The Advanced Nuclear Industry

By Samuel Brinton  Published June 15, 2015

Introduction

The American energy sector has experienced enormous technological innovation over the past decade in everything from renewables (solar and wind power), to extraction (hydraulic fracturing), to storage (advanced batteries), to consumer efficiency (advanced thermostats).

What has gone largely unnoticed is that nuclear power is poised to join the innovation list.

A new generation of engineers, entrepreneurs and investors are working to commercialize innovative and advanced nuclear reactors.

This is being driven by a sobering reality—the need to add enough electricity to get power to the 1.3 billion people around the world who don’t have it while making deep cuts in carbon emissions to effectively combat climate change.

Third Way has found that there are nearly 50 companies, backed by more than $1.3 billion in private capital, developing plans for new nuclear plants in the U.S. and Canada. The mix includes startups and big-name investors like Bill Gates, all placing bets on a nuclear comeback, hoping to get the technology in position to win in an increasingly carbon-constrained world.

This report introduces you to the advanced nuclear industry in North America. It includes the most comprehensive set of details about who’s working on these reactor designs and where. We describe the money and momentum building behind advanced nuclear, and how the technology has evolved since the Golden Age of Nuclear.

To be clear, this is not your grandfather’s nuclear technology. While developers in some cases are working off of technology designs conceived in our national laboratories during the 1950s and 1960s, the advanced reactor technologies being developed are safer, more efficient and need a fraction of the footprint compared to the nearly 100 light water reactors (LWRs) that provide almost 20% of the U.S.’s electricity today (and 65% of its carbon-free power). New plants could be powered entirely with spent nuclear fuel sitting at plant sites across the country, built at a lower cost than LWRs and shut down more easily in an emergency.

The need for nuclear power has never been clearer. To stem climate change, the world needs 40% of electricity to come from zero-emissions sources, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). While we can and must grow renewable energy generation, it alone will leave us far short of meeting that demand, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have said. This is why the IPCC in November issued an urgent call for more non-emitting power, including the construction of more than 400 nuclear plants in the next 20 years. That would represent a near doubling of the 435 plants operating globally today.

Nuclear power is on the cusp of a comeback. The technology may be the best opportunity we have to address climate change and meet the world’s growing energy needs.

Introducing the Advanced Nuclear Industry

The energy sector has experienced enormous technological innovation over the past decade in everything from renewables (solar power), to extraction (hydraulic fracturing), to storage (advanced batteries), to consumer efficiency (advanced thermostats). What has gone less noticed is that nuclear power is poised to join the innovation list. Third Way original research has identified a new generation of engineers, entrepreneurs, and investors, along with several established nuclear companies, who are working to commercialize innovative and advanced nuclear reactors in North America. In total, we have found nearly 50 projects in companies and organizations working on small modular reactors based on the current light water reactor technology of today’s reactors, advanced reactors using innovative fuels and alternative coolants like molten salt, high temperature gas, or liquid metal instead of high-pressure water, and even fusion reactors, to generate electricity.

These companies are being built and funded because the innovators and investors see profit in creating an answer to the global energy paradox – there are 1.3 billion people in the world without access to reliable electricity; they will get that electricity, and advanced nuclear can provide it to them while cutting global carbon emissions. Our table and map of the advanced nuclear industry in North America is the most comprehensive listing to date of who is working on these reactor designs. In compiling this list, four important trends became clear:

  1. Coast to Coast: Research is not isolated to one state or even one coast. The companies and organizations leading the design revolution reach up and down both the East and West coasts of the United States and into Canada. In all, twenty different states host entities researching advanced nuclear energy.
  2. One Size Doesn’t Fit All: In interviews Third Way conducted with many of the companies on this list, we found real diversity in size and structure, ranging from lone entrepreneurs, to venture capital supported university spin-offs, to large international corporations. Each is making strides and bringing a unique perspective to the industry.
  3. A Compendium of Coolants: While water does a great job of cooling and moderating the atomic fissions of nuclear reactors, the next generation of nuclear reactors is looking to broaden our options. These include liquid metal, high temperature gases, and molten salt. Nuclear reactors using these coolants can be even safer than most light water reactors. The higher operating temperatures of coolants like helium, liquid metals, and molten salts more readily lend themselves to industrial applications requiring high temperature process heat.1
  4. Not Just Fission Anymore: Along with the evolution from large light water reactors to small modular light water reactors and beyond, Third Way has found major investment and interest in nuclear fusion from both small and large companies. Though this technology has much left to refine before commercialization, the growth has been staggering.

