Putting a few things in perspective
An acquaintance of mine visited the Palo Verde nuclear plant in Arizona recently
and mentioned the following facts among others, that I thought I'd pass on.
After all the fantasies we hear incessantly about windmills and chicken-manure
engines, it doesn't hurt to be reminded occasionally of what real engineering
can achieve when it isn't being politically sabotaged.
Palo Verde currently has three reactors producing 1140MW electrical each and
serves 4 million people. This output is enough to meet the requirements of Hong
Kong, New Zealand, Denmark, and Portugal combined. A single fuel load of for
the plant--less than three railroad-car loads of uranium oxide-- contains the
energy equivalent of a coal train that would stretch from Phoenix to Pittsburgh.
Those who go into ecstasies over solar dreams seem to forget, or never understood,
that simply considering the amount of energy available from a source
isn't enough. Making its extraction worthwhile requires a sufficient energy
density. It's easy to calculate the energy needed to lift three hundred
people across the Atlantic, and to work out how much wood contains that much
energy. Now try building a wood-burning 747. It won't work. The mountain of
logs would never get itself off the ground.
Transitions of the atomic nucleus involve energy densities thousands of time
greater than those attainable from changes of the outer electron shells, which
form the basis of all conventional combustion. Hence, nuclear processes offer
the potential to break through into the next regime of energy densities that
the demands of the twenty-first century will require. The so-called "alternatives"