Thursday, December 15, 2011

Online Survey Result on Nuclear Energy

Here are the results that we obtained from online survey that we have posted on November 28, 2011. This is important in bringing public awareness and opinion on builds nuclear power plant in Malaysia. It will help government to make decision to build or abort their plan to generate electricity using nuclear energy.
Click on the image to zoom in.


The survey has 109 respondent which concentrate on young generation (17-30). The nuclear power plant is plan to be start operate in 2025*. Hence, the young generation now will run the operation and maintenance of the nuclear power plant in the future.

*Source: TNB,Nuclear Roadmap For Malaysia, 2009

For question 1 in the survey, it shows that most of the respondent (52%) agree to use nuclear energy to generate electricity in Malaysia. While 33% against the plan and 15% is neutral about it.

For question 2, majority (32%) of the respondent choose continues energy supply to generate electricity as the reason for them to support nuclear energy. Beside that, the reason for other respondents choose to support is to reduce carbon emission (22%), to keep tariff electric low (16%) and other reason (6%). Yet there are still 24% didn't support it.


For question 3, it can be seen that most people are concern about the nuclear safety. This is because if an accident happened at a nuclear power plant, it can affect in a huge area. This area could be known as "black area" because no one could be living there anymore. An example of this situation can be seen at Chernobyl, Ukraine. Till then, there is no human being live in that area.

For question 4, it shown that people are willing to pay up to 5% tariff. Not many people are willing to pay 10% tariff because they might think it is too expensive to spend on renewable energy.This is why nuclear could be considered as one of the main source energy energy due to the energy that it could be generated.It can be consider low in cost because nuclear can generate huge amount of energy with a small amount of uranium and the power plant does not need a huge area of land.

For question 5,  this bar chart shows that the source of energy that most people prefer is solar. second is the hydro and next is wind and nuclear. From this chart, we can conclude that most people may not know the advantages of nuclear energy. They probably just know that nuclear is dangerous to be used.Therefore, we need to make sure that everyone out there realize that nuclear should become one of the main source of energy due to its benefits in using them as energy source.

For question 6 the response from the respondents to give comment regarding nuclear power are encouraging. There are few good comment that support and against nuclear power. Below are some of the comment:

"I don't think Malaysia is a suitable place to build a nuclear power plant. We have lots of other resources that we can rely on. Why we want to danger our citizens with a power plant that can give a destruction to our community. Nice survey. "

"I would say that I'm very much into it.
But then as stated above, it's about the safety that I'm being very concerned about.

"Thus, if the nuclear plant that are going to be build in Malaysia could meet  all the strict precautionary measures provided by the trusted non-profitable body, then I would be the first person to support the plan. However, realizing the gravity of the problem that could arise from the plan; to build the nuclear power plant, I would suggest the government to wait for several more years until they are REALLY sure that they can handle any probable problem that could happen in the future. "

"It is good. But safety must always be the main priority. Also the main concern is the waste. Proper knowledge on how to dump the waste is important."

"Malaysia has continuous sunshine with long daytime too.Not forgetting the rich plantation and farming all around malaysia. so,solar n biomass first please!"

As conclusion, from the survey people are aware on nuclear power generation. But to convince people to support nuclear power is not an easy task. There are more things that need to be done in order to get people to go for nuclear!

Process of uranium mining is not green? (Fan mail question)

Hiya all~ It is a very strange and awkward day as for once we actually have fan mail…
Anyway, I digress.

Recently a Nuclear Edition reader stated a very interesting fact, that the process of uranium mining is not green! While thinking about it, it does really ring a bell. Although the nuclear plant operation might be green, the process in which to produce it might not be environment friendly!

So we take a little online detour to the uranium mine hunt. Uranium is typically mined from the earth crust, 
where there could be ‘open pit’ mining, underground mining and in-situ leeching.

The open pit mining method is done for deposits that are located close to the surface of the earth crust, of about 100m. How the open pit works is it require large holes on the surface, larger than the size of the deposits because the walls of the pit must be sloped for structural integrity. The walls will collapse if not sloped. 
 An open mine

For underground mining, this method is for deposits that are over 100m below the surface. Tunnels will be bored down and ore is raised to the surface in carts. This method is potentially dangerous for miners and requires powerful ventilation systems, use of respirators and there’s limited amount of time that can be spent underground.

 Photo of a worker in a deep mine

Finally about in-situ leaching, this method is non-invasive and claimed to be environmentally friendly. This method extracts uranium by pumping weak acid underground to dissolve ore deposits and pumping the deposits to the surface.

 Diagram of in-situ leaching

Mining has always had huge impacts on the environment where massive craters are formed and these places would then be barren of life once mining operations are completed. Even in in-situ leaching, there is the risk of the acid to contaminate underground water sources.