When thinking of the emerging advanced nuclear industry, it is important to understand how it compares to other sectors with a number of potentially new entrants. Let’s take the Internet. On the surface, there are similarities. As with the Internet today, the advanced nuclear space includes startups led by recent Ph.D. graduates, established Fortune 500 multinationals, and everything in between. And just like Internet companies, financing includes seed capital provided by angel investors, investments by established venture capital firms, and companies spending their own capital on significant R&D budgets.

The differences between the advanced nuclear companies and the companies spurring the latest Internet revolution are just as important. While the latest software or hardware improvement can take significant funding and research, the dollars and time required are a relative pittance in comparison to the funding necessary and regulation that must be navigated to design and build a new nuclear reactor. But despite these obstacles, nearly 50 companies and organizations are moving ahead, and a decade from now we may be seeing a brand new reactor revolutionizing the energy industry.

See the balance of this article, relevant data, an interesting infographic alongside references at:
http://thirdway.org/report/the-advanced-nuclear-industry

See also:
Op-Ed Nuclear power must be a part of greener future

Reference: Advanced Nuclear Summit & Showcase

Coordinating Exchanges for Learning

Were the contemporary scientific discoveries that were placed before you as a child in any way a catalyst for your own curiosities? As a youngster did you keen-fully observe the engineering of technology that was tooled for discovery? Did the Apollo or space shuttle orbiter missions inspire any meaning or perspective?  Are you a scientist, a citizen scientist?  Are more science professionals needed?

Childhood impressions are core components to who an  individual becomes. Positive influences by skilled and knowledgeable teachers, concerned even loving parents are paramount.

Although science is tractably understood through experience and the application of theories, the details are complicated, work and tenacity are required to reach any level of competence, as is a recursive process that takes years to master, the best practice being an early inception, suggesting 4th or 5th grades as optimal.

As a lot, elementary school teachers are amazing, passionate, empathetic educators who contribute directly to student successes.   They are excellent “conductors” orchestrating the development of knowledge across the disciplines, despite their lack of high proficiency at any of  the “oboe, violin, timpani, harp”, or any of the “instruments” they aptly “conduct”.

Middle school teachers build upon their colleagues base by applying their special areas of credentialed interest and skill for specific subjects, that is the mathematics teacher teaches math, the science teacher science, the music teacher music, the arts art.

Generally these teachers were trained at the bachelors level, were raised and attended nearby schools where education theories, psychology strategies, human behaviors were well studied, but elected to take a fewer rather than more science and mathematics courses.

Missing for many teachers is that detailed experience in, for example, the sciences, the associated physics or chemistry experiments, the engineering design and access to relevant applications, and or the technologies that have shaped human kind, say in biology.

Moreover, integrative strategies that rely on trans-disciplinarity where the dynamic of collaboration is used in solving relevant problems have few examples of successful implementation.

Helpful are the opportunities that any science, technology, engineering, or mathematics expert creates for students, particularly when in a collaboration with those teachers.

Traditional learning opportunities which align formally in the classroom are ideal, yet well implemented after-school programs continue to impress principals, teachers, parents, while inspiring selected students.

Needed is a coordination of professionals from companies such as John Deere, Sanford Engineering, Mortenson Construction, Moore Engineering, but also from North Dakota Universities and Colleges,   as well as from non-profits and for-profits which are practiced at informal learning strategies that include the Inspire Innovation Laboratory and Discover Express Kids.

