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Marine Current Turbines' SeaGen project is a mini-farm off the coast of Ireland, which features two turbines attached to a tower, producing 1.2 MW.  (Source: Marine Current Turbines)
Companies race to harvest the ocean's bountiful green energy, but can they make it affordable?

In the U.S., President Obama has launched an ambitious initiative to have the U.S. seize the lead in the global alternative energy industry.  With options such as nuclear, solar, and wind on the table, one key technology the administration is focusing on is tidal power.  Similarly, European efforts to harvest tidal and wave power are heating up in part to help the EU fulfill its alternative energy and emission cut promises.

The new push is validating many technologies that were thought up decades ago, but never fully explored.  For engineer Peter Fraenkel, founder of Marine Current Turbines, it was a plan in the 1970s to pump water in Sudan via tidal power.  Civil war and lack of funding temporarily killed his dream, but the alternative energy boom revived it, and his company now has slightly modified versions of his original design running off the coast of Northern Ireland.

He states, "In the 1970s, the big snag was the market for that technology consisted of people with no money.  Now it’s clear governments are gagging for new renewable energy technology."

The turbines at one of his company's projects, the SeaGen project, produce 1.2 MW per year, enough to power 1,140 households and costs $3.6M USD to build.

Worldwide, there are many similar stories to Mr. Fraenkel's.  The young tidal power industry is filled with very old ideas which are only now coming to light.  Two key technologies dominate the field:  tidal range power, produced from the up and down bobbing of the sea, and tidal flow power, produced by the flow of the tides parallel to the ocean floor.  For both of these industry fields, the key challenges are the same -- getting enough funding to prove the technology and figuring out how to get costs down and create long lasting plants.

By 2020, up to $3.6B USD is expected to be pumped into the tidal power industry, which has over 30 firms competing to produce the best solutions.  The drive is fueled by investors attracted to the financial perk of tax breaks in the U.S. and Europe.  Hugo Chandler, renewable energy analyst at the Paris-based International Energy Agency, states, "Tidal energy has an enormous future, and the U.K. has a great resource (if construction costs come down).  Its time may be just around the corner."

However, one key roadblock to tidal power continues to be its high cost.  In Britain, wind power has been efficiently implemented, cutting costs to 7 pence (approximately 10 cents) per kWh. This is very competitive with the cost of coal power, which is 5 pence/kWh (7 cents/kWh).  However, tidal currently costs 15 pence/kWh (21 cents/kWh).

The main reason for the high cost is the elaborate work needed to build plants capable of surviving the salty seas and to install the plants in the often turbulent waters offshore.  Unlike wind generators, tidal turbines' gearboxes and generators must be watertight.  The turbine machinery also has to withstand a flow of 9.3 knots (10.7 MPH), delivering three times the force that wind delivers to land turbines.  Angela Robotham, MCT’s 54-year-old engineering chief, explains, "The forces you’re trying to tap into are your enemy when it comes to engineering the structure."

With an estimated 15 percent of the world's useable tidal resources, Britain is a prime target for those looking to harvest the tides, and a key proving ground for many firms.  In addition to MCT's SeaGen tidal tower/turbine setup, OpenHydro has deployed a 250 kW design offshore (2007), and Hammerfest Strom AS has deployed its first 300 kWh turbine farm off the coast of neighboring Norway (2003).

The Carbon Trust, a key tidal investment group, states that 2,500 megawatts of tidal may be installed by 2020 at the aforementioned $3.6B USD cost.  These figures don't seem overreaching given the many big announcements.  OpenHydro announced that it will be installing three one-megawatt turbines off the U.K.’s Channel Islands and another in Canada’s Bay of Fundy. 

Iberdrola SA, a Spanish utility, has also announced plans to install 20 one-megawatt Hammerfest Strom turbines off the Spanish coast at three sites by 2011.  MCT is working on a 10.5 MW farm in Anglesey, Wales to be complete in 2012.  Scottish Power recently announced a 60 MW project is in development off the coast of England.  Russia claims to be working a 10 GW tidal farm, which will dwarf the current largest -- a 240 MW farm in France.

MCT's Fraenkel is convinced that all the new efforts will bring costs down.  He adds, "It’s as expensive as it could possibly be at the moment because we’re at the earliest stage.  Once we’re able to go for bigger projects, the cost will come down."

MCT Managing Director Martin Wright continues, "Fossil fuel represents burning off the Earth’s capital, and now we’re going back to the energy that’s available to the planet in the course of the day.  Tidal stream energy is no longer a nice-to-have. It is a must-have."

However, despite the rhetoric, the cost hurdle remains significant.  Currently tidal is so far from cost competitive that it loses much investment and R&D money to wind and solar.  Still, the sheer amount of energy that is in the tides makes it equally hard to resist.

Furthermore, one great mystery is how long the new plants will last.  Given the fact that most designs have only been deployed in the past 10 years, there's a lack of solid numbers for plant lifespans and maintenance costs.  How these factors play out will only become known with time and may have a major negative or positive impact on the push to adopt tidal. 

In short, as tidal power efforts surge ahead, the destination is still a bit of a mystery and few can say quite what the future holds.

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I still don't get it.
By drebo on 2/3/2009 11:55:22 AM , Rating: 4
I still don't understand how polluting the landscape and now seascape, destroying tons of habitats, to build wind, solar, and now water farms is more eco-friendly than a nuclear power plant or even a coal power plant.

What kind of rationale do they have for destroying ecosystems in order to call their power "green"?

RE: I still don't get it.
By VaultDweller on 2/3/2009 12:12:15 PM , Rating: 1
It makes no sense and we may have no choice but to accept that senselessness.

I wouldn't go so far as to call myself an environmentalist, but I do take a very pro-green and "eco-friendly" stance where it's reasonable... and I just don't get why most environmentalists seem to hate nuclear. Environmentalism shouldn't equate to technophobia, and technophobia is the only rationalization I can see. The anti-nuclear lobby is just a broad fear of technologies that people don't understand.

RE: I still don't get it.
By AlexWade on 2/3/2009 12:38:58 PM , Rating: 1
Eco-nuts hate nuclear because it is cheap, which means life is easier and better. They use meltdowns and nuclear waste as red herrings to cover up that fact.

Looking at the picture given in the article, it looks like a fish killing machine. Honestly, it does. There wasn't some kind of protection to keep fish or sea mammals out. What I don't get is how the environmentalists think a generator that has the possibility of killing fish and animals en masse is a good thing. Also, what happens if barnacles start to collect on the equipment?

RE: I still don't get it.
By Grabo on 2/3/2009 1:39:36 PM , Rating: 5
Strategies for the 'end storage' of nuclear waste is indeed an issue, and a lesser one is mining the uranium.

But anyway, onto the topic of shredded fish: :>

"The rotors on the SeaGen turbine turn slowly: about 10 to 20 revolutions per minute. A ship's propellers, by comparison, typically run 10 times as fast. The risk of impact from SeaGen rotor blades is small, because the marine creatures that swim in strong currents tend to be agile, and can avoid slow-moving underwater obstructions."

As for me, I think wind and wave power is the future.

RE: I still don't get it.
By masher2 (blog) on 2/3/2009 1:47:04 PM , Rating: 2
> "Strategies for the 'end storage' of nuclear waste is indeed an issue"

Perhaps you can explain why we've already been able to store waste from a half-century of operation of hundreds of nuclear reactors without problem, without even the benefit of a permanent facility actually designed for storage, and using 1960s-era technology.

I don't know much plainer this can be said. Waste is not an issue. The volume of high-level waste is incredibly small, which is why most plants are now simply accumulating it on site, usually on a (very small) concrete pad somewhere.

The Russians have long taken an even simpler approach...they just toss the waste into the deep sea. Compared to the countless millions of tons of uranium, thorium, radium, and other radioactive elements found naturally in the ocean, we could do this for thousands of years without measurably changing radiation levels.

RE: I still don't get it.
By masher2 (blog) on 2/3/2009 1:51:01 PM , Rating: 5
For the record, the old Soviet habit of tossing high-level waste, without even the Pu reprocessed out in some cases, into shallow waters just offshore is not very wise. But if the waste is reprocessed and vitrified, then dumped into a trench in the deep sea, the risk is nonexistent.

RE: I still don't get it.
By twjr on 2/3/2009 3:00:36 PM , Rating: 5
While I have always thought disposing of it in deep ocean trenches as a sensible idea, as it will be subducted and naturally reprocessed, it does remove the potential for us to reprocess and reuse meaning more mining for fuel.

