Sunday, October 30, 2005

How much uranium? - part 6

(read Part 5 here)

World Uranium Reserves

...we continually hear about how the “proven reserves” of uranium will only last ~50 years at current consumption levels.
Lately, the price of uranium ore has increased substantially... This is occurring due to the anticipation of the end of the weapons uranium stockpile, along with improved prospects for increased nuclear power generation. As a result of this price increase, several things are happening. There are now numerous reports of old, lower-grade ore sites going into development, as they will now be profitable. Also, many properties with uranium potential are now being explored, and many are being found to contain economically recoverable uranium. Reserves are increasing as we speak.
The “proven reserve” estimates are flawed for two primary reasons. First of all they do not consider the fact that very little effort, or money, has been put towards uranium exploration thus far. Second, they do not adequately account for the tiny effect that uranium ore price has on final nuclear power price, and the maximum allowable prices that they use to determine “economically recoverable” reserves are far too low.
Current estimates of “economically recoverable” reserves apply an upper price/cost limit of $135/kg for uranium ore. This price cutoff does not sufficiently appreciate the lack of effect that ore cost has on power cost. It corresponds to a power price increase of only ~0.25 cents/kW-hr, versus today’s [Oct 2004] $40/kg ore price. Uranium sources that cost up to $500, and perhaps even ~$1000/kg (which would increase nuclear power’s cost by 1-2 cents/kW-hr) can still be economic, especially in a CO2-emission-constrained world, and/or a world where gas and oil have started to run out. Even at $1000/kg, advanced nuclear plants should be able to produce power at ~6 cents/kW-hr or less. The cost of power from post-production-peak gas or oil plants, or from coal plants with full CO2 sequestration, is likely to be higher than this. Finally, it should be noted that (as discussed later), at a uranium price of $500-1000/kg, breeder reactors become economical, and the uranium supply effectively becomes infinite.
Using the Deffeyes & MacGregor data you can estimate the total reserves of uranium that can be extracted, as a function of the maximum allowable ore cost. As the allowable cost goes up, the potential supply exponentiates. Extrapolations using this data shows that at a (still economical) price of a few hundred dollars per kg of uranium, there is enough recoverable uranium to provide all of our nuclear power needs for several hundred (perhaps 1000) years, even at a greatly increased rate of usage.

And note, this is even for the once-through cycle, which only makes use of the U-235. If we went to breeders, the amount of uranium ore used, per unit of electricity generation, is divided by a factor of 60-70. Not only that, but since 1/60th as much ore is used, the tolerable ore price increases by yet another factor of 60. This, of course, causes another exponential increase in the economically recoverable reserves. If we go with breeders, we have enough economically recoverable uranium to meet all our power needs for tens, probably hundreds of thousands of years. It should be noted, however, that the price of ore will have to go extremely high ($500-1000/kg) before breeding would make economic sense, and this won't happen for well over a century; plenty of time to develop safe, reliable, and economic breeder technology.

In summary, the actual recoverable uranium supply is likely to be enough to last several hundred (up to 1000) years, even using standard reactors. With breeders, it is essentially infinite. Hundreds of thousands of years is certainly enough time to develop fusion power, or renewable sources that can meet all our power needs.

Uranium supply links:

International Atomic Energy Agency: "Over the long term, recycling plutonium from reprocessed spent fuel in thermal reactors as mixed oxide fuel and the introduction of fast breeder reactors to also convert non-fissionable uranium into plutonium would increase the energy potential of today's known uranium reserves by up to 70 times, enough for more than 3 000 years at today's levels of use. Uranium used in a complete fuel cycle not only maintains, but also significantly increases the resource base."

Nuclear Energy Agency: "...with already identified advances in technology these resources can be extended so that nuclear fuel resources become virtually unlimited."

World Nuclear Association:

"Current estimates of all expected uranium resources (including those not yet economic or properly quantified) are four times as great, representing 200 years' supply at today's rate of usage."

"...uranium supplies will be more than adequate to fuel foreseeable expansions of nuclear power. Indeed, in addition to its other noteworthy virtues, an abundant fuel resource will remain a crucial advantage of nuclear power. The world faces many challenges in achieving a global expansion of nuclear energy to fully realise the technology's clean-energy potential. A limited supply of uranium resources is not among them."

also see Supply of Uranium at WNA: "uranium is a very inexpensive energy source to replenish, as society has accepted far higher energy replacement costs to sustain oil resources. This low basic energy resource cost is one argument in favour of a nuclear-hydrogen solution to long-term replacement of oil as a transportation fuel."

Save thousands of lives - call your senators!

DDT Is Only Real Weapon to Combat Malaria

U.S. taxpayers spend about $200 million annually on malaria control efforts. Ironically, almost none of this money is spent to kill or repel the mosquitoes that spread disease. The money is instead spent on anti-malarial drugs and insecticide-treated bed nets that aren’t very effective.
...We have the technology to make a large dent in this tragedy, if only we could rid ourselves of the most infamous environmentalist myth of all-time, our irrational fear of the insecticide DDT.

As discussed in’s
“100 Things You Should Know About DDT,” the Rachel Carson-Silent Spring-inspired campaign against DDT was utterly detached from reality. DDT did not cause declines in populations of great birds like the bald eagle and the peregrine falcon. These bird populations were threatened before DDT had even been invented ,thanks to over-hunting, habitat destruction, and egg collectors.

The bird populations rebounded, in fact, during the period of the greatest use of DDT.
DDT has also never been credibly linked with cancer or non-cancer health effects in humans.
DDT was ultimately banned in the U.S. in 1972 because of politics, not science. For no stated reason, then-EPA Administrator William Ruckleshaus overruled a finding of DDT’s safety by an EPA administrative law judge. Evidence was later discovered identifying Ruckleshaus as a fundraiser for the Environmental Defense Fund -- the activist group spearheading the anti-DDT campaign.
...when DDT is available, the results are nothing short of spectacular. Indoor spraying with DDT, for example, reduced malaria cases and deaths by nearly 75 percent in Zambia over a two-year period and by 80 percent in South Africa in just one year. a bill in Congress (currently it’s known as the Senate version of H.R. 3057) that would reform the U.S. Agency for International Development so that insecticides like DDT could be added to the arsenal for fighting malaria.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

KMMN - Kill Malarial Mosquitoes Now

Kill or be killed

The "Kill Malarial Mosquitoes Now" coalition ... says most of the annual $200 million currently spent goes to advising African governments on how to combat malaria, not on actual combat.

