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Comment Re:What about Google driverless car? (Score 1) 603

Personally, I am excited about the idea of the driverless car and can't wait until I don't have to do the driving to go somewhere. However, I don't think that the driverless car will work well until the majority of the cars are driverless and can communicate with each other. I could just imagine that many problems with the driverless car could be managed much better if the cars were all communicating and letting the other cars know what lane they needed to be, that they were turning in 3 blocks, that there was an accident/pothole/other road hazard up ahead. Until then, I guess that we would just have to put the systems in cars and have them factory disabled until a vast majority of the cars had the technology. Until then, maybe we ditch the HOV lanes on freeways and designate them for driverless cars.

Comment Re:What if it turned out the other way? (Score 2) 561

Solar thermal is a great option for reducing your demand from the grid, but cannot economically handle the heavy demands. Geothermal has huge potential, but the technology to make it viable in all areas has not been demonstrated on an industrial level. Hydro is a great source of power but only so many dams can be build. Wave and tidal power have cost, regulatory, and technological issues still. Natural gas is viable, but the price is so volatile that it could quickly become unaffordable, especially if huge demands were suddenly placed on supply. Besides gas is not as green as some of the other sources.

I cannot speak so to the 90 year clean up project on the UK reactors, but this is an anomaly. Plants have been cleaned up and decommissioned in less time. In the US all plants have a decommission fund that covers those costs.

As for the subsidies on nuclear power, show me any of the technologies that are not subsidized. The level of subsidies on nuclear is actually quite a bit less than what many people would have you believe. One subsidy that keeps getting hung over nuclear is insurance. The truth is, nuclear utilities have insurance that covers pretty much anything that could happen short of Fukushima/Chernobyl disasters. If a major disaster occurs, then the government will help with clean-up. You can call this a subsidy, but it costs taxpayers nothing as long as we don't have major accidents.

Comment Re:What if it turned out the other way? (Score 1) 561

He is not arguing that the radiation is healthy, but that the increased medical attention enabled the workers to receive prompt treatment on ailments that could have otherwise developed into something more serious. He is then predicting the same kind of outcome for the Fukushima workers. The fact is, radiation in low enough doses makes so little change in life expectancy and cancer rates that it is indistinguishable from average rates. If you couple no increased likelihood of illness with improved medical coverage then yes, life expectancy will go up.

Comment Re:What if it turned out the other way? (Score 1) 561

Nuclear apologists (as you call them) compare nuclear to coal because that is the only affordable alternative we have right now. The green movement can talk about wind and solar all they want, but it still is not an affordable method of generating electricity. Every kW of electricity that comes from nuclear is 1 kW less that has to be produced by coal. If you look at the number of lives that have been saved by using the few nuclear plants that we are using, instead of using coal, it is far more than the lives lost by all nuclear related deaths including Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

You are right that we could drop all of our nuclear plants and it won't cripple a country, but it isn't without consequence either. If you lose 80% of electricity your manufacturing capabilities will be greatly reduced and the lifestyle of your population would also be significantly reduced. People are amazing at adapting and coping, but just ask anyone in Japan if they would be okay with having their available energy permanently reduced.

Comment Re:Translation: (Score 1) 493

This is a common misconception about nuclear insurance and government loan guarantees. Nuclear power plants are required to have their own insurance. The utility company and its insurance are responsible for paying out most damages. The only time that the government steps in is in the case of events like Chernobyl and Fukushima. The problem with holding the nuclear community responsible for the entirety of all the costs is that there are so few reactors.

Here is a really bad car analogy. Imagine that cars were required to have $5,000,000 insurance coverage and that there were only 100 cars on the road. The cost for insuring the cars would be well above the actual cost of the car. So what you do is estimate that most accidents will only cause $100,000 worth of damage and hold car owners responsible for that level of coverage. The government then promises that in the rare event that an accident causes more than $100,000 in damage it will make up the difference.