So, is nuclear energy really clean?In fact, a lot of policies and regulations are imposed in any mining activity, uranium mining included. The mining activities even require external audits. There is no question that mining will have adverse effects on the environment but it seems as if it is a necessary to sacrifice a little to gain a lot.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Deepak Chopra and nuclear experts gather

Deepak Chopra and Nuclear experts gather to talk about shutting down Indian Point

Deepak at Homebase: Nuclear cautions & parallels

Fukushima & Indian Point

Friday, April 15,2011, 6-8pm NYC

Where: Deepak Homebase on the Mezzanine, 888 Broadway at East 19th Street.

The conversation with Deepak Chopra

Arnold Gundersen, nuclear engineer, Vermont Yankee expert witness; Harvery Wasserman, journalist, one of the first to cover the Fukushima Leak; Paul Gallay, Riverkeeper ED, working to permanently shut down Indian Point; and Duane Peterson, progressive political campaigner and non-profit environmental activist.

Fun Facts #5

Did you know?

On December 2, 2011 is the 69th years anniversary of nuclear energy. Back in 1942 at this date, Enrico Fermi, Leo Szilard and their colleagues successfully achieved the first man made and controlled nuclear chain reaction. More interesting it was made in squash court of University of Chicago's Stagg Field.

Fermi also play major role in establishing the American Nuclear Society (ANS) in December 11, 1954.

Also on December 2, 1957, the first full scale commercial nuclear power plant in the world went full power in Shippingport, Pennsylvania.

A 1957 view of the Shipping port of Atomic Power Station

Friday, December 09, 2011

Talk by Michihiro Furusaka, 8th December 2011, UNITEN

On the said date, we were blessed to have a very renowned professor, Mr Michihiro Furusaka, to present to us his present work. Mr Michihiro is professor from the Graduate School of Engineering at Hokkaido University, with involvements in various engineering fields, especially with regards to quantum engineering and neutrons.

Professor Michihiro Furusaka

Mr Michi presented to us about his involvement in neutron acceleration and neutron scattering. Allow me to explain a little bit about neutron scattering. According to Wiki, neutron scattering is a physical process and experimental technique to investigate materials, in which is very important in nuclear engineering. 

In Mr Michi's presentation, nuclear scattering devices are normally very large. Mr Michi has himself invented a compact neutron scattering device. This device uses lenses to focus the neutron beams. This technique saves space and allows the experimentation of wide neutron scattering. Compared to large neutron scattering devices, since the instruments are very long, it is very difficult to detect wide neutron scattering (it would require a VERY large sensor area to detect the wide scatters). The compact device solves the problem by being in itself, compact! It minimises the sensor area to detect the neutron scattering. As Mr Michi would say, Japanese loves compact things.

Mr Michi is also very involved in nuclear therapy. He gave us an interesting introduction to the subject with the beginning of x-rays, which lead to a very profound advance in radio-therapy. Examples are the use of 3D imagine in CT scans and in cancer imaging. It has had a very huge impact on medical sciences to date.

 An Example of CT Scan
Further presentation touched on the hair! Unfortunately, as time was short, I myself did not really understand about the purpose of hair research. However, what was found that hair itself, has 2 parts, the living part and the dead part. The living part, in the follicle, is the main source of the hair, producing keratin, the main component of hair. This protein, keratin, will 'die' when too much of it is produced, thus creating hair.

This research has led to scientists to be able to distinguish the shape of cells near the human brain. With such identification, this has been hugely applied in Parkinson's disease research. It seems that the shape of proper healthy cells is much different from cells that are afflicted with the disease. With this breakthrough, it could be possible to isolate these deiseased cells for treatment.

And so ends the short lecture from Mr Michi! It was a very informative presentation, covering a very wide range of topics. Hopefully, UNITEN would be able to organise more talks and to properly conduct it in such a way that befits and properly honours it.


Nuclear Power VS Fossil Fuel (Part 2)

What is nuclear energy? How it generates power?
Nuclear energy is the energy stored in the nucleus of an atom. The energy originates from the splitting of uranium atoms in a process called fission. At the power plant, the fission process is used to generate heat for producing steam, which is used by a turbine to generate electricity. Nuclear energy is cleaner while generating electricity. Nuclear fission provides energy without releasing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. Since nuclear power plants use so little fuel, the volume of nuclear waste is much smaller  the volume of waste from fossil fuel power plants.  Eventhough nuclear waste is highly radioactive, its small volume enables safe isolation from society. 

What is the disadvantage of using Nuclear Energy?