The KMMN coalition says that only a small fraction of that amount goes to supplying bed nets and medicines. And zero goes to the most effective weapon: the insecticide DDT, which eradicated malaria in Europe and the United States more than half a century ago, but was later banned in the West for its supposed environmental effects.

The coalition's aim is to persuade Congress to devote two-thirds of annual U.S. anti-malaria funds to indoor insecticide spraying with DDT. Bed nets and life-saving drugs are important, explained Paul Driessen of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, "but they just don't do the trick."
By 1952, DDT had helped eradicate malaria in the United States, and a worldwide anti-mosquito campaign greatly reduced infections in Asia and Latin America. Only three countries in Africa got in early, though, and in 1962 biologist Rachel Carson's book, Silent Spring, attacked pesticides for causing environmental damage and singled out DDT as the worst offender.
Soon the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) cut out DDT from its programs, and instead started talking up bed nets. Author and physician Michael Crichton described the results of the de facto ban on DDT this way: "It has killed more people than Hitler." That's because trying to stop every human-stinging mosquito is a dead man's game: They will find a way in.
...many staffers ask, "'You mean there's still malaria out in the world?' . . . They think it's maybe a few thousand cases. When I tell them it's more than the combined population of Canada, the United States, and Mexico, their teeth just drop around their ankles."

Friday, October 21, 2005

Wishing upon the fuel cell star?

Hydrogen’s slow lane to reality

A lot of starry-eyed futurists have been telling us for the past 30 years that hydrogen fuel cells are the way of the future, but the science is not on their side.
The recent study by the National Academy of Sciences shows that proton exchange membrane fuel cells (the type that are light enough to be considered for use in transportation) achieve efficiency of 30 percent to 38 percent, and the typical efficiency of production units 10 years from now, after a few hundred hours of use, is unlikely to exceed 39 percent. Large diesel engines, on the other hand, currently achieve peak efficiencies above 52 percent, and they will probably achieve efficiencies above 56 percent a decade from now.

What's good for the goose...

A Modest Proposal

Recently, both Alex Avery and I posted pieces on the fact that the use of copper sulfate, favored by organic enthusiasts and by wine growers gives rise to anti-biotic resistant bacteria. I have also posted pieces on the higher levels of dioxin in free range chickens and the eggs that they lay. Alex and I have also posted pieces on the higher disease level overall for free range birds such as Campylobacter jejuni.
Any critics of biotechnology care to state why we should not invoke the precautionary principle and ban the use of copper sulphate in organic agriculture and the raising of free range chickens?

How much uranium? - part 5

(read Part 4 here)


Additional Sources of Nuclear Fuel

Even without the third factor cited above - "Changes in Mineral Economics" - there is reason for high confidence that adequate and affordable supplies of uranium can be found to fuel the nuclear industry, even at greatly expanded levels of activity, using current technology. But the third factor - which includes changes in what is economic depending on price, possibilities of substitution, and further advances in nuclear technology - provides added levels of assurance.
Indeed, already well-known nuclear technologies offer a wide range of possibilities for stretching uranium supplies - to a very considerable extent - as market forces render these options economically attractive:

  • Reprocessing Used nuclear fuel can be reprocessed to recover unburned fissile material. Depending on reactor core management, this increases the efficiency of uranium utilization by up to 30 percent. Today, while accounting for only 3% of world nuclear fuel supply, reprocessing is already occurring on a substantial scale and could well become increasingly attractive as market conditions evolve.
  • Increased Enrichment Most reactor types require enriched uranium fuel. If uranium becomes relatively more expensive compared with enrichment (through price changes in either), increasing the input of enrichment services to optimise fuel cost can save on uranium use in reactors.
  • Thorium The element thorium, which is four times more abundant in the Earth's crust than uranium, constitutes an additional source of nuclear fuel. Although thorium is not fissile, it is "fertile" - capable of being converted into fissile U-233 - and technologies for making this conversion are already well advanced in some places, notably India.
  • Enhanced Reactor Efficiency Evolutionary light-water reactor designs, which are all more fuel-efficient than their predecessors, will be the mainstay of nuclear programmes over the next decades. However, in the period beyond 2030, advanced reactor designs such as those included in current multinational research programmes (called Generation IV and INPRO) represent a further step forward in fuel efficiency.
  • Breeder Reactors Some advanced reactor designs are fast-neutron types, which can utilise the U-238 component of natural uranium (as well as the 1.2 million tonnes of depleted uranium now stockpiled as a result of enrichment activities). When such designs are run as "breeder reactors" - with the specific purpose of converting non-fissile U-238 to fissile plutonium - they offer the prospect of multiplying uranium resources 50-fold and thereby extending them far into the future. The technology is well-proven, with some 300 reactor-years of experience, and breeder reactors are already firmly emplaced in the long-range energy plans of such nations as Russia, Japan and India.


The uranium resource is sustainable, with adequate known resources being continuously replenished at least as fast as they are being used. The essential dynamic is the strength of market forces when the market is constantly evolving through advances in human knowledge and the technologies of exploration, mining, and resource utilisation. Depletion of today's known uranium resources will be more than counterbalanced by replenishment from new discoveries, technical progress and possible substitution.

In addition, a huge increase in efficiency is readily possible through the technological step to fast neutron reactors. This option - unique among mineral resources - offers the nuclear industry a special kind of insurance against future resource shortage.

It may therefore be fairly concluded that uranium supplies will be more than adequate to fuel foreseeable expansions of nuclear power. Indeed, in addition to its other noteworthy virtues, an abundant fuel resource will remain a crucial advantage of nuclear power. The world faces many challenges in achieving a global expansion of nuclear energy to fully realise the technology's clean-energy potential. A limited supply of uranium resources is not among them.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Another eco-myth bites the dust

Antibiotic resistance markers in genetically modified plants: a risk to human health?

