Thursday, January 3, 2008


I thought this was a really interesting idea, with many possibilities....

"ONE of the first large cargo ships in 100 years to cross the Atlantic Ocean with the help of the wind will set off from Europe this month on a voyage that is due to make maritime history.
When the 10,000-tonne Beluga SkySail is well clear of land, it will launch a giant kite, which wind tunnel tests and sea trials suggest will tug it along and save 10-15% of the heavy fuel oil it would normally burn. If the journey from Bremen in Germany to Venezuela and back is successful, it could become common to see some of the largest ships in the world towed by kites the size of soccer fields."

Although, once you read the whole article it becomes clear that there are still a few wrinkles that need ironing out. These tankers and super tankers are shockingly polluting, fuel-hungry behemoths and need all the help they can get!!

"It is estimated that commercial shipping uses nearly 2 billion barrels of oil a year and emits as much as 800 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, or 4% of the world's man-made emissions. Shipping also releases more sulphur dioxide than all the world's cars and lorries."


Protium said...

Why are they not nuclear powered?

T&A said...

I like the idea, but I think Protium is onto something with nuclear power. Hell the US Navy's been doing it for a few decades now. Commercial shipping could benefit a great deal. Of course once they need to get rid of the waste it could be interesting.

Richard said...

Protium is bang on.

The annual nuclear waste from a plant would fit in the back of a pick up truck. It can easily be dumped, in protective containers, onto a subducting fault line in the ocean. At about six centimeters a year it would slowly work its way back to the Earth's core. Similarly, placing the nuclear nuggets in ceramic balls (established technology) and then in abandoned mines would dispose of all the waste in N. America for centuries without affecting the underground water supply.

Few people know that the ash from coal fired generation plants produce nearly as much radioactivity per year as a nuclear plant. However that radiation is diffuse, distributed among the tens of thousands of tons of ash being produced by each power plant.

And, besides the above, there is no need to burn less oil unless it is for economic reasons. Oil costs are high because of a) taxation, b) the OPEC cartel's semi monopoly and c) the resistance to development of N. American oil reserves by Environmentalists. Were these problems removed, and the dollar tied to gold, instead of being artificially inflated by the Federal Reserve, oil and gas would unbelievably cheap: 20 cents a gallon or so!

Similar problems plague cheap production of small scale nuclear power. Toyota has come up with an absolutely safe nuclear power plant that would fit in a 20 foot living room. It will operate for twenty five years without maintenance, and power a city block. Nuclear power might then compete with coal and oil power generation, properly and fairly on the free market.

Protium said...

I've been for nuclear energy for years now and most people I discuss it with are scared of the waste and accidents. Both of these issues are almost irrelevant now with new technologies but the stigma stays.

Pebble Bed Reactors due to their design have a negitive feedback element built into them meaning they can't melt down and the fuel pebbles have 4 caps of containment built in. Many authorities consider pebbled radioactive waste stable enough it can be safely disposed of in geological storage – without any additional shielding or protection. Even in tests where pebbles were exposed to very high heat without coolant for long periods, they showed no outward damage. If one did manage to break a pebble it would only release one tiny (0.05mm) uranium dioxide particle. This particle is too heavy to be wind borne and so could not be blown into other areas like the fallout from the explosion at Chernobyl.

Oh.. Did I mention the "waste" product is the very expensive to produce Hydrogen?

In other experiments British scientists have "transmuted" iodine-129 into iodine-128 with a high-powered laser. The half-life of iodine-129 is 15 million years while the half-life of iodine 128 is 25 minutes.

I hope we embrace Nuclear power soon and I also hope Pres Bush learns to pronounce the word properly :)

Thump Thump Eyes said...

T&A..I liked the idea of seeing a soccer field sized kite, purely for the wow value:)

Protes...Nucular power :) has had a bad rap..Dubya has intensified this by not being able to say it properly ;-D

Welcome Richard, great to see you here
*big smiles and waves*
and many thanks for that very informative comment. I really have little understanding of the technical issues of nuclear power, but from what you and Protium have said it seems a lot of people do.

In light of that it puzzles me why its not being given the attention it deserves by those that 'supposedly' are planning our energy future?