RE: I still don't get it.
By Solandri on 2/3/2009 7:05:18 PM , Rating: 3
We could probably just continue storing it on-site for another century or more. A 1000 MW nuclear plant produces a little more than a bathtub full of spent fuel a year. A 1000 MW coal plant produces 6 million tons of CO2 a year (since that seems to be the bogeyman of choice against coal). At STP, that's 2.75 cubic kilometers of the gas. Enough to fill 8600 oil tankers. One bathtub vs. 8600 oil tankers...

And the "spent" fuel isn't really spent, it still has over 90% of its energy left in it. The U.S. just considers it spent because we've decided not to reprocess, which can use the remaining energy but produces weapons-grade plutonium.

And to top it off, the trace uranium and thorium present in coal and dumped into the atmosphere when we burn coal exceeds the amount of uranium that would be used by a nuclear plant producing the same amount of power. We're already dumping these radioactive materials into our atmosphere. If we just replaced our coal plants with nuclear plants, at least the radioactivity is concentrated and confined into that bathtub-sized block of spent fuel.

RE: I still don't get it.
By sgw2n5 on 2/3/2009 9:01:35 PM , Rating: 2
It's not actually the uranium, thorium, iodine, tin, etc. isotopes that are the problem, it is the tritium released.

H+ readily diffuses through nearly any material (including steel piping for the cooling substructure), the tritium is pretty hard to stop. You can't detect it with a GM meter, you have to use a liquid scintillation counter and samples are only taken on water released, and vapors caught in ion exchange resin traps in the stack.

Most of the RAM released from power plants is in the form of tritium. Fortunately, you have to ingest quite a bit of tritium (weak B emitter, so your skin blocks external sources) for it to hurt you.

RE: I still don't get it.
By masher2 (blog) on 2/3/2009 9:44:32 PM , Rating: 3
> "You can't detect it with a GM meter"

Actually you can -- I've done it myself. You just have to avoid the older tubes that use thick glass windows...the beta can't penetrate.

> "Fortunately, you have to ingest quite a bit [for] it to hurt you.

Yes. H3 is also eliminated from the body fairly quickly, and, with a half-life of about 12 years, it's essentially decayed entirely within a few decades. And, of course, the NRC maintains extraordinarily strict emission standards.

This is why the radiation dose one receives from coal power plants is more likely to injure you than what you receive from a nuclear plant.

RE: I still don't get it.
By sgw2n5 on 2/3/2009 11:15:37 PM , Rating: 3
No way you were able to detect tritium with a GM tube. Physically impossible. Even brand new ultra-thin mylar tube caps can't detect tritium, even if the weak beta were to penetrate, there isn't enough electrical potential generated to cause a voltage cascade and give you a tick.

Either you weren't using a GM detector, or you were "seeing" C-14 and thought it was tritium.

My guess is you were using a sodium iodide detector and thought it was a GM detector.

RE: I still don't get it.
By masher2 (blog) on 2/4/2009 12:00:33 AM , Rating: 2
"No way you were able to detect tritium with a GM tube. Physically impossible...My guess is you were using a sodium iodide detector"
I confess its been a while since graduate school, but my memory isn't quite that bad yet. I have no idea why you think a geiger tube can't detect low-energy beta decay. Do you not realize that tubes modified to detect neutrons do so by enclosing a small amount of He3 inside, and then observing the resultant tritium flux?

The problem with standard geiger counters is that tritium's low-energy beta products have trouble penetrating even a centimeter of air, much less the glass window on your average tube. You either have to use an open window tube, or one made with a very thin polycarbonate or similar material.

If you still doubt, I dug up this reference from the Journal of Scientific Instruments:

"Counting of tritium with a thin windowed Geiger-Müller counter tube"

RE: I still don't get it.
By sgw2n5 on 2/4/2009 12:30:52 AM , Rating: 2
I always thought that you had to either have a sodium-iodide detector or a germanium crystal coupled with a scintillator to detect H-3. Huh. Thanks for that! You learn something new every day.

I have been able to detect C-14 (a relatively weak beta) with an old GM tube, but never H-3. I even tried the ones with the super thin mylar windows on the tubes.

How many curies of H-3 do you have to have and how close I wonder..

RE: I still don't get it.
By Murloc on 2/3/2009 3:08:27 PM , Rating: 2
well in the US you got big deserts and you can hide it in there, but here in switzerland for example it's a problem, because no one wants waste to be stored near his house.

RE: I still don't get it.
By masher2 (blog) on 2/3/2009 3:56:42 PM , Rating: 3
> "because no one wants waste to be stored near his house."

Anyone living near the Swiss mountains already has large amounts of radioactive waste stored near their house...waste left over from when mother nature created the planet.

RE: I still don't get it.
By sgw2n5 on 2/3/2009 4:40:27 PM , Rating: 3
Surely you're not implying that natural background radiation is even remotely comparable to high-level nuclear waste.

The highest terrestrial background radiation levels in the world (260 mSv/year) in Ramsar Iran is in no way comparable to even low level nuclear refuse.

RE: I still don't get it.
By ChronoReverse on 2/3/2009 4:48:34 PM , Rating: 2
Surely you're not suggesting that they're going to store the waste sitting out there in the open in a pile.

In any case, if politics didn't get in the way, there's a lot more energy that can be recovered from the nuclear "waste" that's coming out of the reactors. I mentioned above how the "waste" from the US reactors would be considered "enriched" for CANDU-type reactors for instance.

RE: I still don't get it.
By sgw2n5 on 2/3/2009 6:26:31 PM , Rating: 2
No, of course not.

There are actually very good ways to deal with radioactive waste (especially high eV gamma emitters).

For example, years ago I was involved in a project that utilized unwanted high-level radioactive materials (mostly Co-60 and Cs-137) to sterilize feed batches.

I just think that implying that living in the Swiss Alps is in any way equivocal to living next to nuclear waste is asinine.

RE: I still don't get it.
By masher2 (blog) on 2/3/2009 8:21:24 PM , Rating: 2
> "implying that living in the Swiss Alps is in any way equivocal to living next to nuclear waste is asinine"

Radiation-wise, living in the Swiss Alps is actually far worse than living near a nuclear waste dump. I've already posted the NRC dose limits, which limit your exposure to 0.5mrem/year. That's less than you receive from a single cross-country plane flight.

How much would you get in the Alps? The average dose for most people is about 360 mrem/year (smokers get a couple hundred mrem/year extra, due to the isotopes in tobacco). But in the mountains, your dose is much higher. The natural rock contains isotypes of uranium and thorium. whic release radon -- plus the higher altitude and thinner air means a significantly higher dose from cosmic rays.

The additional cosmic ray dose means about an extra 50 mrem/yr (at about the 1700 meter altitude). The additional dose from radon varies much more, as it depends on home construction, local deposits, and many other factors, but it wouldn't be less than 10, and could easily exceed several hundred mrem/yr. Radon exposure at the Ramsar site you mention, for instance, has been measured at well over 10,000 mrem/yr.

So yes, if you're worried about radiation, living in the Alps is a far, far worse choice than living next to a nuclear waste site.

RE: I still don't get it.
By sgw2n5 on 2/3/2009 8:52:42 PM , Rating: 3
Actually, the NRC limit for public exposure is 0.5 Rem/year, not 0.5 mRem/year. You are off by an order of magnitude.

0.5 R/year = 500 mR/year. You say people who live in the Alps are exposed to 360 mR/year, add in an extra 50mR for less atmospheric attenuation due to high altitude and you're still comfortably under 500 (cosmic rays are actually much less dangerous, no RAM is physically entering your body so you don't have to worry about a longish biological half-life as with actually ingesting radon gas for example).

So yes, living next door to a storage/disposal facility could potentially be worse than living in the Alps. It's still a moot point, however, especially considering that Iranians get on average 10 Rem/year and have no higher incidence of cancer than someone living in Missouri (0.3 Rem/year).

RE: I still don't get it.
By masher2 (blog) on 2/3/2009 9:29:24 PM , Rating: 3
> "So yes, living next door to a storage/disposal facility could potentially be worse than living in the Alps"

Whoa, whoa. Several things wrong here. First of all, the dose limits I posted are maximums for per-individual approval. These must show need, are generally only given out for things like medical research. The nominal limit is 0.1 rem, and even that's for people directly on site. The dose an offsite resident would receive is much smaller. For example, the site in Barnwell SC (limited to 0.025 rem/year) has never even come close to that limit.

Secondly, for the example of the Alps, you included the additional dosage from cosmic rays, but you left off entirely the radon dosage. This is generally much larger.