Summary: Cotransformation with an antibiotic-resistance marker is often necessary in the process of creating a genetically modified (GM) plant. Concern has been expressed that the release of these markers in GM plants may result in an increase in the rate of antibiotic resistance in human pathogens. For such an event to occur, DNA must not be totally degraded in field conditions, and the antibiotic-resistance marker must encounter potential recipient bacteria and be taken up by them, before being integrated into the bacterial genome, and the genes then expressed. In addition, the new recombinant must overcome the physiological disadvantage of acquisition of a piece of foreign DNA, probably in conditions where the new gene does not provide a selective advantage.

We review each of these stages, summarising the investigations that have followed each of these steps. We contrast the potential increase in the antibiotic resistance reservoir created by antibiotic-resistance markers in GM plants with the current situation created by medical antibiotic prescribing. We conclude that, although fragments of DNA large enough to contain an antibiotic-resistance gene may survive in the environment, the barriers to transfer, incorporation, and transmission are so substantial that any contribution to antibiotic resistance made by GM plants must be overwhelmed by the contribution made by antibiotic prescription in clinical practice.

How much uranium? - part 4

(read Part 3 here)


Replenishment and Increase of Known Resources

With uranium as with other mineral resources, published figures will continue to evolve as a result of ongoing exploration and analysis.

The dynamic of the market inevitably creates a pattern whereby usage produces price signals that result in exploration; and historically, expenditure on exploration for uranium, as for other metals, has correlated well with discovery and the replenishment of known economic resources.Of the three "resource-expanding factors" cited above, the first - gains in knowledge of mineral deposits and advances in the technologies of mineral discovery - is highly significant.

A good example involves Canada's main uranium discoveries made in the Athabasca Basin in the 1970s. Then, airborne electromagnetic surveys were effective to only 100 metres depth below the surface. Today such surveys yield useful data ten times as deep - down to a full kilometre.Equally important is the second "resource expanding factor" - gains in mining technology.

Ten years ago, known uranium resources were only 2.1 million tonnes. The increase to 3.5 million tonnes today is partly attributable to the addition of a few new countries and new discoveries. But the growth in known resources is also a function of applying improved techniques of exploitation to yield an expanded definition of previously known deposits.In particular, the development of in situ leaching (ISL) techniques now permits low-cost mining of resources previously viewed as economically non-viable.

As to the power of price signals to trigger uranium exploration, there is fresh evidence. With the almost tripling of spot uranium prices since 2003, we see not only increased exploration expenditure by existing major companies but also the re-emergence of junior uranium exploration companies seeking opportunity.

This expanded activity - which can be expected to produce new discoveries and the eventual commissioning of new uranium mines - is occurring even though prices, in real terms, are still substantially below peak levels of the past.

"Secondary Supplies" of Nuclear Fuel

Secondary supplies of uranium - supplies from military and civilian stockpiles - became important in the period after 1985 as excessive commercial inventories were run down and as East-West arms control began to achieve substantial dismantling of nuclear warheads, yielding commercially usable fissile material. Since then, primary uranium production has regularly filled no more than 60% of annual requirements.

This surplus has had the effect of depressing prices and thus delaying the next exploration cycle, as there was little economic incentive to invest in new developments.

Although these secondary supplies will remain an important part of the market for some years to come, they are by definition limited, as their source is previously-mined uranium. As secondary supplies are depleted, primary uranium production will pick up strongly to fill their place.

Free-range Asian-flu fowl

Farmers warned free range poultry may be barred

Free range poultry farmers in Britain are being warned to make emergency preparations to house millions of runaround birds indoors as UK authorities remain on high alert to the spread of avian flu.

Part of the British government's contingency plan is that Defra can order free range poultry farmers to bring millions of birds inside to reduce the risks.

The NFU is warning more than 300 free range poultry farmers that they must make sure everything is in place to house their birds inside if and when Defra orders them to do so.

We know it is coming

Food for Thought

...agricultural science is increasingly under attack by groups and individuals who, for political rather than scientific reasons, are campaigning to limit advances, especially in new fields such as genetic modification (GM) through biotechnology. Despite this opposition, it is likely that 250 million acres will be planted to GM crops in 2005. Most of this acreage is in the industrialized world, although the area in middle-income developing countries is expanding rapidly. However, the debate over biotechnology in the industrialized countries continues to impede its acceptance in most poor, food-insecure countries.

More than half of the world's 800 million hungry people are small-scale farmers who cultivate marginal lands. New science and biotechnology have the power to address the agro-climatic extremes. Their use lies at the core of extending the Green Revolution to these difficult farming areas. Because there are so many hungry and suffering people, particularly in Africa, attacks on science and biotechnology are especially pernicious. Africa is facing a pandemic scourge of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases, aR 30-year period of continuous degradation in soil fertility, frequent droughts and a burgeoning population.

This set of converging circumstances can lead to a human catastrophe in Africa on a scale the world has never seen. We know it is coming. We have the knowledge to avert it. If we put it off, solving it later will mean the acute suffering -- and even death -- of millions of innocents who could have been spared such a tragedy.

Liberals for GM!

Vote 'No' on GE-Free Ban

The GE-Free campaign represents a part of the liberal movement that is dragging the entire left down with it. It is the cause of a few minds warped by the excess of the '60s. The true nature of the liberal cause is one of embracing new technologies and using them to do great things, in addition to making money. Liberals now face a crossroads between what we have always stood for and what we could evolve into.

Saudi Utah?

Oil Shale Looking Feasible for Future

Dismissed as a pipe dream for decades, the crude oil locked inside oil shale and sands in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming -- not to mention vast reserves in Alberta, Canada, just to the north -- could, within decades, establish North America as the world's pre- eminent oil producer.

