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Comment Plant workers (Score 1) 615

Many operators at petrochemical refineries are on the job for 12 hour shifts, 7 days on, 7 days off. It's not like they are being forced to cram in as much work as they can all shift long until they go stir crazy; at a refinery, that would be dangerous. Most of the time, they're on watch just keeping an eye on things, and doing little else more than watching TV, playing cards, surfing the net, etc. When I was doing that sort of work, although we were on the clock for twelve hours at a stretch, we usually split up into 3 hours "in", 3 hours "out" groups and took turns; i.e. half of us would be in the plant, working the controls and basically keeping an eye on things, while the rest would be in the lunch room watching TV, cat-napping, etc. But when a unit breaks down and shit hits the fan, everybody has to bust ass to get it working again, because every day offline is millions of dollars of lost profits. The best part is 7 days off in a row afterwards; who wouldn't want a job where you pull in a six figure income and you're off 26 weeks out of the year.

Comment Project 25 is still alive and kicking (Score 4, Informative) 115

There is another interoperable radio network called Project 25 (www.project25.org) which sprung up in the wake of Hurricane Katrina because none of the agencies involved in rescue operations could communicate with each other, mainly because the vendors that sold equipment to the agencies had competing technologies, different frequency bands and encryption algorithms (or lack thereof), etc. AFIK, Project 25 is alive and kicking, all modern two-way radios sold these days that adhere to the standards set forth by Prohect 25 can communicate with each other, share the same bands, use the same encryption, etc.

Comment Re:What the hell? (Score 4, Informative) 646

When HFCS is produced, enzymes are used to break down starch into glucose and fructose. After the process, the enzymes are removed. Problem is, they don't get out all the enzymes. Therefore, when you suck down that giant sized cola at your local chain franchise joint on hamburger row, not only does the HFCS go straight into your bloodstream without needing to be broken down by your body's natural sucrose enzymes, the leftover enzymes combine with the extra large order of fries you just wolfed down, combining with your own natural enzymes to break the potato starch down quicker, therefore even more glucose and fructose goes into your bloodstream very quickly, causing one hell of a blood sugar spike, to where your pancreas can't put out enough insulin to get rid of the overload of glucose (and your liver is totally occupied with the overload of fructose so it can't process the cholesterol from the burger) and blammo, type II diabetes.

Comment Re:Fad. (Score 2, Insightful) 405

My sentiments exactly... Vinyl records are to modern digital formats what a wood burning fireplace is to central gas/oil/electric heat. A wood fire has to be tended to; you have to chop, haul and stack wood, rake coals, empty ashes, etc., whereas central heat is easy, clean, convenient, and automatic. Yet wood fireplaces are still around. (There's nothing like sitting by a fire while listening to a record and reading a book, but when I want heat and want it NOW, I'm flipping the thermostat to my (noisy) two stage heat pump.) And yes, they do make high efficiency wood stoves that can compete with central heat, of course they are mighty expensive (think of an automatic catalytic pellet stove as being like a turntable with a laser stylus).

Comment Re:With Yucca Mountain closed? (Score 1) 853

Finally, I got an answer: those pools get near the boiling point of water, but no further, and you're not going to get enough energy for the generators to pay for themselves unless they're running on super heated steam. Yes, there's a fair amount of energy there, but it's not concentrated enough to use. Sigh!

When "spent" fuel is removed from the reactor, the fission reaction has stopped, but the residual heat from the decaying by-products would cause the fuel bundles to melt. (This is what happened at TMI- The reactor was shut down and no fission reaction was underway, but the water level got low enough to uncover the fuel bundles, and without water to carry away the residual heat of decay, they started melting.) The water in the spent fuel pool would indeed get near the boiling point of water if it were not for the constant cooling of the pool, but letting the pool get that hot wouldn't be a good idea, though, since the spent fuel pool at your average nuclear power plant is about the size of an Olympic swimming pool, and many activities take place in the same building (which is separate from the reactor containment building), such as the preparation of new fuel rods (they are stored in the same pool, but shielded from the spent rods), storage and preparation of the dry storage casks that the oldest spent fuel goes into, and temporary warehousing of low level radwaste, things like contaminated water filters, protective suits, decontamination materials, etc. Steam from that much hot water would hamper activities and be detrimental to everything inside of the spent fuel storage building.