As an example of an exchanged asset,  consider astronomy and astrophysics as an integrative topical strategy that is proven effective at sparking a middle school student’s scientific interests.

Lofting sophisticated instrumentation such as the Hubble Space Telescope into the heavens was an accomplishment built upon the successes and failures that extend from “choosing to go to the moon” by President Kennedy.

It was relatively recent that there was knowledge of other galaxies in the universe, that galaxies are clustered much the way stars are, that they collide, explode, evolve, all fascinating and a wonderful context to inspire students.

Providing tours of the solar system, the Milky Way galaxy, and beyond is a unique specialty of  the University of North Dakota’s Physics and Astronomy Department through an outreach project funded by the NSF-EPSCoR program.

In UND’s portable Elumenati Geodome, youngsters are treated to a highly engaging planetarium experience where craters on the moon, atmospheres on Earth and Mars, where solar system dynamics can be viewed in a 3D splendor.

Knowledge that such a program exists,  that a highly specialized and experienced professional can join in your North Dakota classroom through communications facilitated through the vehicle of the ND STEM Exchange is among its core functions.

Lining up, coordinating, managing, and assessing those opportunities is a developing role of the North Dakota STEM Exchange, a project being piloted by the North Dakota STEM Network.

For more information on the Exchange, please visit: http://ndstemexchange.com

Do Plumbers STEM?

An answer to a question posed by a colleague a few months ago on whether plumbers should be included in the STEM circle sprang alive this morning, when being schooled on the finer workings of a zoned hydronic heating system at home during a repair.

Spoiler alert – this story is coming to you from a physicist STEM-ite who is steeped in a regard for the interdisciplinarity and inclusiveness necessary in solving complex problems.

A natural gas-fired boiler is the secondary heart to a parallel electric boiler zoned hydronic heating system that warms our home in western Minnesota. Hydronic systems cycle hot water via pumps to radiators located throughout the house, heating by radiation coupled with natural convection air currents, versus forced air systems that BLOW the warm air into the rooms. We’ve always advocated for the hydronic systems which do not seem to dry the air as much, and are quieter, any knockings being romanticized by apartments from earlier years while in graduate school. Actually, its the sounded knockings that had been lingering for a couple years that complemented the need for the schoolings.

Hydronic systems are closed systems, in this case the pump circulating water estimated as 25 gallons, with a reservoir tank located above the system which allows separators in the boiler workings to loft any air that accumulates in the system, whether from summer condensations in a dormant system, or from an injection of turbulent water that might be coupled to an inlet that allows the user to top off the water level.

Water levels (volume), temperature, and system pressure are coupled in a closed hydronic system, a relationship we teach our students for ideal gases in introductory science courses. It should be well known that when materials are heated they expand, whether water, steel/iron, or copper, water being the most expansive of the three for the applicable temperature and pressure ranges. What might not be evident is that under certain conditions the expansion of the water could generate an almost irresistible force and exert an enormous pressure if expansion is prevented, a dangerous situation indeed.

Water expansion is parameterized experimentally by a coefficient of cubic expansion, represented by the greek letter Beta, β, below I have tabulated using data from the Enginnering Toolbox:

Screenshot-2015-10-07-16.08.56

Heating 25 gallons (94.6 liters) or 0.0946 m3 of water from 20oC to 80oC in a closed hydronic system will result in an expansion dV=V0β(T1-T0) = 0.0946*0.000424(80-20)=0.00241 m3, that is the warming will expand the volume by 0.638 gallons (inviting you to flex your math muscles to verify the conversions, noting 1 gallon = 3.785 Liters, 1 mL = 1000 cm3, 1 m = 100 cm, 1 m3 = 1,000,000 cm3).

The dual fuel system was noted earlier because gas burns hotter than electric elements in heating water where extremes of volume and pressure seemed to be correlated over the past few years; think investigation or detective story. What I had been seeing was as the water warmed to near maximum, the pressure would increase wildly. Evidently the standard is 5 psi, I was seeing 15. When explaining that to my plumber friend (Gary at G&T Plumbing and Heating, Fargo) he quickly declared that my expansion tank was 2015-10-06-12.18.52-1160x870waterlogged, translating that there was no room for expansion (air is compressible, water not nearly as much) providing motivation to review the situational interdisciplinarity, artfully.