"In Alberta, you have dozens of major oil companies, using a variety of technologies and recovery methods, going after very different types of oil sands resources, and in almost every case doing so for less than $20 a barrel, including during their very tough winters," Hatch said.

Alberta is now second only to Saudi Arabia in proven oil reserves and ninth in the world in annual oil production, something Hatch said is due to the successful development of oil sands. And "before long," he said, "Canada will inevitably overtake Saudi Arabia as the world's oil giant."

And Canadian reserves pale next to the undeveloped resources in the Rocky Mountains, he said.
"Utah has more recoverable oil in oil sands than the entire U.S. reserve," Hatch said. "That's a significant number, but it is overshadowed by the fact that the largest recoverable hydrocarbon resource in the world rests within the borders of Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming in the form of oil shale."

The Department of Energy estimates that recoverable oil shale in the western United States exceeds one trillion barrels and is the richest and most geographically concentrated oil shale resource in the world.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

How much uranium? - part 3

(read Part 2 here)


Geology of Uranium

Uranium's average abundance in the Earth's crust is 2.7 parts-per-million (ppm), which is comparable with other metals such as tin, tungsten and molybdenum. In addition, many common rocks such as granite and shales contain much higher uranium concentrations - of 5 to 25 ppm. Uranium is also present in seawater in trace amounts.

Thus, as a starting point, uranium is not scarce in a geological sense.

Moreover, uranium is easily removed from its host minerals. Economically extractable concentrations of uranium also occur in more than a dozen different deposit types in a wide range of geological formations. This diversity is, for example, far greater than that for oil. It means that uranium discoveries need not be confined to a few geological settings and creates a high probability that known economic resources will be replenished.

Uranium Resources

Uranium's history as a resource is quite short, with military demand beginning during World War II and serious non-military demand not arriving until the late 1960's.

Today annual requirements to fabricate fuel for current power reactors amount to about 67,000 tonnes of uranium. According to the authoritative "Red Book" produced jointly by the OECD's Nuclear Energy Agency and the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, the world's present known economic resources of uranium, exploitable at below $80 per kilogram of uranium, are some 3.5 million tonnes. This amount is therefore enough to last for 50 years at today's rate of usage - a figure higher than for many widely used metals.

Current estimates of all expected uranium resources (including those not yet economic or properly quantified) are four times as great, representing 200 years' supply at today's rate of usage.

It cannot be overemphasised that these numbers, though themselves providing a favourable prospect, understate future uranium availability because known resources of most minerals bear little relationship to what is actually in the outer part of the Earth's crust and potentially extractable for use. Known economic resources are an unrealistic indicator of what will actually be available long-term.

At most, they are useful as a guide to what is available for production in an immediate future spanning no more than a few decades.

In the case of current economic resources of uranium, the 50-year quantification is no more than a rear-view mirror perspective on supply. During future consumption of these resources, the dynamics of supply and demand will produce price signals that will inevitably trigger effects involving all three of the "resource-expanding factors" cited above. This is already evident in today's uranium market.

As a commodity, uranium has a short history because it has no direct use apart from supplying the relatively young industry of nuclear energy production. By all evidence, however, the uranium market is little different from that of other metals in being subject to cycles of exploration, discovery and production.

Thus far, uranium has experienced only one such cycle. After initial discoveries, uranium's history shows declining real prices and then, following a price spike in the late 1970s, a significant exploration boom. But this one cycle offers considerable reassurance in that it met reactor requirements for more than half a century while also providing 3.5 million tonnes of known and defined resources awaiting recovery.

Based on this history, it is clearly premature to talk about long-term uranium scarcity.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Resurrection of the Spanish Flu

U.S. scientists have just created a living, killing copy of the 1918 "Spanish" flu.
Hat tip:

...not just any ancient pathogen, explained virologist Eddie Holmes, but "the agent of the most important disease pandemic in human history."

We've learned from this research that the 1918 flu was bird flu, "the most bird-like of all mammalian flu viruses...

We are essentially in a life-or-death race with the bird flu. Can we figure out how to preempt it before it figures out how to evolve into a transmittable form with 1918 lethality that will decimate humanity? To run that race we need the genetic sequence universally known -- not just to inform and guide but to galvanize new research.

On the other hand, resurrection of the virus and publication of its structure open the gates of hell. Anybody, bad guys included, can now create it.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Heavy Metal Nuclear Power

Heavy-Metal Nuclear Power

Could an unconventional coolant enable reactors to burn radioactive waste and produce both electric power and hydrogen?

Heavy Metal Reactor the operation of a standard reactor (in this context the standard reactor was called a burner), while the 235U fissioned, there was also present in the fuel rods a large quantity of 238U. Many of the neutrons produced during the reactor's operation were absorbed by the 238U nuclei to produce plutonium.

In this way one can indirectly use the energy in 238U as well as 235U. If we remember the percentages of these isotopes found in nature (99.3% 238U and 0.7% 235U), we see that there is more than 100 times as much 238U in the earth as 235U. If the burner reactor could, theoretically, satisfy the world's energy needs for decades, the breeder reactor potentially could do so for thousands of years.

The boiling point of Pb-Bi (1670o C) is higher than that of sodium (883o C), and this means the reactor can operate at a higher temperature than the sodium-cooled reactor. This makes the reactor more efficient in producing electricity.

The high boiling point of Pb-Bi also reduces the risk a loss-of-coolant accident. Since the Pb-Bi reactor operates at a temperature far below the boiling point of the coolant, it is unlikely, in the event the reactor overheats, that the coolant will suddenly and rapidly boil away. In contrast, the sodium-cooled reactor operates close to the boiling point of sodium.

Heavy elements are best at absorbing radioactivity; lead is commonly used for shielding from x-rays as well as radioactivity.

One important reason for reconsidering the heavy-metal reactor at this time is its possible use in solving the problem of nuclear waste. ... If transuranics and 238U are placed in a heavy-metal reactor, they will fission, and contribute to the production of electricity. At the same time, they will gradually be converted into fission fragments. The problem of storing relatively short-lived fission fragments is one of safeguarding a site for a period of several hundred years.