After a number of years, the short lived by-products have decayed enough that the oldest spent fuel bundles can be stored in shielded casks for dry storage. Sure, they are still warm (thermally speaking), but not enough to melt or otherwise cause damage to the container in which they are stored (as the fuel rods are still smokin' hot radioactively speaking).

I think some people have actually proposed ideas to harvest the excessive heat using waste heat recovery technologies like thermocouples, low pressure turbines (running on ammonia), stirling engines, preheating the feedwater going back into the steam generators, etc.

Comment Re:Our tax dollars at work. (Score 4, Informative) 385

I'd be willing to bet that's been done before.

Many gas pipeline companies bury communications links right alongside their pipelines that communicate with flow meters and pressure gauges, send instructions to compressor stations along the pipeline to throttle up or down, or shut and open valves remotely to keep up with demand. They wouldn't run the cable inside the pipelines, though, because they occasionally send devices called "pigs" through the pipes to check for corrosion on the inside of the pipeline. The pigs would simply shred any cables inside the pipeline.

Now it's conceivable that a secret agency could slip in their communications link alongside the pipeline company's link as it's being built; of course they would lie and tell the pipeline constructors that they're such-and-such communications company looking for a protected right-of-way for their cable. Then when someone dials the call-before-you-dig hotline, they're told there's two communications links and a 36 inch gas pipeline buried there. Guaranteed the contractor will be more concerned about hitting the pipeline than any cables buried right next to it, and stay far away from it.

Comment Re:Ethanol is just stupid (Score 3, Informative) 894

Actually, the U.S. military has switched to burning JP-8, which is somewhere between diesel fuel and kerosene in everything that rolls or flies, from tanks, bulldozers, generators, humvees, and transport trucks to helicopters, cargo aircraft, bombers and jet fighters. Previously, the military used JP-4 in aircraft and no. 2 fuel oil for ground use. JP-4 is a wider "cut" than kerosene, and is similar to naptha or lighter fluid in its consistency and flammability, and can't be used in some diesel engines. One demonstration I remembered seeing when I was in the Army was when a match was thrown in a pan containing JP-4, Whoom! The fuel burst into flame as if it was gasoline, but when a match was thrown in a pan of JP-8, it went out. The reason for the switch was not just for safety, but to simplify logistics- everything drinks from the same tap. JP-8 was the compromise that would burn in any engine, turbine or diesel. JP-8 can also used in heaters. (BTW, most diesel engines will burn civilian Jet-A jet fuel without modification, and with no ill effects.)

Comment Re:Shit (Score 1) 420

Well, I, for one, can drink an entire case of beer over the course of a day. 24 cans x 12 oz/can = 288 ounces, or just over 8.5 liters. But then again, alcohol acts as a diuretic, causing more frequent urination, but more urination also causes depletion of electrolytes, which, along with metabolites of alcohol, causes a really nasty hangover...

Now, who in their right mind would even attempt to drink an entire case of sodas, sweetened, diet or otherwise?

Comment Not so much because of electricity (Score 1) 398

I've had many of my solar powered lawn lights turn into ant farms simply because they make great shelter. Ants love warmth. Here's an experiment: Get an empty paint can, drill a small hole on the side near the bottom and set it outside preferably in an out of the way yet sunny part of the yard; e.g. by a fence. Watch how fast that sucker fills up with ants. With the sun beating down on telephone and cable hookup boxes, in my neighborhood about half of them have ant mounds around them. And yard transformers are warm all year round, the little buggers get inside and pile up moist dirt until they reach the conductors and bzzzt! What amazes me is how high they'll climb to build a nest- At a previous neighborhood where the utilities were strung up on poles, I called the phone company complaining of line noise one day, so they came out and found an ant nest inside the rubber boot on the pole 25 feet in the air.

But where I live, ants aren't so much a problem in window AC units as brown paper wasps are...

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