Thursday, August 25, 2005

A Few (Mostly) From MIT Technology Review

A few pieces today from MIT Technology Review. First this piece about the benefits of nuclear fission, citing the industry's good track record and the increasing number of nuclear power plants planned in Asian countries.

Second, while applauding the final selection of France as the site for the ITER reactor, Ian H. Hutchinson worries that ITER's construction budget will come from U.S. fusion research dollars, to the detriment of ITER:

The United States still has two world-renowned tokamaks--one at MIT, the other at General Atomics in San Diego--whose research will be crucial in helping to resolve and prepare for challenges that ITER faces. But U.S. leadership in fusion plasma science cannot be sustained without a renewed commitment of resources. The United States' present 10 percent share of ITER will call for peak expenditures of perhaps $150 million per year--mostly for industrial procurements, not for research.

If that money were taken from the existing federal fusion research budget, it would decimate U.S. fusion research. That is why the U.S. fusion community's overwhelming enthusiasm for ITER is predicated on strong domestic support for fusion and plasma physics research, plus additional funds for ITER construction. Even if the U.S. increased its funding for fusion research to $500 million per year, that would still be substantially less than it spends separately on high-energy physics, fossil energy research, and basic energy sciences, not to mention the recent budgets of the Missile Defense Agency ($9 billion) and NASA ($16 billion).

I missed this one earlier in the week, but a pair of Russian climatologists have bet that average global temperatures will be cooler in a decade.

Finally, David Appell questions the merits of the proposed CAFE standards, essentially calling them window-dressing. In a couple of related comments, Michael Giberson (who suddenly seems to have started posting again) calls the proposal Completely Absurd Fuel Economy Standards, noting that manufacturers were gaming the system well before this round and will continue to do so (and are even encouraged to do so by the structure).

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