The heavy-metal reactor, thus, may provide a way to utilize the energy in the world's 238U reserves, and simultaneously reduce the problem of radioactive waste to a level that appears more manageable than it has up till now.

How much uranium? - part 2

(read Part 1 here)


There is every reason to expect that the world supply of uranium, as of other metals, is sustainable, with adequate known resources being continuously replenished at least as fast as they are being used and at costs affordable to consumers.

Speculation to the contrary represents a misunderstanding of the nature of mineral resource estimates and reflects a short-term perspective that overlooks continuing advances in knowledge and technology and the dynamic economic processes that drive markets.

A Common Fallacy

Concerns about limitations on the Earth's resources go back more than a century. Although they appear intuitive and logical on the basis that mined mineral resources are clearly finite and physically not renewable, in most cases careful analysis shows that limits to the supply of resources are so far away that concerns have little practical meaning.

There are, however, examples such as oil, where prices and sophisticated projections may now be indicating that proven reserves are indeed beginning to run out. Concerns about resource depletion therefore deserve careful examination.

Characteristically, predictions of scarcity based on published mineral reserve figures do not stand up to close scrutiny because they fail to take adequate account of three key "resource-expanding factors":

Gains in Earth Knowledge and Discovery Capabilities. Not accounting for gains in knowledge of the mineral deposits in the Earth's crust and in technologies used to discover them.

Gains in Mining Technology. Not allowing for progress in mining and processing technologies used to recover mineral deposits.

Changes in Mineral Economics. Not taking into account what will be economic over time in light of price changes and technological developments.

Resource Sustainability

To achieve sustainability, the combined effects of mineral exploration and technology development must create known resources at least as fast as they are being used.

Historic data teaches the important lesson that this has regularly occurred, and continues to occur, with most minerals. Reserve margins for metals, stated in terms of multiples of current use, have been continuously replenished or - more often - increased. On average, real prices for metals have tended to fall over time.

It is important to recognise - with any commodity at any time - that one should never expect to see known economic resources of more than a few decades because exploration will only take place if companies are confident of making a financial return. The prospect of return is usually dictated by strong prices flowing from the prospect of imminent undersupply. When this happens, there tends to be a strong surge of exploration effort yielding significant new discoveries.

Nuclear energy is the only energy source that can replace fossil fuels

Statement to the Congressional Subcommittee on Energy & Resources

Nuclear energy is the only non-greenhouse gas-emitting energy source that can effectively replace fossil fuels and satisfy global demand.

Patrick Moore, Ph.D.
Chair and Chief Scientist
Greenspirit Strategies Ltd.

Environmental extremists tend to be anti-human. Humans are characterized as a cancer
on the Earh. To quote eco-extremist Herb Hammond of all the components of the ecosystem, humans are the only ones we know to be completely optional" . Isn t that a lovely thought? It isn't even true.

They are anti-science and technology. Science is invoked to justify positions that have nothing to do with science. Unfounded opinion is accepted over demonstrated fact. You don't need to look any farther than the zero-tolerance policies against genetically enhanced food crops and nuclear energy to see that this is true.

They are anti-business. All large corporations are depicted as inherently driven by greed and corrption. Profits are definitely not politically correct. The liberal democratic market-based model is rejected even though no viable alternative is proposed to provide for the material needs of 6 bilion people. As expressed by the Native Forest Network is necessary to adopt a global phase out strategy of consumer based industrial capitalism."

I think they mean civilization.

And they are just plain anti-civilization. In the final analysis, eco- extremists have a naive vision of returning to a utopian Garden of Eden, which never actually existed conveniently forgetting that just 100 years ago people lived to an average age of 35 , and there were not enough doctors or dentists to go around. In their Brave New World there wil be no more chemicals, no more airplanes, and certainly no more nuclear plants.


As Stewart Brand and other forward-thinking environmentalists and scientists have made clear, technology has now progressed to the point where the activist fear mongering about the safety of nuclear energy bears no resemblance to reality.

The Chernobyl and Three Mile Island reactors, often raised as examples of nuclear catastrophe by activists, were very different from today s rigorously safe nuclear energy technology. Chernobyl was actually an accident waiting to happen , bad design, shoddy construction , poor maintenance and unprofessional operation all combined to cause the only terrible accident in reactor history. In my view the Chemobyl accident was the exception that proves the rule that nuclear reactors are generally safe. Three Mile Island was actually a success story in that the radiation from the parially melted core was contained by the concrete containment structure, it did the job it was designed to do.


The fact that reactors produce nuclear waste is often used to support opposition to them. First, there is no technical obstacle to keeping nuclear waste from entering the environment at harmful levels. Second, this is already being accomplished at hundreds of nuclear power sites around the world. It is simply an issue of secure containment and maintenance. Most important, the spent fuel from reactors stil has over 95% of its potential energy contained within it. Therefore spent fuel should not be disposed of, it should be stored securely so that in the future we can use this energy productively.


By using electricity, or by using heat directly from nuclear reactors to produce hydrogen it may be possible to move from fossil fuels for transport energy to using clean hydrogen thus virtually eliminating smog caused by autos, trucks, and trains.


... around the world, nuclear energy could be used to solve another growing crisis: the increasing shortage of fresh water available for human consumption and crop irrgation.

By using nuclear energy, seawater could be desalinized to satisfy the ever-growing demand for fresh water without the C02 emissions caused by fossil fuel-powered plants.

Coal Combustion Source of Radioactive Material

Coal Combustion: Nuclear Resource or Danger

The fact that coal-fired power plants throughout the world are the major sources of radioactive materials released to the environment has several implications. It suggests that coal combustion is more hazardous to health than nuclear power and that it adds to the background radiation burden even more than does nuclear power. It also suggests that if radiation emissions from coal plants were regulated, their capital and operating costs would increase, making coal-fired power less economically competitive.



Thorium, as well as uranium, can be used as a nuclear fuel. Although not fissile itself, thorium-232 (Th-232) will absorb slow neutrons to produce uranium-233 (U-233), which is fissile. Hence like uranium-238 (U-238) it is fertile.

