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Natural Science
NATS 1760
Darrin Durant

NATS 1760 NUCLEAR POWER WOLFSON - The conversion of mechanical to electrical energy= ‘electric generators’  Based on a fundamental law of physics o The law links electricity and magnetism, stating the electric current arises when an electrical conductor and a nearby magnet move relative to each other - You can’t get something from nothing! The generator must be supplied with mechanical energy to keep it turning  The generator does not make energy, it only conducts it - ‘Thermal power plants’; these are essentially huge steam engines in which a heat source boils water to make high-pressure steam. The steam spins a turbine connected to an electric generator - The notion of energy quality is the subject of ‘the second law of thermodynamics’  The second law is simple and it governs what happens in our lives  Left to themselves, things get more chaotic, not more organized - The second law says two things: 1) You can go from low to high quality, but you lose energy in the process- in a power plant a great deal of heat energy is lost as waste heat unable to spin turbines and make electricity 2) The maximum possible efficiency of a power plant depends on the highest and lowest temperatures available- the lowest temperature is set by the environment, but we could raise the highest temperate by raising efficiency JOHNSTON - The hydrogen release at the Fukushima nuclear power plant was tritium water vapor (a low-level emitter that can be absorbed in a human body through simply breathing/ drinking contaminated water)  May result in toxic effects to kidney  Increases risk of developing cancer - Why then, is there no mention of tritium in the government of industry statements?  The health effects are minor when compared to other radiogenic and toxic hazards o Low level exposure poses no human threat’ background radiation is present and is natural and beneficial at some level- any adverse health effects of radiation exposure is occasional and accidental  But chronic exposure does more than increase risk of cancer; it threatens the immune system and can exacerbate pre-existing conditions - Japan’s nuclear disaster demonstrates the degree to which the state prioritizes security interest over fundamental rights of people and their environment MACFARLANE - Nuclear power will not be the only answer to our energy needs in the future 1) Nuclear power can only reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity production 2) The claim that nuclear power produces no greenhouse gas emissions is not true - What is a reasonable expectation for greenhouse gas emissions to reduce from nuclear power?  Must reduce emission by at least a third; a ten-fold increase in nuclear power o But this is a long term scenario; it is not possible (you have significant issues that require resolution FIRST) - The problem with safety issues for nuclear power is the publics well founded fear of radiation  More focused on the aging nuclear power plants and the enhanced safety of new plant designs - Problem with a ten-fold expansion is the resulting growth and spread of these technologies; must be controlled through international uranium enrichment, reprocessing and reactor production facilities as well as internationalizing nuclear waste disposal  HOWEVER, this creates two classes of countries; (1) those deemed responsible and stable enough to host these facilities, and (2) the rest o Many countries find nuclear power attractive because it allows them to become independents of other for their energy resources; internationalizing nuclear fuel means energy dependence - SOLUTION: inherently safe reactors and inherently safe fuel LOVINS - Hard Energy Paths  Sustaining growth in energy consumption and of minimizing oil imports o Proposed solution is rapid expansion of three sectors: coal, oil and gas, and nuclear fission  ‘Strength through Exhaustion’ o Emphasis on short-term o Aggressive subsidies and regulations are used to hold down energy prices below economic and prevailing international levels so that growth will not be seriously constrained  Demands strongly interventionist control, encourages urbanization, introduces major economic and social risks etc.  Are oriented towards abstract economic services for remote and anonymous consumers= cannot command/ allow personal involvement by people in the community they serve - Soft Energy Paths  A textural description, intended to mean not vague, resilient  The distinction between soft/hard technologies is based on the technical and sociopolitical ‘structure’ of the energy NOT how much energy is used  Defined by five characteristics: 1) They rely on renewable energy flows 2) They are diverse, each designed for maximum effectiveness 3) They are flexible and relatively low technology 4) They are matched in ‘scale’, taking advantage of free distribution of most natural energy flow 5) They are matched in ‘energy –quality’ to end-use needs  Soft technologies are structurally more participatory than hard technologies; nobody can opt out of nuclear risk, but in a soft path, people can choose their own risk-benefit balances to match their own degree of caution - Not only does it pay to do things on your own (real