I repeat, in no way, shape, or form, will anyone living near a nuclear waste site receive anywhere near the additional dose that someone living in the Swiss Alps would.

cosmic rays are actually much less dangerous, no RAM is physically entering your body so you don't have to worry about a longish biological half-life as with actually ingesting radon gas for example
I'm sorry, but you're confusing units here. The unit "rem" means Roentgen Equivalent Man : it's already adjusted to a biological basis. You have to adjust units such as bqs or curies for actual effects on living tissue, but a rem already contains this factor.

1 rem from cosmic rays = 1 rem from anything else.
1 curie of cosmic rays << 1 curie of ingested alpha emitters.

RE: I still don't get it.
By sgw2n5 on 2/3/2009 11:10:02 PM , Rating: 2
FYI, RAM is not Rem. If your referring to "RAM" in my post, that's "Radio Active Material." Rem
is a measurement of dose, and obviously you can't ingest "dose". You can, however ingest "activity" in curies or becquerels, which in turn, give you a dose.

What I was saying is that it is much better for you to receive a relatively large dose from an external source than to ingest a minuscule amount of activity, as it will reside in your body and continue giving a very small but localized dose to whatever tissue it happens to be near.

RE: I still don't get it.
By masher2 (blog) on 2/4/2009 12:12:56 AM , Rating: 2
> "If your referring to "RAM" in my post..."

Since you replied to my post on rem exposure amounts, I thought you were trying to suggest that a 50 mrem dose from cosmics radiation was less dangerous than 50 mrems from nuclear waste. Apparently you weren't, so I apologize.

RE: I still don't get it.
By grenableu on 2/3/2009 8:55:36 PM , Rating: 2
So yes, if you're worried about radiation, living in the Alps is a far, far worse choice than living next to a nuclear waste site.
Good points Masher. Most people don't know how much radiation you can get in some homes. My parents house (in SD) was tested for radon and had a level 5 times higher than was safe. They had to get special air handlers installed to take care of it. The guy who tested it said that every day they spent inside, they were getting the same dose that people got from the Three Mile Island accident.

RE: I still don't get it.
By UM Grizzly on 2/4/2009 12:07:41 AM , Rating: 2
I don't know about the Alps, but here in the Rockies litterally everywhere has high levels of radiation. And I do mean everywhere, even the rocks on the side of the road.

We spent a day in geology lab measuring radioactivity from various rocks we brought in and some of them were amazingly high.

RE: I still don't get it.
By masher2 (blog) on 2/3/2009 5:17:12 PM , Rating: 2
> "The highest terrestrial background radiation levels in the world (260 mSv/year) in Ramsar Iran is in no way comparable to even low level nuclear refuse. "

This isn't even close to correct. Firstly, The highest levels of natural radioactivity comes from monazite deposits in Brazil and India, not Iran. Doses in some areas can run well over 100 mrem per day (40,000 mrem/year), and areas with levels approaching 1,000 mrem/year are scattered throughout the world.

The NRC standard for low level waste is a maximum of one mrem per year, a level several hundred times lower than the average dose most people receive naturally.

RE: I still don't get it.
By sgw2n5 on 2/3/2009 6:17:06 PM , Rating: 1
You're not even close to being correct. Read the regs.


The danger of exposure to radiation in low-level radioactive waste varies widely according to the types and concentration of radioactive material contained in the waste. Low-level waste containing some radioactive materials used in medical research, for example, is not particularly hazardous unless inhaled or consumed, and a person can stand near it without shielding. Low-level waste from processing water at a reactor, on the other hand, may be quite hazardous. For example, low-level waste could cause exposures that could lead to death or an increased risk of cancer .

Not quite sure where you derived the 1 mR/year from. Care to share that reg with us?

Furthermore, people don't live in mineshafts. People do, however, live in and around Ramsar Iran. It's just their bad fortune to have relatively large amounts of thorium and radon in their sands. Of course you can find much 'hotter' deposits scattered throughout the earth, just not under/near large population centers.

For the record, I'm completely FOR nuclear technology. I simply believe that you're doing a dis-service to the industry by minimizing the dangers of RAM. It is what it is.

RE: I still don't get it.
By masher2 (blog) on 2/3/2009 8:05:50 PM , Rating: 2
> "Not quite sure where you derived the 1 mR/year from. Care to share that reg with us?"

From NRC Reg 10CFR20.2002, subsection D, individual dose limit standards for waste disposal operations:

But actually it appears they've lowered the standard since I last looked. It now stands at 0.5 mrem/year, half what I stated...and enormously lower than what people receive every year from background sources.

You might also be interested in this:

"Low level [waste] is typically contaminated protective shoe covers and clothing, wiping rags, mops, filters, reactor water treatment residues, equipment and tools, luminous dials, medical tubes, swabs, injection needles, syringes, etc."

> "Furthermore, people don't live in mineshafts"

Not sure what you're talking about here. The radioactive monazite deposits in Brazil and India aren't in mineshafts. Most of them tend to be on or near beaches, in fact.

Furthermore, most of the "healing" hot springs and mineral water spas that people visit to bath in have natural radioactive levels substantially above low level nuclear waste. Some of the most radioactive can be 1,000 times above normal background levels:

RE: I still don't get it.
By sgw2n5 on 2/3/2009 9:09:34 PM , Rating: 2
It's 10CFR20.1301, not 2002, and you are off by an order of magnitude. The limit is 1 R/year (0.5 now), not 1 mR/year.

Either way, it is still an insignificant amount of exposure.

RE: I still don't get it.
By Grabo on 2/3/2009 3:11:51 PM , Rating: 1
Sweeping statements, no references, 'this is the absolute truth', bla bla... And the only point you ever have is 'Why, we can <something biohazardous> for tenthousand years and not even a fish would blink!'
Yes, I do so enjoy reading what you write.

There has been no controversy at all when it comes to storing nuclear waste? I know there has in Sweden, and for good reason. As for the U.S? Or 'the world'? (hard to know what you are referring to)- reference please. There does seem to be some issues with getting the long-planned Yucca Mountain storage opened >

It's an issue in the U.K >

No problem in the U.S? >
"In the United States alone, the Department of Energy states there are "millions of gallons of radioactive waste" as well as "thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel and material" and also "huge quantities of contaminated soil and water."

No accidents?

As for 'tossing it into the sea for thousands of years without measurably changing radiation levels' I would really be interested in a solid ref for that.
And wow for people just swallowing this stuff whole and uprating you. For followers that hail your 'critical thinking' they do precious little of their own.

In the maintime: (concering better methods for sea-based storage) :

"While these approaches all have merit and would facilitate an international solution to the vexing problem of disposal of radioactive waste, they are currently not being seriously considered because of the legal barrier of the Law of the Sea and because in North America and Europe sea-based burial has become taboo from fear that such a repository could leak and cause widespread damage. Dumping of radioactive waste from ships has reinforced this concern, as has contamination of islands in the Pacific Ocean."

RE: I still don't get it.
By 67STANG on 2/3/2009 3:55:59 PM , Rating: 2
I completely agree with you. You've clearly rebuked Masher's outrageous claims. See how that works Masher?

Seriously, I think our time would be better off not making speculative arguments on what will happening xxxx amount of years down the road. The reality is that countries will do what they want to do with energy, agree with it or not.

Russia probably tarnished on nuclear's image, while France improves nuclear's image. The same can be said about wind, solar, geo, coal, etc. The geographical and political differences of each country make energy production choices different. There is no "one size fits all" package currently. Period.

RE: I still don't get it.
By masher2 (blog) on 2/3/2009 4:11:46 PM , Rating: 3
No accidents?
Is this the best you can do? Maxey Flat, a facility which began operating in the 1960s, has been shut down for over 30 years, and an "accident" that injured no one, and consisted of nothing more than some midly radioactive water that had to be cleaned up by the simple expedient of evaporating it.

Simply smugly posting a Wikipedia link or two doesn't refute anything. You have to post something actually relevant . Moxey Flat actually makes the point as to how trivial nuclear waste storage really is. The facility couldn't have been worse designed or implemented....yet when problems came to light, we simply went in and fixed them. End of story.

As for 'tossing it into the sea for thousands of years without measurably changing radiation levels' I would really be interested in a solid ref for that.
Try a CRC handbook of chemistry and physics. Look up the constituents of seawater, specifically the radioactive elements present. Then multiply by the total number of liters in world oceans. Compare that enormous figure to the amount generated by nuclear reactors.

I've posted the actual figures many times before, but its always more educational for people to actually do the math themselves.