Over the last 30 years there has been interest in utilising thorium as a nuclear fuel since it is three times as abundant in the earth's crust as uranium. Also, all of the mined thorium is potentially useable in a reactor, compared with the 0.7% of natural uranium, so some 40 times the amount of energy per unit mass might be available.

Friday, October 14, 2005

How much uranium? - part 1

Heavy-Metal Nuclear Power

...the longevity of the world's available nuclear-fuel resources, counting only the conventional geological reserves of uranium, is estimated to be more than 1,000 years at current rates of consumption.

Supply of Uranium

Uranium is ubiquitous on the earth. It is a metal approximately as common as tin or zinc, and it is a constituent of most rocks and even of the sea.

From time to time concerns are raised that the known resources might be insufficient when judged as a multiple of present rate of use. But this is the Limits to Growth fallacy, a major intellectual blunder recycled from the 1970s, which takes no account of the very limited nature of the knowledge we have at any time of what is actually in the Earth's crust. Our knowledge of geology is such that we can be confident that identified resources of metal minerals are a small fraction of what is there.

Current usage is about 68,000 tU/yr. Thus the world's present measured resources of uranium in the lower cost category (3.5 Mt) and used only in conventional reactors, are enough to last for some 50 years. This represents a higher level of assured resources than is normal for most minerals. Further exploration and higher prices will certainly, on the basis of present geological knowledge, yield further resources as present ones are used up. There was very little uranium exploration between 1985 and 2005, so a significant increase in exploration effort could readily double the known economic resources, and a doubling of price from present levels could be expected to create about a tenfold increase in measured resources, over time.

This is in fact suggested in the IAEA-NEA figures if those covering estimates of all conventional resources are considered - 9.7 million tonnes (beyond the 3.5 Mt known economic resources), which is some 140 years' supply at today's rate of consumption.

Widespread use of the fast breeder reactor could increase the utilisation of uranium sixty-fold or more. This type of reactor can be started up on plutonium derived from conventional reactors and operated in closed circuit with its reprocessing plant. Such a reactor, supplied with natural uranium for its "fertile blanket", can be operated so that each tonne of ore yields 60 times more energy than in a conventional reactor.

The world's power reactors, with combined capacity of some 365 GWe, require about 68,000 tonnes of uranium from mines (or the equivalent from stockpiles) each year. While this capacity is being run more productively, with higher capacity factors and reactor power levels, the uranium fuel requirement is increasing but not necessarily at the same rate. The factors increasing fuel demand are offset by a trend for higher burnup of fuel and other efficiencies, so demand is steady. (Over the 18 years to 1993 the electricity generated by nuclear power increased 5.5-fold while uranium used increased only just over 3-fold.) It is likely that the annual uranium demand will grow only slightly to 2010.

Reducing the tails assay in enrichment reduces the amount of natural uranium required for a given amount of fuel.

Reprocessing of spent fuel from conventional light water reactors also utilises present resources more efficiently, by a factor of about 1.3 overall.

The thorium fuel cycle has some attractive features, though it is not yet in commercial use. Thorium is about three times as abundant in the earth's crust as uranium.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Ignoring science?

Look Who's Ignoring Science Now

In the early 20th century, Dunklin County, Missouri, had a higher rate of malarial mortality than Freetown, Sierra Leone. Between 1947 and 1949, DDT was sprayed on the internal walls of nearly 5 million American houses, and at the end of that process malaria had ceased to pose a significant threat in the United States.

DDT also helped to eliminate malaria in Europe and parts of Asia, and in 1970 the National Academy of Sciences estimated that the chemical had prevented 500 million deaths. And yet, despite that astounding number, DDT has all but disappeared from the malaria arsenal. Some 500 million people still get the disease annually, and at least 1 million die, but the World Health Organization refuses to recommend DDT spraying. ...

But the worst culprit is the European Union. It not only refuses to fund DDT spraying: In the case of at least one country, it has also threatened to punish DDT use with import restrictions.

That country is Uganda, which suffered a crippling 12 million cases of malaria in a population of 27 million in 2003. The Ugandans know perfectly well that DDT can help them: As Roger Bate of the American Enterprise Institute recently testified to Congress, DDT spraying in one part of the country in 1959 and 1960 reduced the prevalence of malaria from 22 percent to less than 1 percent.

Will you believe?

Will you believe the next one?

The Economist Dec 20th, 1997

Environmental scare stories now follow such a predictable line that we can chart their course.

Year 1 is the year of the scientist, who discovers some potential threat.

Year 2 is the year of the journalist, who oversimplifies and exaggerates it.

Only now, in year 3, do the environmentalists join the bandwagon (almost no green scare has been started by greens). They polarise the issue. Either you agree that the world is about to come to an end and are fired by righteous indignation, or you are a paid lackey of big business.

Year 4 is the year of the bureaucrat. ... A totemic "target" is the key feature: 30% reductions in sulphur emissions; stabilisation of greenhouse gases at 1990 levels; 140,000 ritually slaughtered healthy British cows.

Year 5 is the time to pick a villain and gang up on him. It is usually America (global warming) or Britain (acid rain) ...

Year 6 is the time for sceptics who say the scare is exaggerated. This drives greens into paroxysms of pious rage. "How dare you give space to fringe views?" cry these once-fringe people to newspaper editors. But by now the scientist who first gave the warning is often embarrassingly to be found among the sceptics. Roger Revelle, nickname "Dr Greenhouse", who fired Al Gore with global warming evangelism, wrote just before his death in 1991: "The scientific basis for greenhouse warming is too uncertain to justify drastic action at this time."

Year 7 is the year of the quiet climb-down. Without fanfare, the official consensus estimate of the size of the problem is shrunk. Thus, when nobody was looking, the population "explosion" became an asymptotic rise to a maximum of just 15 billion; this was then downgraded to 12 billion, then less than 10 billion. That means population will never double again. Greenhouse warming was originally going to be "uncontrolled". Then it was going to be 2.5-4 degrees in a century. Then it became 1.5-3 degrees (according to the United Nations). In two years, elephants went from imminent danger of extinction to badly in need of contraception (the facts did not change, the reporting did).