vs. economic people) but it symbolizes a small triumph of quality of mediocrity and of individualism over the system - The declining flow of oil and other fossil fuels= decentralized energy system, which would also democratize energy  Energy is a field of technical uncertainty rather than determinism and the building of future energy needs = collective life PERROW REGULATION - Nuclear safety is problematic when nuclear plants are private, because private firms have incentive/ power to resist effective regulation - Systemic regulatory failure; The Union Carbide Chemical Plant in Institute, West Virginia (regulator see what they are predisposed to see --> what happens in third world India can’t happen in the US) - But overregulation interferes with safety practices; increased # of inspections= threat to cut agency budgets in half - Enforcement is nonexistent; at Fukushima workers reported that they had advanced warnings of inspection, but NRC complained about standards of fire prevention, so regulators lowered the standards WARNINGS - Fukushima required seawall, but seawall was designed on probabilistic thinking - Fallbacks to warning signs 1) Before Fukushima, lawsuits charging risk were hidden/ ignored 2) Warnings can often be hard to use effectively  Information may be too general to act on 3) Warning can be seen as mere obstructionism 4) Warnings may also be false if information has little credibility - But, there are major accidents that occur without warning COPING - In the case of Fukushima, official denial. Secrecy, refusal to accept outside help, failure to evaluate citizens at risk; but the system failed because the valve to tank had been installed backwards - Normal accident theory  Even if we had excellent regulation and everyone played it safe, there would still be accidents in system that are highly ‘interactively complex’  Everything is subject to failure, but nonlinear, unexpected interaction of even small failures can defeat safety o If system is tightly coupled, no intervention can prevent a cascade of failures - So what can be done? 1) High reliability theory 2) Modular systems that are less vulnerable than integrated ones, toxic and explosive potential is more dispersed than in tightly couples ones 3) Regulation 4) Technical improvements= safer system 5) Emergency power facilities VACCINATIONS LEACH - Vaccination of an individual benefits the community’s health by reducing disease levels in the population and this providing a social or ‘herd’ community  Vaccination remains voluntary’ citizens have individual right to pursue their own health - Social mobilization developing a concern about a possible link between MMR and autism a) Localized parental support groups  Affirmation of common experience and identity combined with emotional support o Us vs. unsympathetic ‘them’ b) National organizations and networks both focus on the MMR issue  ‘Politics of injury’; shared experiences of injury and victimhood prove a powerful mobilizing force c) A wider field of supportive networking and discussion amongst sympathetic publics  Parents as social movement ‘subjects’; those whom a movement seeks to influence  ‘Experiential Expertise’; as parents shared, compared and made causative associations a form of popular epidemiology emerged= citizen science - Framing the issue of risk of developing autism from MMR and the issue of uncertainty given the many unknowns about the effect of MMR - Personalized stories of vaccine damage were appealing to tabloids  Governments attempted through the media to counter MMR scare with the risk of disease  Consumer choice vs. public policy; refusal to make single vaccines available, that the triple vaccine is safe, thus vulnerable to infection - Pursuing claims through the legal process; collecting cases where parents believed that their child had been damaged by MMR and had a class action suit against pharmaceutical companies  Saw litigation as a way to gain financial compensation and vital treatment, wanted to achieve political/ cognitive justice, saw court case as a vital opportunity for open, public debate and as a way to fund scientific research and constrain parental abilities to leak findings - Failure as ‘movement subjects’ to influence the science-policy networks as the prime target CHABRIS & SIMONS - 2005 Cincinnati outbreak where 6 year old girl got measles because she attended a church gathering where a 17 year old girl returned from church mission in Bucharest; she was not vaccinated and didn’t know she was infected  ‘Index case’; first person to be infected - ‘Illusion of Cause’  Based on three aspects 1) We perceive patterns where none exist, and we misperceive them where they do exist 2) When two events tend to happen together, we infer that one must have caused the other  The only way to definitively test whether an association is casual is to run an experiment; without an experiment, observing an association may just be scientifically equivalent of noticing a coincidence o Properly inferring causation depends on the element of randomness o Correlation does NOT imply causation 3) The way in which we interpret activities; in chronologies or mere sequences of events, we assume that the earlier events must have
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