Comment Re:Funny that (Score 1) 493

One of the most expensive parts of a nuclear reactor is the pressure vessel (the big steel vessel that contains the fuel rods). The life of the nuclear reactor is determined by the life of the pressure vessel. Piping and valves do get replaced, but you just can't swap out the big vessel. By the time the pressure vessel reaches end of life it is more cost effective to just tear the whole thing down than to try retrofit the entire plant. Given the new designs of plants there is almost nothing from the old plants that could be salvaged.

Comment Two great options (Score 1) 425

One option that you can go with is the Asus Eee Slate. This is a Windows based tablet that has a Wacom stylus. It is designed for handwriting and even is smart enough to know the difference between the stylus and your hand so you can rest your hand on the screen and still write. It also features full laptop specs. The down sides to this tablet is size and price. It has a 12" screen and is quite a bit heavier than an iPad which makes it harder to use while holding it in your hands. It will also cost you around $1000.

Another option is the Asus Transformer. This is the option that I currently have and I use it for taking notes in my classes. The app that I use most of the time for taking notes is Repligo Reader. My teachers post their lecture notes online as PDFs. Repligo Reader does a wonderful job of allowing me to take notes right on the PDF. The handwriting feature is a little rough on it, but I find I don't have to write as much when I already have the teachers notes as part of my notes.

Another wonderful app is SuperNote. Supernote does a wonderful job of allowing handwriting and typing and allows you mix it up in the same note page. It also allows you embed pictures, videos, or audio recordings. This is the app of choice for me if lecture notes are not posted. The Asus Transformer also has a keyboard dock that extends battery life, allows connection of USB devices, and makes typing easy while still enabling tablet functionality.

Comment Re:Mostly estimates (Score 4, Insightful) 95

The exciting(?) thing about this study though is how small of an area is contaminated beyond the legal limit. Since Cs is the major radionuclide that was released then these mappings should also be closely correlated to background doses. Given the conservative estimates that are used for setting regulations I am even more convinced that the general Japanese public is in essentially no danger from the radiation. I would like to see a more detailed analysis of the area right around the plant but given the picture in the article it gives me hope.

Many in the anti-nuclear crowd like to spout off and say that Fukushima has rendered vast amounts of land unusable for generations. This news actually bodes well for the Japanese people that in a couple of years all the land that was previously not part of the power generating stations might be returned to original state.

Comment Re:It's for filling the fad for the less wealthy (Score 1) 381

Here is another point-of-view from an Android tablet owner and user. I absolutely love my tablet and I use it quite a bit. I am a graduate student and am always carrying a backpack, which does help with the portability, but I have found it to be incredibly useful for me.

One of the great things that I love about it is that I can hold it in my hands easily when I ride the bus. I have about a 45 minute commute each way. I can use the tablet to read literature on the bus and easily use one finger to highlight text in a pdf. I also use it in my classes to take notes. I get copies of the professors slides and take notes on the slides. I know that I can print the slides, but by the end of a semester it gets pretty heavy to carry all of the slides from all of my classes. On this one small device I can hold all my literature and class notes.

I also find it very useful for meetings. If my adviser questions anything I can bring up the supporting literature, or I can show him the data that I have collected. My tablet can also open and edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. It also has HDMI output so I can use it to give presentations.

One thing that my tablet does that a netbook does not is rotate. When the screen is as small as it is, there are times that it works best in landscape mode and there are times that portrait mode works a lot better. Two-finger touch also lets me quickly resize the screen. This helps with websurfing when you try to click on a tiny link. Even with my fat fingers I can quickly resize the page to where I don't miss the link I want to press.

I don't use my tablet for gaming and really don't have any games on it at all, yet it is still one of the best purchases that I have made. I have the Asus Transformer so I can use it as a netbook also if I have a lot of typing to do. It is such a versatile device that just works in a wide variety of circumstances.