There does seem to be some issues with getting the long-planned Yucca Mountain storage opened
No technical issues, just the usual environmentalist objections to anything with the word "nuclear" in it.

It's an issue in the U.K
It's an "issue" only because public ignorance and fear has been exploited for decades, preventing us from permanently disposing of any waste. Still, its not an urgent issue. As I've already pointed out, we've simply been stacking up waste 'temporarily' for the past half century. Even if environmentalists continue to deny us any permanent solution, we can continue to do so for the next several centuries if need be.

RE: I still don't get it.
By CascadingDarkness on 2/3/2009 7:24:23 PM , Rating: 2
First, I must say I agree in switching to nuclear power until anything comes reasonably close in practicality. (Six to ten times cost with hippie ideas not being reasonable)

I do however have a gripe with one consistent argument you use Masher. You compare things with slight radioactivity in huge volumes to waste generated at these plants.

Try a CRC handbook of chemistry and physics. Look up the constituents of seawater, specifically the radioactive elements present. Then multiply by the total number of liters in world oceans. Compare that enormous figure to the amount generated by nuclear reactors.

This statement may be true, but do you seriously think by cherry picking something so outrageous it defeats arguments made by people whining about waste? I don't think so. I see it as complete BS and side stepping their concerns.

I doubt anything we could ever do, short of all out nuclear war could put up radioactivity numbers near the 1.32x10^21 liters of seawater on earth. (that's sextillion btw)

Does that win this portion of the argument? I don't think so, because the true concern of waste is density of radioactive elements. It's the density that kills people, not the volume diluted in some huge number you pull out of your ass.

I agree with pretty much everything else, and don't think waste is an issue when properly handled, stored, and reprocessed. Considering how good you are at these arguments I'm surprised at these statements.

"The entire Appalachian mountains range is way more radioactive than current plants" (not a comment you made exactly, but along same lines of FUD) doesn't mean anything, because we don't exactly mix that many cubic miles of dirt with the waste to make it lower than background radiation.

So, please, please leave these comments out, or put something that makes more practical sense in their place.

RE: I still don't get it.
By masher2 (blog) on 2/3/2009 8:30:28 PM , Rating: 2
> " It's the density that kills people, not the volume diluted in some huge number"

But that's just the point. For instance, uranyl nitrate (one of the more common uranium compounds used in the industry) is water soluble. Pre-dissolve a small amount of it in a large amount of water, then dump that water in the deep sea. Its going to wind up dispersed throughout that huge volume in very little time.

There are some elements for which we can't convert to water-soluble form. However, if vitrified and dropped in a deep ocean trench, they're not going anywhere...and even if some small amount should leach out, it can't possibly do so without likewise being similarly diluted.

In any case, if you think I'm suggesting ocean disposal, you're wrong. I'm merely pointing out that its just one of many possibilities. Just burying the waste in some desert location is an even better solution-- but one which has, unfortunately, been denied us so far.

RE: I still don't get it.
By FITCamaro on 2/4/2009 6:53:37 AM , Rating: 1
Yeah I had my friend who's a nuclear engineer at SRS over this weekend and he was saying Yucca is pretty much complete but now the government is slashing its budget and a lot of the engineers are getting laid off.

Obama is for nuclear my ass.

RE: I still don't get it.
By porkpie on 2/3/2009 4:28:00 PM , Rating: 2
Grabo, recycling a few flower-power anti-nuclear slogans from the 1960s doesn't prove anything, except maybe that some people will never learn. You're just embarrassing yourself by venting this stuff.

RE: I still don't get it.
By MrBlastman on 2/3/2009 1:50:44 PM , Rating: 2
You must of missed the article on the Fission-Fusion waste disposal plant proposal(that's a catchy little tune, eh' ?)... Nuclear power is the near-future. Anything less than it is a disservice to mankind.

RE: I still don't get it.
By masher2 (blog) on 2/3/2009 2:16:10 PM , Rating: 2
The rotors on the SeaGen turbine turn slowly: about 10 to 20 [rpm]"
Those rotors are 52 feet in diameter, however. At that rate, the blade tips are moving nearly 40mph. That's not a "slow moving underwater obstruction".

RE: I still don't get it.
By Grabo on 2/3/2009 3:18:44 PM , Rating: 2
That's not a "slow moving underwater obstruction".

Your point being what? 'Of course it's a seal-shredder'? Based on what? Reference please.

From the manufacturer's website(

"(although it does create modest noise underwater which is important to help marine wild-life have an awareness of the presence of the turbine)."

"impact studies , carried out by independent consultants , suggest that the technology is most unlikely to pose a threat to fish or marine mammals, or the marine environment in which they live."

RE: I still don't get it.
By MrBlastman on 2/3/2009 3:51:33 PM , Rating: 1
... You trust manufacturer propaganda or logical speculation? ...

How's that for a conflicting question? ;) Of course the manufacturer is going to say it is harmless!

I dare say any blade-like object with a significantly higher mass than that of a human body, while moving at 37+ MPH, will generate significant enough energy on the narrow point of impact... to cause harm. What do you think will give way? The blade or the body? Accelerating a body to 37+ mph instantaneously through energy displaced on a 1 cm x 30 cm line will probably cause... problems with the human.

RE: I still don't get it.
By masher2 (blog) on 2/3/2009 4:16:04 PM , Rating: 2
'Of course it's a seal-shredder'? Based on what? Reference please.
Let's try this simple experiment. Stand in front of a multi-ton 50-foot long blade, moving at nearly 40 mph, then report back to us on potential effects.

Will this turbine be a huge hazard to marine ecology? I sincerely doubt it...but the notion that its not going to kill some larger fish and marine mammals is rather silly.

RE: I still don't get it.
By MonkeyPaw on 2/3/2009 5:50:47 PM , Rating: 2
I just wonder what would happen if a whale decided to play with this curious device. Would it really hurt the whale, or just destroy a $3.6 million dollar facility that is powering a few thousand customers?

RE: I still don't get it.
By ekv on 2/4/2009 5:58:23 AM , Rating: 2
LOL. Let me amend this a bit ...
then report back to us on potential effects, both of you .

I remember reading about Tidal power 30+ years ago, uh, I mean, many years ago ... and the design was enclosed as opposed to open propeller. What an awful design. Surely that is obvious.

Alternate energy is a useful exploration, but then nuclear power has already been explored and proven cost effective, over the entire life-cycle.

RE: I still don't get it.
By Solandri on 2/3/2009 6:42:07 PM , Rating: 2
40 mph underwater is really fast. Most marine mammals top out at around 25-35 mph (although I think they would be smart enough to avoid this). Most tuna top out at around 45 mph burst speed. Fastest fish are the marlins and sailfish, which have been calculated to exceed 60 mph based on spear penetration into the sides of boats.

Heck, they're trying to get cargo ships to slow down from their normal 10-15 knots cruise speed in areas where endangered right whales are known to be common. Too many of the whales are dying every year due to being struck by the ships.

RE: I still don't get it.
By ChronoReverse on 2/3/2009 3:31:26 PM , Rating: 3
Just sell the waste cheap to us up here in Canada. Your "waste" fuel is actually "enriched" fuel for the CANDU reactors.

RE: I still don't get it.
By Zoomer on 2/5/2009 8:56:17 AM , Rating: 2
No, no, you have to pretend be doing a favor, and CHARGE for receiving it.

RE: I still don't get it.
By otispunkmeyer on 2/3/2009 3:37:00 PM , Rating: 2
theyre better than wind thats for sure... because tides are predictable for many years into the future its more reliable and you definately know what your working with. unlike wind which is too erratic.

i still think Nuclear is the way forward.... perhaps they can eventually produce large Hydrogen fuel cell plants. Rolls Royce are already working on fuel cell Gen-Sets... it'll only be a matter of time before that technology becomes viable on a large scale.

of course it then needs someone to figure out a cheap way to get hydrogen out of its bonds with other elements.

RE: I still don't get it.
By AlexWade on 2/3/09, Rating: 0
RE: I still don't get it.
By ZachDontScare on 2/3/09, Rating: 0
RE: I still don't get it.
By foolsgambit11 on 2/3/2009 2:50:45 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, it's always easier to assume that people who come to different conclusions than you have an agenda. Obviously, if people have concerns about nuclear power, it must be because they are Luddites. I'm not saying that the risks outweigh the rewards, just that dismissing others concerns offhand and insulting them won't convince anybody to change their minds.