  • Nuclear power has some disadvantages worthy of attention: Nuclear power plants have dangerously high radioactive levels.  The radioactivity is entirely contained within the plant, but the possibility exists that some of it might leak to the outside environment during an accident.  Over time, new designs, stricter regulations and better  technology are reducing the risk of radioactive leaks
  • Waste produced by the power plant must be disposed somewhere, but it remains intensely  radioactive for long periods of time.  Therefore, nuclear waste must be permanently isolated from society in special facilities.  Building suitable facilities requires a lot of time and money to ensure complete isolation
  • New nuclear power plant designs take a long time to implement.  This time delay is due to multiple regulatory agencies and boards of approval that the nuclear industry must satisfy
  • At the end of their lifetimes, usually about 40 years of operation, nuclear power plants must be decommissioned.  Plant materials remain fairly radioactive for many years after operation has ceased, so disassembly cannot occur until the levels return to a safe range.  This waiting period usually takes about 20 years
  • Anti-nuclear activists believe that the nuclear industry greatly increases the chance of plutonium theft.  Conceivably, terrorists could steal stores of plutonium and attempt to make a nuclear weapon.  To deter such an endeavor, plutonium is weighed before and after shipment.  Furthermore, constructing a nuclear weapon requires extreme expertise.  Still, the possibility does exist.

These disadvantages include some serious issues that cannot be ignored.  Equally important, though, are the advantages that nuclear power offers.  Unlike some of the disadvantages, the positive aspects of nuclear power are based upon facts rather than slim probabilities. 

What is the major advantage of using Nuclear Energy?
  • Nuclear power plants emit far fewer atmospheric pollutants than the competition.  They do not emit any sodium dioxide, nitrogen oxide or dust from burning fuel.
  • Nuclear power plants do not emit any carbon dioxide, the gas widely believed to be the  primary contributor to the greenhouse effect.  The greenhouse effect, of course, causes global warming.  In the United States, coal-fired power plants release approximately 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year.  However, the limit and even the existence of global warming is still the subject of much debate.
  • Nuclear power plants only need refueling once every year to 18 months.  The new store of fuel constitutes about 2 metric tons, or 6 truckloads of uranium.  Coal power plants require a new trainload of about 100 tons of coal every day
  • According to PBS Online, US nuclear power is not responsible for any deaths in its entire history. Due to mining accidents and respiratory complications, over 30 thousand deaths have been attributed to US coal mining since the 1930's
  • Since nuclear power plants use so little fuel, the volume of nuclear waste is much smaller than the volume of waste from fossil fuel power plants.  Even though nuclear waste is highly radioactive, its small volume enables safe isolation from society
  • Nuclear power is economically competitive with coal, and generally considered much cheaper than oil or natural gas.  In one joint study by several agencies and independent groups, 11 out of 19 counties found nuclear power to be at least 10% cheaper than coal- fired power.  7 more of the countries found the prices to be nearly equivalent


Nuclear Power VS Fossil Fuel (Part 1)

This post will explain briefly the advantages and disadvantages of fossil fuel as the main current energy source today and nuclear power as the potential alternative energy in the future.

What is Fossil Fuel? How it generates power?

Fossil fuels are hydrocarbons that are formed from the remains of dead plants and animals. Examples of fossil fuels are coal, fuel oil and natural gas. Fossil fuels, primarily coal are by far the largest source of electricity in the world today. In fossil fuel power plant, power generated from burning the fossil fuel to generate heat, and then the heat will be used to generate steam. This steam drives turbines, which powers generators to convert mechanical energy to electrical energy.

What is the advantage of using Fossil Fuel?

A major advantage of fossil fuels is their capacity to generate huge amounts of electricity in just a single location.
  • Fossil fuels are very easy to find. 
  • When coal is used in power plants, they are very cost effective. Coal is also in abundant supply. 
  • Transporting oil and gas to the power stations can be made through the use of pipes making it an easy task. 
  • Power plants that utilize gas are very efficient. 
  • Power stations that make use of fossil fuel can be constructed in almost any location. This is possible as long as large quantities of fuel can be easily brought to the power plants. 

What are the disadvantages of using Fossil Fuels?

  • Pollution is a major disadvantage of fossil fuels. This is because they give off carbon dioxide when burned thereby causing a greenhouse effect. This is also the main contributory factor to the global warming experienced by the earth today.
  • Coal also produces carbon dioxide when burned compared to burning oil or gas. Additionally, it gives off sulphur dioxide, a kind of gas that creates acid rain.
  • Environmentally, the mining of coal results in the destruction of wide areas of land. Mining this fossil fuel is also difficult and may endanger the lives of miners. Coal mining is considered one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.
  • Power stations that utilize coal need large amounts of fuel. In other words, they not only need truckloads but trainloads of coal on a regular basis to continue operating and generating electricity. This only means that coal-fired power plants should have reserves of coal in a large area near the plant’s location.
  • Use of natural gas can cause unpleasant odors and some problems especially with transportation.
  • Use of crude oil causes pollution and poses environmental hazards such as oil spills when oil tankers, for instance, experience leaks or drown deep under the sea. Crude oil contains toxic chemicals which cause air pollutants when combusted. 
  • Fossil fuel sources are gradually depleting, thus it might lead to shortage of energy in the future.