia, where it was first made during the Soviet era.
The IAEA wants to reduce the number of reactors around the world that still use weapons-grade uranium. The agency says that more than 100 are still in operation, including in the United States, China and India, though numbers are concentrated in Eastern and Central Europe. It wants them converted to use low-enriched uranium and to eliminate the commerce in highly enriched uranium for research reactors." 11:18:06 PM
Monday, August 07, 2006
Some Convenient Truths
: Short piece by Gregg Easterbrook that explains the optimism I feel on the technology of global warming. "Most progress against air pollution has been cheaper than expected. Smog controls on automobiles, for example, were predicted to cost thousands of dollars for each vehicle. Today’s new cars emit less than 2 percent as much smog-forming pollution as the cars of 1970, and the cars are still as affordable today as they were then. Acid-rain control has cost about 10 percent of what was predicted in 1990, when Congress enacted new rules. At that time, opponents said the regulations would cause a “clean-air recession”; instead, the economy boomed. ..
Emissions of CFCs have been nearly eliminated, and studies
suggest that ozone-layer replenishment is beginning. ..
[Why the pessimism on cutting GHG?] the success of previous antipollution efforts remains something of a secret. Polls show that Americans think the air is getting dirtier, not cleaner .. Democrats have found they can bash Republicans by falsely accusing them of destroying the environment. .. to acknowledge that air pollution has declined would require Republicans to say the words, “The regulations worked.” ..
Americans love challenges, and preventing artificial climate change is just the sort of technological and economic challenge at which this nation excels. It only remains for the right politician to recast the challenge in practical, optimistic tones... Cheap and fast improvement is not a pipe dream; it is the pattern of previous efforts against air pollution. The only reason runaway global warming seems unstoppable is that we have not yet tried to stop it."
I recognize that unlike previous air pollution, CO2 is the key product of combustion, rather than an irrelevant byproduct as most pollution is, so it will be harder to reduce. On the other hand, CO2 is directly related to fuel costs, which provide more economic push for reduction; America's efficiency is far behind comparable countries, and there is a large body of off-the-shelf efficiency technologies available; and are many non-fossil fuel alternatives already on the market, which drop in price with every year. Combining these factors, an 80% reduction in GHG from US levels seems to me feasible, especially over a 20-year period or longer. If I get the time, I'll write up the details behind these numbers in a future blog entry. 10:34:27 AM
Saturday, August 05, 2006
Tsunami and Peace Boost Illegal Indonesia Logging
: "The rebels of Aceh are trading their guns for chain saws and cashing in on a logging binge that is jeopardizing the future of the world's third largest tropical forest reserves.
It's a cruel conjunction of good news and bad news: The rebellion is over, but peace has opened previously inaccessible virgin forests to illegal logging. Meanwhile, 130,000 homes destroyed by the tsunami of December 2004 need replacing, and demand for timber is almost insatiable. ..
Indonesia, whose tropical forest reserves are the world's largest after the Amazon and the Congo basin, has lost around 40 percent of its canopy to loggers in the last 50 years. At this rate of deforestation -- an area the size of New Jersey lost each year -- lowland trees of Sumatra and the neighboring island of Borneo will disappear by 2010, according to Friends of the Earth and the World Wildlife Fund or WWF.
Aceh was largely protected during a decades-long separatist insurgency, with logging primarily limited to rebels and rogue elements within the military. But last year's peace deal opened up previously inaccessible virgin forests." 11:20:34 AM