You've hit the nail on the head with some of the problems with tidal power, though. The fish are usually safe because the turbines move slow enough that they can avoid them, but there are concerns nonetheless. The turbines also require regular and manpower intensive maintenance - changing zinc anodes, cleaning surfaces, antifouling paint, replacing corroded parts, etc. Not only do the turbines have to be engineered tough, increasing upfront costs, but their lifetime costs are not insignificant.

RE: I still don't get it.
By corduroygt on 2/3/2009 3:17:51 PM , Rating: 2
Also, what happens if barnacles start to collect on the equipment?

That's easy. You shoot them in the mouth before they finish dragging you all the way up.

RE: I still don't get it.
By Teh Interwebz on 2/3/2009 4:39:27 PM , Rating: 2
There are still some unresolved issues with nuclear as well.

1. Environmental impact of mining uranium is at best no better than the impact of the renewable energy plants mentioned.

2. Some of the fission products in nuclear plants have half lives of tens of thousands of years which is why the long term storage is needed. Thats a long time to ensure it does not come into contact with humans in any way including getting into the groundwater. Given the fact civilization hasnt even been around that long it seems optimistic to think we can keep it safe that long; even if we could the cost of maintaining that containment will run pretty high over that time span; and if you dump it in the oceans theres a chance someone could retrieve in the future and at the very least the environmental impact of that would be no better than a renewable plant.

3. I have no information on how much uranium is available in the world but its definately not renewable. It may last a long while but eventually we'll have to go to renewables anyway. The most abundant isotope of uranium by far is U238 (~99.2% in natural uranium ore) and its also produced during nuclear fission of U235, however is not a suitable nuclear fuel because it does not sustain a fission reaction. Natural ore has to be enriched to 3%-4% U235 by seperating out some U238 to be considered reactor grade. Eventually we'll run out of the U235. Breeder reactors can make the U238 into Pu239 which is a suitable nuclear fuel, but I question the wisdom of introducing more Plutonium into the world period but especially in less stable countries.

Im not saying fission does not have its uses. Its especially suited for space and is useful for the navy as well. But as a general power source it seems more like a stop gap that doesnt seem worth it given the fact it has issues like any other power source.

RE: I still don't get it.
By masher2 (blog) on 2/3/2009 4:50:45 PM , Rating: 2
Environmental impact of mining uranium is at best no better than the impact of the renewable energy plants mentioned
Nothing could be further from the truth. The primary impact from wind power isn't the turbines themselves, but the enormous quantities of steel, copper, concrete, and other materials which must be mined and produced. By most estimates, just supplying the US alone with wind power would require a significant percentage of several years of world steel output. Then in 30 years or so, as the windmills wear out, you have to do it all over again.

"Some of the fission products in nuclear plants have half lives of tens of thousands of years"
Red herring. The waste mercury, lead, antimony, and other pollutants from the steel mined to make wind turbines doesn't just last tens of thousands of years. It lasts forever. Can we assure that no human will come in contact with those pollutants for the next 10,000 years? No, of course not.

The fact that nuclear waste decays is a positive, not a negative. The really dangerous daughter nuclides have very short half-lives; most of the activity dies out within the first six months.

if you dump it in the oceans theres a chance someone could retrieve in the future
So? You don't leave any plutonium in burn that as fuel itself. It's far too valuable to just throw away.

uranium [may] last a long while but eventually we'll have to go to renewables anyway.
It will last a few thousand years, about as long as human civilization has existed. And after that, we can simply switch to thorium, a fuel about 3X as prevalent as uranium.

RE: I still don't get it.
By ashlar64 on 2/4/2009 7:46:21 AM , Rating: 2
I just wanted to make a comment on one reason we shouldn't rely too much on nuclear energy. Could you imagine what would have happened if during 9/11 if they crashed those planes into nuclear power plants instead of the twin towers? Not only would you have a huge area of non-inhabitable land around the destroyed nuclear plant but you would also knock out power for how many homes and business in one swipe?

Thats one really good thing about generating energy from many sources instead of just a few.

RE: I still don't get it.
By masher2 (blog) on 2/4/2009 10:24:31 AM , Rating: 2
> "Could you imagine what would have happened if during 9/11 if they crashed those planes into nuclear power plants instead of the twin towers"

Absolutely nothing whatsoever would have happened. Containment domes are the strongest structures built by mankind.

We've actually done tests in which jet fighters (unmanned, obviously) were rammed into at ~500mph into simulated containment structures, doing no more damage than leaving small grooves in them.

RE: I still don't get it.
By ChronoReverse on 2/4/2009 10:26:32 AM , Rating: 2
Have you seen the video of a jet fighter slamming into a containment structure at full speed?

The plane exploded and the containment structure wasn't even scratched. Those things are built to s different spec than a skyscraper.

RE: I still don't get it.
By corduroygt on 2/4/2009 10:36:49 AM , Rating: 2
I guess using the same logic, we should never build skyscrapers or military offices again since the terrorists may attack them like they did on 9/11?

RE: I still don't get it.
By superkdogg on 2/3/2009 3:26:12 PM , Rating: 2
I agree with this point 100%. Eco and green too often mean "anti-tech" and "old-fashioned". That's unfortunate, because technology is their best friend. Whether the green gang like it or not, technology will control and manipulate the forces that make renewable energy possible.

I've been saying for years that we should be building some nuclear plants, devote a lot of resources to electrical storage technology and make electric cars the primary means of getting around with some sort of a gasoline/diesel backup for when the batteries run out. Storage is the hangup here, but it's been underinvested versus the potential reward.

There has only been one nuclear disaster to date and one scare of significant note. Those were both at plants using computing technology that doesn't rival my any of my 4 laptops. It's safe, it's clean and it's cheap. Stop with the fear nuclear-phobes; it's all in your head.

Too many people don't grasp or care to look at the cost of the existing system when looking at the cost of infrastructure upgrades. It's not like it's new money being spent on these technologies, rather it's investing the money that would be spent later on when gasoline actually gets scarce, the infrastruture as it is becomes obsolete and we're all SOL because nobody did any planning for the future.

RE: I still don't get it.
By just4U on 2/4/2009 5:25:27 AM , Rating: 2
Oh great, All in the name of going green were going to now screw with something that's way more important to life on this planet then the "land" we inhabit. Yes now were going to go straight to the source and start fooling around with our oceans..

I just don't get the mentality behind that.

RE: I still don't get it.
By HotFoot on 2/3/2009 12:20:54 PM , Rating: 2
This sounds like a discussion about footprint. It's a difficult task to figure out the footprint of the various alternatives we have for energy sources. Some studies will show that hydroelectric power has a larger environmental footprint than coal.

On the other hand, a single coal plant in southern Ontario is estimated to cost society $1B/year in terms of health expenses and lost productivity because of air quality issues.

I think we are up against a fundamental problem of hidden costs. Taking a total-cost-accounting approach would ultimately be the most fair, but the system would be so complicated few people would really understand or trust it. Just look at the furor over concepts like carbon tax. I mean, people can't even agree on whether man-made CO2 is really a problem or not.

RE: I still don't get it.
By MrBlastman on 2/3/2009 1:32:06 PM , Rating: 2
Don't be so silly. The Environmentalists have already thought of that! It is only a matter of time...

*dreamy music plays*

"Doctor Kalgore, the payload has been secured!" proclaimed the short, greasy minion.

"Goooood..." muttered a man with thick glasses and a white coat, clinching his hands and fingers together while hunched over a computer display. "In only minutes will we teach those politicians and do-gooders a lesson. They will learn to never, ever mess with the environment... AGAIN!"

With a whirl of his coat the man spun around, peering at a holographic projection of the earth and its moon orbiting it. He quietly thought to himself in a pensive pose for a few seconds. These fools, they really think that the environment is their to toy with. So called... "green energy" ... who are these people? The astronomers will thank me, the nighttime predators will have their bellies full and the Chinese will be foiled... before they even get there. Oh yes, great things come from this. This moon, this big rock in the heavens above, is such an underappreciated object to them. To actually think tidal power is viable, these silly humans, they have something to learn. I will take from them their most prized icon over history, and give them plenty of time to re-think their ... progress.

He grinned slightly and walked across the room to a tall panel adorned with many display - displays filled with all sorts of data and calculations. His gaze dropped to the panel below his fingertips. There it was, a solitary red button, pulsating in unison with time. One flash per second, counting away as the scientist’s youth grew further away. He began to ponder again for a moment, but instead let out a maniacal cackle letting maniacal laughter fill the air for a brief few seconds... and as quickly as his merriment began he slammed his right arm down on that glowing button; so hard, I might add, that it nearly broke it off the spring-filled housing it rested on.