Health effects of low dose radiation

Dose-effect relationship and estimation of the carcinogenic effects of low
doses of ionizing radiation

There are no convincing data demonstrating a carcinogenic effect of doses below 100 mSv delivered to infants, children or adults.

...use of LNT for assessing the risks of doses below 20 mSv is unjustified
and should be discouraged.

That 70's Climate

Lest we forget: climate crisis - 1975 style.....

From Noah onwards, every age has had its climate crisis. So, lest we forget too easily, here is an article, 'The cooling world', from Newsweek (April 28, 1975) about the 1970's climate crisis of... 'Big Global Cooling':

"There are ominous signs that the Earth's weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production - with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth..." (read on)

Green Bunnies!

Why 'Green Bunnies' will always be 'Unhappy Bunnies' (or the rage of impotence).....

I'm so glad I am not an ecofundamentalist. To be a 'Green Bunny' is to doom oneself to perpetual unhappiness, frustration, and anger with your fellow human beings and the state of the world. The reason is simple. Ecofundamentalism is utopian (and remember "utopia" means "nowhere"). People will just not do what you demand. ...

... The real drive for 'global warming' has always been a neo-puritan agenda to limit growth, to make small beautiful, to reduce population to some nebulous optimum, to rein in the 'Great Satan' (America), to crush the car and aeroplanes, to curb capitalism and globalisation, to continue to laud it over the developing world, especially those rampant Asian dragons, and to return us all to a 'Golden Organic Age' that never was. So powerful is 'global warming' as a legitimising 'science' for this deeply emotional agenda that there is no way the 'Green Bunnies' can drop it, whatever the scientific, economic, and political realities. The burrow would collapse. I actually feel sorry for them.

Oh the joy of being a BioNuclear Bunny!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Robot first

Stanford wins $2 million in robotic car race

All of the teams made history during the weekend, however. They were the first autonomous vehicles to travel far within a specific time frame, as well as the first to finish the 2-year-old military race.

"These vehicles haven't just achieved world records, they've made history," said DARPA Director Tony Tether.

Stanford Racing Team

Carnegie Mellon's Red Teams

Unintended consequences (yet again)

Environmentalists love high oil prices. They get to bash the Oil Companies and SUV owners and give us their "if only you'd listened to us instead of those greedy oil companies, this never would have happened" holier than thou schtick.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton eagerly jumps on this bandwagon: Clinton: Why high oil prices are good thing

Bill Clinton revealed new "greener-than-thou" environmentalist credentials last week, privately suggesting to heads of government and industry leaders at his world forum in New York that they should celebrate the recent spike in oil prices as the best opportunity to begin weaning their nations from fossil-fuel dependency.

"But I think it is a good thing because, believe me, this is going to concentrate minds all around the world. It is quite clear that we are too dependent on hydrocarbons."

We should be weaned off of our fossil-fuel dependency and instead... do what? Burn our forests and foul our air?

Oil Spike Sends New England to Wood the span of a year, the price of good-quality dried wood has gone up from $190 a cord to $205 and beyond, and even "green" wood, which is freshly cut and hard to burn, has jumped by $30 to $170 or more.
Novice stove users burn wood too long and too slowly, and allow a caustic tar of smoke residue to congeal in their chimneys. Then, a burning ember floats up, and the result is a 2,600-degree chimney fire that sounds like a freight train and looks like the inside of a volcano.

In the heyday of the wood-burning 1970s, Lammert said, his department in Thomaston, Maine, population 2,900 at the time, responded to 27 such fires in one winter. When the boom died down, that number became one or two a year. This year, he and other officials believe, the fires will start soon after the first frost.

Calif. Air Proposal Targets Fireplaces

The valley consistently has failed to meet the federal standard for small particle pollution, and burning wood accounts for 30 percent of the problem, releasing particles one-seventh the size of the width of a human hair that can lodge in lungs, triggering headaches, allergies and asthma.
Nationwide, only traffic-congested Los Angeles has dirtier air than the San Joaquin Valley. Hemmed in by the 14,000-foot high Sierra Nevada and two other mountain ranges, the valley's bowl-like topography traps pollution blown in from the Bay area.

Back to the bad ol' days

Bell Bottom Blues

In response to recent increased prices at the pump, the Hawaii legislature imposed caps on the wholesale cost of gasoline. Say aloha to an economic disaster. Energy price controls, embraced in the 1970s by Presidents Nixon and Carter, were a bipartisan failure. The Maui News editorialized against its state legislature's decision, remarking, "In the early 1970s, President Richard M. Nixon pushed a program of price controls. Economists credit the effort as the reason for nearly a decade of nationwide stagflation."
As profits rise along with prices -- assuming no price controls or more taxes -- fuel providers will respond with greater incentive to expand research and development of human capital and technology in order to extract and develop products and deliver them to customers.

The best way to combat rising prices is to permit the market to increase supply. And recently rising prices place in stark relief what's really been preventing that increased supply: our political class.
Massachusetts Sens. Kerry and Kennedy have opposed siting LNG terminals in their region. They also recently voted against an energy bill that would help get more natural gas to market. The Bay State political class has been blocking the surest way to decrease energy costs for their constituents by opposing measures to ease supply. And now it wants price controls?

Don't bite the hand...

Encourage Supply: A Cure for the Public's Anger

$3 gasoline hurts consumers and the economy as a whole. The question, however, is what to do?

The worst approach is one now being considered by the Senate: slap a windfall profits tax, or WPT, on oil companies.

The United States has tried this before, between 1980 and 1987, and the results were hugely counterproductive, according to a 1990 Congressional Research Service report.

"The WPT reduced domestic oil production between 3 and 6 percent, and increased oil imports from between 8 and 16 percent," says the report. "This made the U.S. more dependent upon imported oil."

It's not hard to understand why. Energy companies are in a very risky business. They (and the investors and lenders who back them) commit hundreds of billions of dollars annually to searching for oil and gas, and to building or expanding refineries, ports and pipelines. These projects take many years to complete and the payoff down the road is highly uncertain.