Okay, a plumber could forgo the calculations, the graphs and use look up tables, but somehow, whether in a transfer of knowledge from a master craftsman to journeyman to apprentice, an ill informed plumber not having the experience and intelligence to design, build, and maintain common-place hydronic systems would likely not be plumbing for long.

I contend that plumbers, electricians, and the lot of tradesman are a significant component of a STEM workforce, specifically when addressing new situations, adapting experiences to solve problems while delivering services. Moreover for large building projects the multiple trade disciplines need to stage and coordinate their efforts respecting other disciplines, something we suggest should happen when building solutions, and betting some of you never questioning the implicit STEM nature of the trades.

What Is Killing America’s Bees and What Does It Mean for Us?

Pollinators are vanishing, and a silent spring could become a horrifying reality. So why won’t the EPA do more?
By Alex Morris August 18, 2015

There was a moment last year when beekeeper Jim Doan was ready to concede defeat. He stood in the kitchen of his rural New York home, holding the phone to his ear. Through the window, he could see the frigid January evening settling on the 112-acre farm he’d just been forced to sell two weeks earlier. On the other end of the line, his wife’s voice was matter-of-fact: “Jimmy, I just want to say I’m sorry, but the bees are dead.”

By then, Doan was used to taking in bad news. After all, this was long after the summer of 2006, when he had first started noticing that his bees were acting oddly: not laying eggs or going queenless or inexplicably trying to make multiple queens. It was long after the day when he’d gone out to check his bee yard and discovered that of the 5,600 hives he kept at the time, all but 600 were empty. And it was long after he’d learned back in 2007 that he was not alone, that beekeepers all around the country, and even the world, were finding that their bees had not just died but had actually vanished, a phenomenon that was eventually named colony collapse disorder and heralded as proof of the fast-approaching End of Days by evangelicals and environmentalists alike. Theories abounded about what was causing CCD. Were bees, the most hardworking and selfless of creatures, being called up to heaven before the rest of us? Were they victims of a Russian plot? Of cellphone interference? Of UV light? Were they the “canary in the coal mine,” as the Obama administration suggested, signaling the degradation of the natural world at the hands of man? Possibly. Probably. No one knew.

Even to Doan, at the epicenter of the crisis, none of it had made a lick of sense. As a third-generation beekeeper, he and his family had been running bees since the 1950s, and it had been good money; in the 1980s, a thousand hives could earn a beekeeper between $65,000 and $70,000 a year in honey sales alone, not to mention the cash coming in from leasing hives out to farmers to help pollinate their fields. But more than that, it was a way of life that suited Doan. He’d gotten his first hive in 1968, at the age of five, with $15 he’d borrowed from his parents. He paid his way through college with the 150 hives he owned by then, coming home to tend them on the weekends. He was fascinated by the industrious insects. “It’s just that they are such interesting creatures to watch on a daily basis,” he says. “If you spend any time with bees, you develop a passion for them.”

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/what-is-killing-americas-bees-and-what-does-it-mean-for-us-20150818#ixzz3jAeELvWb

Modeling Research

Traditionally researchers seek to establish or confirm facts, reaffirm works, engineer solutions to problems, activities which rely on an assemblage of skills, diversities, and intuitions. [1] The where, when, and how these are assembled is also traditional to college and universities, where research laboratories are the vehicle for training.

Creativity, judgement, communication, organization, persistence are essential for every researcher [2], skills which should be developed early on, prompting desires, even passions to engage high school students to ensure they hit the ground running after graduating.

A growing body of research [3] has shown the following:

  • Students learn more deeply when they can apply classroom-gathered knowledge to real-world problems, and when they take part in projects that require sustained engagement and collaboration.
  • Active-learning practices have a more significant impact on student performance than any other variable, including student background and prior achievement.
  • Students are most successful when they are taught how to learn as well as what to learn.