The room lit up almost immediately, filled with a bright red and amber glow as the klaxons shrieked out! There was a wild scurrying about the floor as hundreds of minions scampered about their posts. Ten... nine... eight... the countdown started, Doctor Kalgore's sweat glands began to well up in anticipation... seven... six... His hands began to tremble with excitement... five... four... three... two... a mild rise in his eyebrows was seen, while he peered out the viewing window at the large rocket within the launch-well... ONE.

The room shook, a roar shattered through the noise, ripping all conversation out of everyone’s mouth. A thunderous ball of flame erupted beneath the behemoth. This gigantic pillar of doom ascended up into the heavens at an ever-accelerating pace! Within a few seconds all was silent in the room as all gazed up into the heavens above. A rolling gap in the clouds opened up as the rocket penetrated deeper into the skies. The clouds lazily wisped aside and the cosmos watched downwards in excitement.

Now, this Doctor Kalgore is no ordinary scientist. Oh no, he is a Nobel Laureate with a PHD in Quantum Physics. You don't think that any old man would send a rocket into the sky, do you? Any old rocket indeed it is not. This rocket carried a payload yet never to have been seen by mankind. The Doctor had calculated the end result time and time again. The moon will vanish from the heavens no later than twenty minutes after liftoff.

Twenty minutes? Laughable considering how long it took the Apollo team to reach the moon; preposterous almost. But it would reach the moon that fast after all. As it left the blue-white glow of our atmosphere and grabbed the dark void, its solid booster section fell away, revealing an interesting contraption indeed. A metallic, umbrella-like array with several extending arms extended from beneath the pillar of power. A small, round door opened up in the center and remained open for a couple of seconds.

The Doctor watched, in fascination from ground control; all of this televised in Technicolor™ broadcast live from the distant beyond. He giggled a bit and his gaze returned, this time with a keener perception.

This round hole, in the rocket, then ejected a small sphere that is ever so minute and ever... so short lived. A bright FLASH erupted and momentarily fuzzed out the video screens. The rocket lurched forward with a wild leap in acceleration. Its velocity jumped while the screens regained consciousness again... and another sphere gleefully leapt forth from that curious hole once more. Another FLASH as the process repeated, the speed building once more. This process continued for some many minutes - the Doctor so diligently watching from below.

RE: I still don't get it.
By MrBlastman on 2/3/2009 1:33:10 PM , Rating: 2

"And that is your nuclear drive, my minion-friends. Welcome to the REAL atomic age!," retorted the Doctor in front of his cohorts. Being such a short distance from earth, why not utilize a disposable power-source that no human could endure. Get it there faster for less was the Doctor's philosophy, and that he would do.

Kalgore looked at his watch, "Ten minutes to go," he thought. He turned to a screen on his left which also contained a camera to its side. He pressed a green button on the console beneath his right finger and a large transmitter above his secret base engaged, sending a message to an orbiting body floating on watch above the Earth. Every television, radio, and video display unit on Earth currently on was interrupted. Soccer fans reveling in the World Cup all shouted out in anger, right as a ball flew towards the goal. Instead of their anticipated outcome, their game was replaced by a dorky man in thick glasses. He looked wiry in appearance, with an unkempt scraggly beard and venous forehead.

"Humans, I bring you... your destiny. Today, you will remember, forever. You dare try and change our environment; you think you are being friendly. How imprudent of all of you to forget your sea-bound friends. Your oceanic companions are disappointed. Tidal power - bah! You had your chance. You could have picked the right course, but instead, oh no, you had to meddle with places outside your magnificent cities. So I take from you today something you cherish. I also present to you, once and for all, proof, that the Moon is indeed, not made of cheese. Cast your eyes on the screens as we picture for you the sky above!" These words, carefully planned, all sprang forth from the cracked lips of the great Doctor to all those that watched.

The rocket, now moving at such a tremendous pace, if it could, screamed towards the moon as it filled the forward view screen with an ever expanding image. One minute before impact, the Doctor confident in having the attention of the world, looked to his right and saw yet another pulsating button. This one, oddly enough, took light from the very room it sat in, and made it - disappear? What a fascinating instrument, a shame really to only be used once but no matter, the Doctor, extending his left pinky finger lightly depressed it with the tiptoe and grace of a ballerina. His eyes returned once more to the view screen, this time widening like a cat, closing in on its prey.

The rocket blasted through the solar system, careening to its doom on a one-way course to the moon, the earth, and stars, spinning in a dizzying swirl behind it. The nose lit up with a yellow glow. Golden lines appeared around its nose section as its very tip began to twist and turn. Four leafs of metal opened up and a long, shiny - and slender tube protruded forwards. A dark sphere of matter ejected from it and slowly moved forwards in front of the probe. The silver tube shattered and the golden-lined panels of the nosecone opened up, revealing a sparkling array of spiraling metalwork.

The Doctor peered at the data on his screen, everything was going as planned. In less than fifteen seconds, the diabolical deed will be complete. "All that has been done has been set and can not be changed now," he though... "The Moon will be mine forever, and theirs to lament." His face twitched for a moment as his grin began to expand.

All eyes around the world remained fixated on their televisions. They watched the moon grow closer and then - saw the rocket fill their view too! With a quick sequence on the vehicle of punishment, a small probe leapt out the side of it and then began to trail behind at a widening distance. The Doctor was not silly to not allow all to gaze at his accomplishment! A gasp filled the gathering rooms of humans across the globe. A rocket, a missile, a something was headed towards their moon!

They did not have much time to wonder - as almost as quickly as it was revealed in the last couple of moments, the rocket ... enveloped the moon and vanished with a flash, revealing the Milky-way in all its beautiful glory.

The Doctor coyly returned his attention to the global teleprompter and bespoke into the camera... "You see, my fellow atmosphere-breathers, if the moon were really made out of cheese, it would have curdled at the last second, leaving us all with big shake to go along with our beautiful galaxy." ... And as absurdly as his adventure began, he left his audience with such a ridiculous comment to ponder for weeks to come.

That my fellow readers, is all - how one man on an environmental mission, saved mankind from itself on its quest to provide green power for all. Where did the moon go, you might ask? Only an evil mastermind would know...

RE: I still don't get it.
By JimCouch on 2/3/2009 2:44:27 PM , Rating: 2
HEY - I want animation too or atleast some comic book art GEE WHIZ!

RE: I still don't get it.
By Ictor on 2/4/2009 3:26:48 AM , Rating: 2
Perhaps they watched films like this on YouTube:

RE: I still don't get it.
By JohnnyMo421 on 2/9/2009 3:08:29 AM , Rating: 2
Has anyone thought that by putting this crap(though it is a good IDEA) into the oceans to harvest tidal wave's. That it is going to disrupt the tidal flow and ultimatley **** the planet up worse?

Just on Seagen...
By Amiga500 on 2/3/2009 11:59:32 AM , Rating: 2
Before it was installed, there was a presentation on it (I'm in the local area), and the guy was asked about variability in power supply.

The response was a total dismissal of the question.

Therefore, for that alone, I do not see this being viable any time soon - if the makers are unwilling to accept there actually is a problem, then there simply won't be a solution forthcoming in the near future.

Anyway, from what I'm hearing, they are having more than a few teething problems!

RE: Just on Seagen...
By Amiga500 on 2/3/2009 12:01:48 PM , Rating: 1
Oh, and Strangford lough has probably the strongest localised currents in Europe (or at the very least is amongst). If the numbers don't add up there, they never will anywhere else.

RE: Just on Seagen...
By HotFoot on 2/3/2009 12:13:43 PM , Rating: 4
Tidal power ought to be a lot more consistent than wind power or wave power. Tides are rhythmic and predictable, and the currents generated by tides sweeping over the undersea terrain ought to be predictable as well.

It'd be more like tapping into the jetstream for wind power than the low-altitude, ever-changing winds we have down here.

RE: Just on Seagen...
By rcc on 2/3/2009 12:52:38 PM , Rating: 2
The problem is that tides ebb and flow, and there is a point between each where their is very little activity, and therefore no power from the turbines.

Don't confuse this with deep ocean currents, they are depending on shallow water (relatively) tidal movement of water.

Now, if they could tap the Gulf Stream or Labrador Currents directly.........

RE: Just on Seagen...
By CZroe on 2/3/2009 1:33:24 PM , Rating: 2
That's not "variability." Those are expected parts of the most regular cycles of forces on the planet that can be engineered into the system for constant power delivery at a certain level. Variability is only a concern when we have more power than we need vs. too little power due to unpredictable forces. With predictable sources, all you need is a buffer and a realitically set output level.