Comment Time (Score 1) 1880

I stick with Windows for no other reason than I don't have the time to get everything working on Linux. I also don't have time for the learning curve. I know that Linux has come a long way in the last few years, but for right now, I just don't have the time.

Comment Re:Well well (Score 1) 277

The trend is very encouraging, and I am excited about solar (even as a nuke). I just wish that storage was required of home solar arrays instead of intermittently pulling from and selling back to the grid. I would love to install solar and have a DC grid in my house to run my lights and to plug all of my electronics into. It just isn't affordable right now.

Comment Re:The Retreat Continues? (Score 1) 277

The reason why there has been a lot of focus on new designs is because anti-nuclear groups are calling for retrofits on old plants that just do not make any financial sense. The anti groups are arguing that nuclear is unsafe because the plants are getting old and that almost all of the internals should be replaced. In the same breath they are arguing that because nuclear is unsafe we shouldn't build any new plants. How is the industry supposed to respond? We can spend the cost of a new plant completely rebuilding existing reactors, and still have 50 year-old designs or we can utilize the latest technologies and build new plants.

Many people in the nuclear industry are ok with phasing out the old plants and we do recognize that it needs to be done. However, we also recognize that solar and wind are not ready to fill the void caused by shutting down all our nuclear plants. This means that most of that capacity would be replaced by coal. In the interest of everyone around the world, we do not want more coal plants. Most people in the nuclear industry (at least the ones that I have met) care about the environment. We do not want to see more coal plants being built. We are ok with decommissioning the old nuclear plants, but please, let us build new ones.

Comment Re:Well well (Score 1) 277

Why do I keep having to say this? If you think that there are no problems with nuclear power, move to Chernobyl or Fukushima.

Forgive me if I fail to see what you mean by this. Do you mean that I should be scared about living in Chernobyl or Fukushima because of radiation? The truth is, there are those of us who do research who regularly get higher doses than what you would receive by living in those areas. There are also people around the world who live with higher background doses. If your fear is radiation then there are other places in the world/occupations that you could tell a person to go that would result in them receiving a higher dose.

I get tired of people telling me that if I don't think that there are problems with Fukushima or Chernobyl why don't I go there. Or with those that tell me that if I think that nuclear waste is safe why don't I store it in my basement. I do not fear the waste because I study it, I work with it, and I know what it can, and cannot do. I would love to be able to separate out the Sr from the waste and put it in a capsule in my basement. With that I could heat my house and have all the hot water that I wanted for a hundred years.

Now, with that said, I do believe that we need to exercise caution and try to keep the dose to the public as low as reasonably achievable. What happened in Fukushima is a disaster. I feel for all of those who were displaced from their homes. But we also need to look at the risks that are associated with the elevated radiation levels in the different areas. Although the levels are higher than the normal background in many area, the levels are still so low that the probability of health effects is negligible.

Comment Re:Well well (Score 2) 277

The article that you link to has quite a few shortcomings. Some of them are outlined here

The end-game of a majority of people putting solar on their homes is higher utility rates for everyone. Utilities buy back the electricity that the solar panels overproduce at a high price. The production from the solar panels is intermittent and so the utilities cannot rely on them. This creates even greater swing in the demand that utilities see, yet they still have to to be able to produce enough to cover everyone if the sun isn't shining.

Although the installed cost of solar may be less than the cost of nuclear, if we tried relying on solar we would find the the low capacity factor of solar, combined with the cost of grid storage would quickly move the price well beyond affordable.

Comment Re:What is really needed. (Score 1) 768

I have been preaching this for a while now, we really need to reform K-12 education. I believe that the amount of material that is covered by 12th grade could be covered by the end of 10th grade (with adjustments to the system, of course). This would allow the last 2 years of high school to be for technical training or college generals. It would not cost public school systems that much more money and students with just a high school education would be much more productive in the work force. Also, if students can graduate high school with an associates degree then all they would need is 2 years of college (half the student loans) for a BS.

This plan would require massive restructuring of the K-12 system, but the system needs it anyway.

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