Proposed is a program that would leverage a natural resources and sustainability-focused curriculum in formal high school learning environments. McREL International’s GreenSTEM program [4] incorporate science content, technology tools, engineering design, and math applications into problem-based projects, which have the goals of conserving natural resources and energy; reducing pollution, consumption, and waste; and protecting the health of our ecosystems. [5]

The attributes of the GreenSTEM program [6] include:

  • Relevant, engaging project-based learning that blends the latest best-practices in science, technology, engineering, and math;
  • Student-driven sustainable projects that create innovative thinkers;
  • Unique STEM projects that address each school’s unique indoor and outdoor environment, and broader community needs;
  • Green job connections through pathways to business partnerships and higher education;
  • Life-changing and empowering service-learning for students, teachers, parents, and community; and
  • Whole-child and whole-school passion for being lifelong learners and citizen scientists.

With relevance and engagement as a leading characteristic, the proposed work is to utilize an established curriculum as a developmental maneuver to encourage research skills, but first with a focus on native american youth who remain challenged by

  • absenteeism
  • dropout
  • student engagement
  • continuing in higher education and/or jobs

By adapting the GreenSTEM curriculum with cultural relevance, we suggest these challenges can be reduced in frequency while inciting a higher regard for research skills which are consistent with those of the STEM movement, a.k.a. 21st Century. With a regular influence of the GreenSTEM curriculum and relevant hands-on activities, a goal is to develop an interest, even an acumen for discovery.

Supporting this framework is a unique model that would create a collaborative of high school students and their teachers working to identify a local green challenge pursuing solutions along mentors who are 1) undergraduate students, 2) college faculty, and 3) professionals from complementary organizations, those being tribal, agency, business, or industry.

The vision is on a developmental interest pipeline into college and/or career, initiating upon entry into high school, and then nurturing through high school graduation and into their college or career choices.

The pipeline would start for entering ninth graders through a summer camp experience that introduces concepts of discovery, research via citizens monitoring activities that can be sustained throughout the school year. For example, students could monitor rain and snow levels, reporting these to the Community Collaborative Rain Snow and Hail Network (CoCoRaHS)  [7], then establishing similar activities for native plants as a pathway for ethno-biological research based on tribal customs, seeking answers to questions such as any climate impacts on growth patterns, where the mentors play an important role, as do the undergraduate researchers who are funded through the SOAR program.

As those ninth graders move on to tenth, the summer camps become a forum for peer mentoring to entering ninth, sustaining research topics with an expectation that multi-year data will prove more significant and that there will be complementary spin-off ideas that form and are researched, each project supported by the high school-college-agency-business mentorships which are based on knowledge and experience.

Although our first focus is on the high school students, teacher professional development would occur within the mentorship model and become more poignant in secondary years as their knowledge and passions are lifted to become more (but not exclusively) autonomous.

Annually the groups will convene to disseminate and celebrate their discoveries, acknowledge challenges, discuss opportunities for growth, our first work on the Standing Rock Reservation,  expanding to the Spirit Lake Nation, and then onto other Lakota/Dakota/Sioux territories so as to match culture and relevance.  In time we anticipate a model that could be implemented where tribal customs are different, and ideally at non-native rural community schools.

In this work we seek to partner with programs such as the Nurturing American Tribal Undergraduate Research and Education (NATURE) [9] which are poised  to involve  high school juniors and seniors from tribal communities in North Dakota, and ultimately with the North Dakota University System [10] host undergraduate research programs at selected schools, but more importantly degree programs in which these pipelined students might enter; system-wide encouragement broadens the capacity of the research collaboratives matching local projects with faculty content expertise, which would extend from multiple campuses.

In summary the project goal is to initiate, nurture, and sustain a conduit beyond high school of native american youth excited about the prospects of discovery, research, and problem solving in advance of joining STEM careers.

References:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Research
  2. http://www.cur.org/assets/1/7/333Spring13Showman16-20.pdf
  3. http://www.edutopia.org/inquiry-project-learning-research
  4. http://www.advanc-ed.org/source/green-stem-stem-its-meant-be
  5. http://eeweek.org/stem-our-planet-infographic
  6. http://blog.mcrel.org/2015/02/greenstem-inspiring-and-empowering-learners-to-change-the-world.html
  7. http://www.cocorahs.org/
  8. http://soar.vcsu.edu
  9. http://www.ndepscor.nodak.edu/NATURE/contacts.html
  10. http://www.ndus.edu/campuses/

STEAM: The A is also for Agriculture

In a rural community where John Deere Corp. produces tillage and seeding equipment, Valley City, ND,  surrounded by farms and ranches is an ideal location for the  78th annual North Dakota Winter Show.

Any of the 71,000+ that attended Winter Show had an opportunity to discover an interactive STEM+Agriculture exhibit that staff at the Great Plains STEM Education Center coordinate as part of the Center’s education and outreach mission.

In the three days of the event, nearly 1000 people sat in a Case IH tractor, and in a simulated farm field, drove, plowed, seeded, or harvested corn in an effort to demonstrate the complex and integrative aspects of farming.

For example in the seeding mode of the simulator, “farmers” are asked to select a seeding rate and then are scored on an ability to balance rate with speed, and similarly when harvesting corn, head height and speed are to be balanced.16763391201_12c1c051df_k

The intricacies of the software design are the sum of efforts by the Center’s Amanda Fickes, John Boucha, accompanied by programmers Jarrod Lactot and Lucas Sorenson, and this author.

Adjacent to the Ag Cab Lab was the arcade styled Ethanol Racer that while challenging a player’s driving skill, coaches on the role that ethanol fuels have on reducing smog, a by-product of burning conventional fuels in metropolitan areas.

As agricultural areas are often the favored locations to site wind farms, a novel experiment was a part of the inter Show STEAM exhibit: design a wind turbine blade generator system that when subjected to a standard window box fan (on high speed) would produce a maximum amount of power as measured by an attached volt meter.

Guiding their effort was Amanda alongside her three interns who prompted a selection on the number of blades, of geometries for blade shape, a protracted blade pitch, and on the recording of relevant data both in tabular form on paper and then entering that data through a web-based touch screen graphical interface. 16577166320_bfc52831bf_k

Once entered, data was displayed and interpreted for patterns between any of the four variables with generation voltage. Guiding the participants work throughout was the Engineering Design Process that is often cited as essential to a STEM Learning.

The three intens are VCSU undergraduates Michaela Halvorson,  Alexis Getzlaff, and Garret Hecker each who earned an internship sponsored by the State Historical Society of North Dakota through a Great Plains STEM Education Center partnership to develop teacher training modules for a renewable energy S.E.N.D. trunk the Center designed.

Adjacently, the [original] Pickled Fish project prompted participants to identify any of the native fish species suspended in ethanol  at the Winter Show with impressive attention, signaling to Center staff that a traveling trunk would be popular among K-12 teachers in North Dakota.  16763384091_2eb220c8fd_k

Funding to attend the Winter Show was made available by the North Dakota Corn Growers with additional support provided via Jeff Beckman and the Minnesota Farm Bureau, and a recent permanent exhibit installation in Bismarck’s Heritage Center fueling design work.

See also our Flickr site for this event: https://www.flickr.com/photos/113758060@N03/sets/72157651191472996/

Network Explores Industry Learning Exchanges

ND STEM Network manager Ryan Aasheim and the Praxis Strategy Group is developing a strategy for the ND STEM Network that includes establishing a STEM Industry Learning Exchange that will work to connect private industry and business with K12 schools, their teachers, and ultimately the learners, our North Dakota children.

Industry Learning Exchanges bring together educators, industry and other stakeholders in government and the non-profit sector to better align and galvanize efforts and resources to create North Dakota’s next generation STEM workforce.  Industry Learning Exchanges are public-private partnerships organized by career cluster that work to coordinate planning, investment and sharing of resources. Learning exchanges promote STEM careers and occupations and identify work place learning opportunities for students that fit their interests and aspirations.