RE: Just on Seagen...
By Keeir on 2/3/2009 3:08:35 PM , Rating: 2
The issue is that output of the system will be completely different. The regularity of the cycle is good, but the very fact that it is a cycle (that does not sync with output cycle) means there is additional costs associated with integrating this power source into a power grid. These costs were not being admitted to or explained in the OP's demonstration.

RE: Just on Seagen...
By mindless1 on 2/3/2009 4:59:32 PM , Rating: 2
Variability doesn't matter so much because this is a supplemental source of power, any power obtained is reducing dependence on other generation or fuels, and there simply won't be too much power due to the scale and ability to reduce production from more primary sources or vice-versa on a continual basis.

Note that the same is true of solar and wind power.

RE: Just on Seagen...
By Dribble on 2/3/2009 1:00:42 PM , Rating: 2
That's a huge advantage. If you know you exactly when you will get power, and how much you can easily plan. The with wind power which could basically generate nothing for weeks you have to be able to provide all that power from an alternative source (i.e. keep a load of coal plants on standby, which isn't cheap).

RE: Just on Seagen...
By masher2 (blog) on 2/3/2009 1:41:59 PM , Rating: 2
Very true. From a capacity factor issue, tidal power has a huge advantage over wind or solar, sources which, due to their low CF, can never supply baseline power needs.

The real problem with tidal power is that the ocean is the most powerfully destructive environment known to man. Strong currents, salt water, and countless biologic organisms all combine to make building and maintaining permanent structures a real nightmare...especially when those structures have moving parts.

RE: Just on Seagen...
By Amiga500 on 2/3/2009 1:14:35 PM , Rating: 2
Tidal power ought to be a lot more consistent than wind power or wave power.

Yeap - it is consistently variable - unfortunately that doesn't help much.

It takes hours to flip a conventional plant from 'off' to 'on'. It takes days to switch them 'on' from a full shut-down.

With slack tides being 8 hours apart - it would be hard to save much oil/coal in the time the tidal plant is running.

RE: Just on Seagen...
By mindless1 on 2/3/2009 5:06:50 PM , Rating: 2
Who has suggested a plant would be "flipped" off or on? Merely increasing and reducing output would happen, as these are only a small % of total power generated. As for hard to save much oil/coal, not true at all, you'll save however much the design allows for energy production.

These aren't problems we couldn't easily overcome, the primary one is available locations to make it worthwhile (the more of them there are, the lower the cost per unit in deployment and maintenance).

Even so, these kinds of sources should trail, not lead nuclear power.

RE: Just on Seagen...
By Amiga500 on 2/4/2009 3:22:06 AM , Rating: 2
Who has suggested a plant would be "flipped" off or on?

Anyone that thinks these things can produce a significant amount of power for the grid.

Unless your pursuing a policy of duplicating power through tidal and fossil means? (which is of course the most inefficient of the lot)

RE: Just on Seagen...
By HotFoot on 2/5/2009 11:22:14 AM , Rating: 2
These highly-variable, predictable or not, power sources are well teamed with a hydroelectric power base, not a purely coal or nuclear base. Hydroelectric is more readily throttled to meet demand, so it can better accomodate the variability of power sources such as wind, solar or tidal power.

sounds shakey
By fishbits on 2/3/2009 12:27:15 PM , Rating: 2
"Fossil fuel represents burning off the Earth’s capital..."

And depleting the energy stored up in atmospheric and oceanic currents does what, then? This is just doing it in a more inneficient fashion, relying on the government dole for feasibility. Magic beans work fine too, provided enough "Other Peoples' Money" to make ends meet.

Wait til some fish meets his demise within a mile of one of these structures and the web-surfing, jet-setting "environmentalist" watermellons demand that this technology, too, must be verbotten.

"Fossil fuels?"
"OK, clean nuclear energy?"
"A bird died once. Nope."
"OK, WTF, tidal then?"
"Do you not get it? We oppose prosperity in the West. This green garbage is just a vector for the effort."

RE: sounds shakey
By mcnabney on 2/3/2009 1:59:49 PM , Rating: 1
Please don't chime-in on complicated discussions that you know nothing sbout.

Fossil fuels are stored energy that has been sequestered over billions of years. We aren't going to get any more of it. It has to last as long as Humanity lives here. Solar, wind, ocean, and wave energy are all created from the energy absorbed by the earth from the sun NOW.

That means we aren't going to run out of it. And the energy isn't lost, it is only moved. A solar panel in the desert will keep the sand from getting hot underneath it, but 200 miles away that same heat will be released when someone turns on their electric oven. All these new technologies do is allow humans to control how that solar energy is spent.

RE: sounds shakey
By masher2 (blog) on 2/3/2009 2:07:57 PM , Rating: 2
Fossil fuels [have] to last as long as Humanity lives here
Why? Do you really think we'll still be burning coal for power in another 200 years? That sounds rather like the 19th century prediction that we'll soon run out of enough horses and whale oil for the world population.

the [solar] energy isn't lost, it is only moved
Wind and ocean currents are nature's way of distributing heat over the planet. Tapping into those currents in a large way could easily have an effect on local climatic patterns. Do you think covering a desert in solar cells and pumping 30% of impinging solar insolation won't have an effect?

RE: sounds shakey
By Bubbacub on 2/3/2009 4:12:30 PM , Rating: 2
we will still be using plastics - i think that is the most important use for our stores of hydrocarbons.

RE: sounds shakey
By ChronoReverse on 2/3/2009 4:17:29 PM , Rating: 2
Assuming we have enough energy, we can actually synthesize that. So really it's not a biggie.

RE: sounds shakey
By masher2 (blog) on 2/3/2009 4:21:06 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry, didn't see your post before replying.

RE: sounds shakey
By mindless1 on 2/3/2009 5:10:57 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, ALL of our products come from the environment, whether we're talking about fossil fuels or minerals, metals, chemical compounds, it's all a biggie even if it seems irrelevant for the next few decades or more, remembering that in general mankind has hopes of being around still in a few hundred years, let alone thousands.

RE: sounds shakey
By ChronoReverse on 2/3/2009 5:47:26 PM , Rating: 2
You're really living up to your name eh?

The question is replacing oil (and if it runs out then what).

We use it for polymers and fuel. If we replace both then there's no biggie.

Your non-sequitor is like piping in to a discussion about classical music composition and mentioning that stamp collecting is a perfectly valid form of entertainment.

RE: sounds shakey
By mindless1 on 2/6/2009 1:02:31 AM , Rating: 2
How short-sighted you are. Oil isn't the only natural resource we rely on, that we'll run out of eventually. The comment fit fine within a larger context than you grasped.

RE: sounds shakey
By masher2 (blog) on 2/3/2009 4:19:04 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, but if you're not using hydrocarbons for energy, there's no reason they can't simply be synthesized as needed. With cheap energy, one can convert nothing but water and CO2 into polymers and other long-chain hydrocarbons.

RE: sounds shakey
By mindless1 on 2/3/2009 5:15:24 PM , Rating: 1
... which may be relevant to the context but irrelevant in the larger scheme of resources since not everything (including non-plastics) is, and probably couldn't be, made entirely of polymers and other long-chained hydrocarbons.

Very misleading figure
By masher2 (blog) on 2/3/2009 1:37:16 PM , Rating: 3
In Britain, wind power has been efficiently implemented, cutting costs to 7 pence (approximately 10 cents) per kWh. This is very competitive with the cost of coal power, which is 5 pence/kWh (7 cents/kWh).
You're comparing the wholesale cost of wind to the retail cost of coal-- a cost which includes utility overhead, grid maintenance, profit, etc.

Furthermore, you're comparing the rate at the very best wind locations, to the average rate for the coal industry. You're also not taking into account the much greater expense wind power requires for grid infrastructure, due to its low capacity factor. Finally, you're not accounting for the fact that wind, if used to supply more than a few percent of demand, will require either exhorbitantly expensive energy storage or massive overproduction, also due to its low CF.

Quotes like these are why some people mistakenly believe that we could switch to wind power, and only raise energy bills by a third or so.

By theendofallsongs on 2/3/2009 1:52:22 PM , Rating: 2
that's the usual game in this green articles. they always read more like sales pitches than actual stories anyway.

RE: Very misleading figure
By Keeir on 2/3/2009 3:15:39 PM , Rating: 2
You also potentially forgot government interference as a factor

RE: Very misleading figure
By mindless1 on 2/3/2009 5:56:28 PM , Rating: 2
What you've written makes no sense. If wind power is used to supply up to 100% of the lowest demand periods, not just a few percent, there is no energy storage expense nor overproduction.

