Posts Tagged ‘future’


14 March 2013

IT KNOWS WHAT YOU’RE THINKING | MindBullets | Now we can communicate with our thoughts – and technology.

Dateline: 13 June 2019
For generations, people have dreamed of communicating with their thoughts. Now, thanks to the first commercial device that successfully reads brainwaves and converts them into speech, telepathy is becoming a reality.
“We’re still short of the idea of being able to read someone’s mind, but theoretically that’s possible,” says Vincent Chang, who has worked with scientists at Stanford University and a range of neuroscience…

Nuclear Energy: Spring or Explosion?

20 September 2007

It seems nuclear energy is the new darling of an energy-hungry and climate-conscious world. According to the Economist, global electricity consumption is expected to double over the next few decades, and countries like China and India are looking to nuclear to help fill the gaps.

Even here in South Africa, long a major producer of uranium, nuclear ambitions are back on the rise. South Africa wants to develop its nuclear industry, and has committed to a pilot of the experimental Pebble Bed Modular Reactor, which it hopes to commercialize by 2012. In the United States and Britain, where the industry has been rather stagnant for the past 30 years, there is a new enthusiasm for nukes.

The stark contrast in attitudes is best highlighted by comparing Germany to France. France has been an ardent supporter of nuclear, both in government and the public, and gets 78% of its power from 60 reactors. It has become dependent on nukes, as it has no fossil resources to speak of. Germany, on the other hand, has a law that nuclear plants must be decommissioned after 32 years, and the first of these has already been shutdown. What’s more, Germany’s energy bosses are fairly green in their outlook, and want to phase out nukes altogether, replacing them with wind, natural gas and even bio-diesel.

The world has 439 nuclear reactors, with another 31 in construction and 68 in the planning stages. That’s pretty explosive growth, considering the unresolved issues surrounding nuclear, and militant attitudes in some quarters. While newer designs promise greater safety and increased efficiency from nuclear power, there is the growing problem of nuclear waste – for which there is no solution in sight. The current school of thought is to store waste on site, above ground and in accessible facilities, so that future generations – who will naturally have better technology – can deal with it more easily. Some think this is a cop-out, and they may be right, but it does make some sense. But I don’t think it’s a legacy we can be proud of. And this approach to storage makes waste more exposed to terror or accidental disaster.

Finally, let’s not forget cost issues. Although technology has improved, and running costs of nuclear plants are low, planning and construction costs are enormous, and costs of decommissioning and fully rehabilitating a site when it has reached the end of its useful life can make a 30-year plant uneconomic. Indeed, 21 years later, Chernobyl remains inside a huge exclusion zone. And the future cost of dealing with the waste cannot be calculated, as we don’t know what the solution will be. It is said that each fine ounce of gold produces 30 tons of mining and process waste. Uranium mining surely produces similar results, and the ecological cost is conveniently ignored, as it takes place far away from the consumers of nuclear power.

So is this nuclear explosion simply global growth and development, or a short-sighted exercise in borrowing from the future what we can never adequately repay?

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