Exchanges create an organizing structure for communications and coordination to better connect programs across the state in a similar career cluster while also tracking local and statewide needs and performance.  Industry participation ensures that STEM curricula reflect current and future skills and trends related to technology.   Successful, high performing programs can be replicated in other localities and/or scaled up for implementation statewide.

A Learning Exchange will be launched in seven identified industries areas below and led by the ND STEM Network to leverage a statewide network of businesses, employer associations, education partners, and other stakeholders. The exchanges would ideally be launched using state investment, but would be supported by investments and on-going commitments from public-private partners.  An initial effort would focus on three industries sectors for one year to build their network, further develop capacity for implementation, and demonstrate function as it leads to enhanced learning.

  1. Energy
  2. Aviation, Aerospace, UAS
  3. Agriculture & Biotech
  4. Software, Computing, & IT
  5. Medical, Health, Life sciences
  6. Manufacturing
  7. Creative Industries

Models for these learning exchanges exist elsewhere, most notably in Illinois:  STEM Learning Exchange.

Graphic: ND STEM Network STEM Industry Learning Exchange

Pilot project: http://ndstemexchange.com

On North Dakota Coal

Climate change is a fact1, the inefficiently captured work of combusted fossil fuels among the most notable culprits.

Personal transportation, seemingly a right, has petroleum consumption at a sustained high2, with each mile driven adding carbon to an atmosphere3 that we breathe and that protects all of humanity from the destructive rays of our Sun.

Continued burning of fossils mined from the Earth without balance is unthinkable; the lake is not infinitely big, releasing your tired oil directly into the creek had to stop.

Getting to a point of balance on consumption (emissions) and need is daunting, and that effort will extend beyond any of our lifetimes, 100, 200 years forward.

Coal-fired electricity generation has become an easy blame4, with the individual’s automobiles tertiary, in part due to scale: a very large power plant versus my single automobile – a discarded watch battery ending up in a landfill certainly can’t be the problem, can it?

American’s inabilities with conceiving scale and utilizing mathematics renders hindered understandings of the reality of the situation.5 Instead we let the effects of a heated atmosphere creep up on us exponentially when only to discover an irreversible cascade that will gut biologies, and economies. Yet Mother Nature will survive, she does not require the foolhardy to propagate.

And you and I need transportation, we need electricity, we need heat, and appreciate air conditioning, but can we strike that balance with less emotional fear?

Coal in North Dakota is a vital part of the electricity generation picture that should continue as we develop reliable and efficient technologies as alternatives.

Coal in North Dakota is working hard to improve on the processes of efficient combustion and transmission of electricity, and there is no better demonstration in the Nation than at the Great River Energy Coal Creek Station at Falkirk, ND.

Since inception, Great River Energy has led by example in design, in efficiency, in cleanliness, in transmission, in reclamation, with worker excellence, safety, and stewardship.6

As mankind works together to avoid the irreversible, hold captive not the producers of electricity who respond to need and opportunity, challenge instead the consumers who remain ignorant to individual significance to the problem and the resourcefulness to conserve.

Insist on investments in technologies that harness renewable energies, in solar and wind, power storage, even sequestration: could incentivizing the creation of massive oak plantations7 contribute to that balance? And do we need government to force our hand?

Only as alternatives come into fruition will the debate be tempered, rendering tertiary the necessity of the burning of fossil fuels.

References:

  1. http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/GlobalWarming/page5.php
  2. http://www.advisorperspectives.com/dshort/updates/DOT-Miles-Driven.php
  3. http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/sources/transportation.html
  4. http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/our-energy-choices/coal-and-other-fossil-fuels/how-coal-works.html#.VEk70YvF_p8
  5. http://changetheequation.org/press/new-survey-americans-say-%E2%80%9Cwe%E2%80%99re-not-good-math%E2%80%9D
  6. http://www.greatriverenergy.com/makingelectricity/coal/coalcreekstation.html
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2359746/