The remaining factor is one of variable supply from other sources to maintain supply per momentary demand. Smart grids and standby generators are in our future, the grid like everything else has to evolve to meet future demands dynamically.

RE: Very misleading figure
By Spuke on 2/3/2009 7:14:24 PM , Rating: 2
What you've written makes no sense.
What exactly makes no sense? Explain.

RE: Very misleading figure
By masher2 (blog) on 2/3/2009 8:42:17 PM , Rating: 2
If wind power is used to supply up to 100% of the lowest demand periods, not just a few percent, there is no energy storage expense nor overproduction.
I'm sorry, you don't quite understand. Let me illustrate with actual figures. Assume demand varies from 100MW to 150MW. Now, you want to use wind power to fill that 100MW lowest demand period. So you build 100 1MW wind turbines and connect them to the grid.

That's 100MW of peak wind power. Now, at 6am when you hit minimum peak, you suddenly discover the wind isn't blowing very hard, and your windmills are only putting out 30MW, not 100MW. You're short 70MW. Oops.

To get around that, you build (based on your 30% capacity factor), 3.33 times as many windmills. Now, when 6am rolls around, you're assured of generating at least 100MW.

But not only did you have to spend 333% more money to build those extra turbines, but now most of the time, you're generating more electricity than you actually need -- and there's no where to put it. It just goes to waste. Worse, this variable demand means the grid that serves the turbines has to have 3X the capacity of what a coal or nuclear plant would need, to account for that varying output.

You can get around this by energy storage...but we don't have the technology yet to store enough energy to run entire cities for hours...and even if we did, it would be prodigously expensive.

RE: Very misleading figure
By mindless1 on 2/6/2009 1:00:41 AM , Rating: 2
No, you've contrived a situation that would not happen.

1) They'd not even try to build enough to supply 100% at peak.

2) Being short 70MW as per your example is no "oops", it is fine, goes back to what I already wrote that it is not a primary energy source, it suppliments smart grids and standby generators.

3) No they would not build 3.33 times as many, again it is not a primary energy source it is a secondary supplimental source, there is no problem in this use with a significant percentage of power coming from them so long as it is always 100% or lower at peak.

I do agree that it is expensive, that being the primary reason we should look more and more towards nuclear power as a primary energy source, still retaining use of wind and other alternatives as secondary sources.

Power Units
By HotFoot on 2/3/2009 12:07:04 PM , Rating: 2
This almost always comes up with articles about power generation.

What is meant by 1.2 MW per year? Should this be 1.2 MWh/year (piddly), or a yearly-averaged output of 1.2 MW for the installation (significant)?

RE: Power Units
By rcc on 2/3/2009 1:03:03 PM , Rating: 2
The average output of the plant over a one year period would be 1.2 MW. So, sometimes the output in more that 1.2 MW, and sometimes it is 0.

While minorly annoying, it lets them gloss over the fact that the power supply is variable with 2 zero power times each day. More or less.

RE: Power Units
By masher2 (blog) on 2/3/2009 1:30:26 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, the peak power output of the SeaGen project is 1.2MW. The average output is about half that, I believe -- an availability factor substantially above what one gets from wind or solar power.

RE: Power Units
By rcc on 2/3/2009 1:52:25 PM , Rating: 2

We should require one year power output graphs on these reports.

Now, if they can just get the locals to use power according to the tides, they'll be set. "Oops, shut down the production line Harry, the tide's about to turn.

RE: Power Units
By SkeptiCoder on 2/3/2009 2:53:14 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed, this should be changed to something like "An average of 1.2MW", or just "1.2 MW peak", as "1.2MW per year" is a nonsensical phrase.

nuclear nuts
By andrinoaa on 2/4/2009 4:27:50 AM , Rating: 1
Aright already, why does every fucking new idea get reduced to fucking nuclear is good everything else is bad? I didn't see 1 single negative comment from masher2 on the latest nuclear vapourware, but getting energy from the oceans is bad/ dangerous? What stupid ideology do you follow? Are you so focused on NUCLAR that you can't accept other technologies? This is why I keep hammering you, you are an absolutist and as such, you suck when you shrill.
PS, guys stop slapping your own backs with nuclar because you ain't converting anyone, lol.
This article also misses out on the biggest ocean energy source: from WAVES. Maybe because Australian companies are the leaders in the field? Just around our country there is an estimated 500,000Mw available. Why invest in nuclear at all?

RE: nuclear nuts
By corduroygt on 2/4/2009 9:18:45 AM , Rating: 2
Because it's the most cost effective solution. I don't want my tax dollars subsidizing stupid, expensive ideas. If any of the "green" energy solutions were as cheap as what we have now in coal/oil WITHOUT my tax dollars subsidizing them, I'm sure no one would be against it.

RE: nuclear nuts
By masher2 (blog) on 2/4/2009 10:34:06 AM , Rating: 2
> "Just around our country there is an estimated 500,000Mw available"

There's enough energy in the flapping of bumblebee and housefly wings to power all Australia. The problem is, of course, collecting that power. The same problem applies to wave-based energy. There's plenty of it, but converting it into useable form is enormously expensive.

Also, you may wish to consider that, even if you could tap all that energy, doing so would essentially stop wave motion entirely from reaching Australia's shores, a process that would surely have large-scale environmental implications.

By bulldog01 on 2/3/2009 3:23:25 PM , Rating: 2
Evidently most peoples mentors did not educate them concerning Nicholi Tesla, although most of his knosledge is under lock and key (which we allow)there is enenough to stimulate our minds. The earth is generating all the electricty necessary for anything we desire to do. What I mean by this is the earth is rotating and generating a magnetic field and this field is caused by the electric current invoked by the rotation. I am a common man but I understand in principle what Tesla said. He also said that it could not be metered.

By kyleb2112 on 2/3/2009 3:59:14 PM , Rating: 2
Hey, I love Tesla too, but his whole career was marked by him making fantastic claims and then not delivering. Unfortunately, he's becoming more famous for his crazy schemes than for his real achievements with electric motors and the AC power distribution.

Smart Grid & Electric Car
By hsr0601 on 2/3/2009 4:02:05 PM , Rating: 2
Smart Grid : The battery in the new breed of electric car can both give and receive, taking a charge and then, through the same electrical cord, sending some of its stored energy back to a hungry electricity grid, as needed.
Supporters see the new plug-in vehicles as a stabilizing addition. They envision thousands or millions of car batteries taking electricity from the grid during low-demand periods, such as overnight, and sending electricity back into the grid at times of heavy demand.
Better still, the car owners could be paid for the electricity they return, perhaps enough to earn back the cost of the car in a few years.

Most owners use their cars just one hour a day. In a “vehicle-to-grid” world, “the other 23 hours, that device belongs to the system,” said Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

RE: Smart Grid & Electric Car
By mindless1 on 2/3/2009 6:10:35 PM , Rating: 2
So you'd expect us to pay thousands more for an electric car due to the expensive battery pack, then wear out that battery pack much faster by allowing it to discharge to float the grid, thereby costing thousands more again to replace it multiple times within the life of the car, along with addt'l manufacturing and recycling costs?

No thanks, that's an even worse idea than just having a permanently installed battery pack in every home for no other purpose than supporting the grid, because with such a plan we could focus more on maximizing discharge cycles and minimizing cost instead of energy density and other factors most useful as a mobile power source.

I dunno why he's not rich yet
By grandpope on 2/3/2009 12:57:41 PM , Rating: 3
In the 1970s, the big snag was the market for that technology consisted of people with no money

Hrmm, targeting countries that have no money and are in the middle of a civil war isn't a sound business plan?

It seems clear that this man went on to head up the DTV voucher program.

This wont happen
By Mithan on 2/3/2009 1:20:08 PM , Rating: 1
The US will be collapsing in teh next year or two, and with it, the deaths of tens of millions of people. What is the point of building things like this when the future is so dark? Dead people do not need power.

RE: This wont happen
By icanhascpu on 2/3/2009 4:12:43 PM , Rating: 2
I totally took your post seriously after I read "teh".

By Hieyeck on 2/3/2009 1:26:26 PM , Rating: 3
Clearly they can recoup the losses by opening sushi shops. All the fish comes to them pre-chopped! (/cynicism for those with head densities veering off the norm)

Despite costs
By tarpon on 2/4/2009 3:14:26 PM , Rating: 2
all you need to know about government funded alternate energy.

Next they will tell you that man is responsible for global warming ... Who would think the sun would control Earth's climate.

“So far we have not seen a single Android device that does not infringe on our patents." -- Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith

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