Contact your Senators: give us a break from high gasoline prices

H.R.3893, Gasoline for America's Security Act of 2005 passed the house on Friday in a close vote (see post here for details).

A number hasn't been assigned to the Senate version of H.R3893 yet (you can keep track of current U.S. Senate Bills
here - search for H.R.3893).

If you're tired of paying unnecessarily high gasoline prices because we haven't built a refinery in the U.S. since 1976 (!) because of the overly burdensome Byzantine State and Federal regulations, contact your Senators now and tell them to vote yes on the Senate version H.R.3893!

If you think this bill is unnecessary because "the oil companies are just taking advantage of Katrina to engage in 'price gouging'", read this: Dangerous Demagoguery

... at the height of the summer driving season, Katrina shut down platforms producing one-sixth of US domestic oil production; and LOOP (Louisiana Offshore Oil Port), which throughputs 30% of US oil imports. She damaged handling facilities and refineries that process almost one-half of our domestic and foreign oil; and the tank farms and pipelines that move most of that oil and gasoline to the US Northeast and Midwest.
They [politicians and journalists] knew that US refineries had been at full capacity for years; they should figure out that damage to, and shutdown of, six major refineries could make a big difference in US gasoline supply -- and US gasoline prices.

They knew that the US imports more than half of all the oil that Americans use; they should figure out that closing LOOP and losing 8.5% of US crude oil imports would make a difference in total US crude oil supply. And they should figure out that damage to onshore petroleum receiving facilities in New Orleans, Biloxi, Mobile and other major Gulf ports could make a huge difference to total US supply, as could damage to the pipelines that move crude oil and product around the country.

Finally, they should figure out that each of those things has some impact on costs to consumers; the combined impact is inescapably large.

Relief in site from burdensome junk-science regulations

Refinery Bill Passes

( - House Republicans have called a Friday morning press conference to drum up support for a bill that would "expedite" the construction of new oil refineries in the United States.

The goal of the Gasoline for America's Security Act (GAS Act) is to "provide reliable and affordable energy for the American people," the bill says.
No new refinery has been built in the United States since 1976. The bill says there are 148 refineries currently operating in the U.S., down from 324 in 1981. And imports are growing to meet increasing U.S. demand.

More about the bill: Bill Aims to Encourage New Refinery Building

ID Tech

I recommend the following by Dembski from

Design by Elimination vs. Design by Comparison

Specification: The Pattern That Signifies Intelligence


More ID

Other useful articles on Intelligent Design:

The Scientific Status of Intelligent Design:The Methodological Equivalence of Naturalistic and Non-Naturalistic Origins Theories

...with few exceptions most contemporary philosophers of science regard the question "What methods distinguish science from nonscience?" as both intractable and uninteresting. What, after all, is in a name? Certainly not automatic epistemic warrant or authority. Thus philosophers of science have increasingly realized that the real issue is not whether a theory is scientific but whether it is true or warranted by the evidence. Thus, as Martin Eger has summarized, "demarcation arguments have collapsed. Philosophers of science don't hold them anymore. They may still enjoy acceptance in the popular world, but that's a different world."

The "demise of the demarcation problem," as Laudan calls it, implies that the use of positivistic demarcationist arguments by evolutionists is, at least prima facie, on very slippery ground. Laudan's analysis suggests that such arguments are not likely to succeed in distinguishing the scientific status of descent vis-a-vis design or anything else for that matter. As Laudan puts it, “If we could stand up on the side of reason, we ought to drop terms like ‘pseudo-science.’… They do only emotive work for us.”

If philosophers of science such as Laudan are correct, a stalemate exists in our analysis of design and descent. Neither can automatically qualify as science; neither can be necessarily disqualified either. The a priori methodological merit of design and descent are indistinguishable if no agreed criteria exist by which to judge their merits.

The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories

Sophisticated mathematically-based models of population genetics have proven adequate for mapping and understanding quantitative variability and populational changes in organisms. Yet Muller and Newman insist that population genetics, and thus evolutionary biology, has not identified a specifically causal explanation for the origin of true morphological novelty during the history of life. Central to their concern is what they see as the inadequacy of the variation of genetic traits as a source of new form and structure. They note, following Darwin himself, that the sources of new form and structure must precede the action of natural selection--that selection must act on what already exists. Yet, in their view, the “genocentricity” and “incrementalism” of the neo-Darwinian mechanism has meant that an adequate source of new form and structure has yet to be identified by theoretical biologists. Instead, Muller and Newman see the need to identify epigenetic sources of morphological innovation during the evolution of life. In the meantime, however, they insist neo-Darwinism lacks any “theory of the generative”.

As it happens, Muller and Newman are not alone in this judgment. In the last decade or so a host of scientific essays and books have questioned the efficacy of selection and mutation as a mechanism for generating morphological novelty, as even a brief literature survey will establish.

"" and Intelligent Design

According to editor (search for "intelligent design" reference on that page), Barry Hearn:

"Alleged ID and Creation (there, better?) are matters of faith with zero requirement for science nor proof. In fact, "He said it. I believe it. That's an end to it." leaves no room for debate, informed, reasoned or otherwise - it's faith and perfectly sufficient for believers. The bottom line here is that, if you believe, that's fine, as it is if you don't believe - just don't confuse belief with science." is a unique and reliable resource exposing the bad science used by greens to push their political agenda. But they aren't very good philosophers of science.

Science and the Laws of Nature

... design is ruled out-of-court because it invokes an intelligent agent rather than natural laws. Philosopher of science Michael Ruse, for example, has said:

Science attempts to understand this world. What is the basis for this understanding? Surveying science and the history of science today, one thing stands out: Science involves the search for order. More specifically, science looks for unbroken, blind, natural regularities (laws). Things in the world do not happen in just any old way. They follow set paths, and science tries to capture this fact.

There are serious problems with this view, however. One problem is that it ignores areas of scientific investigation where intelligent design is a necessary explanatory concept. The Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is one example. ...

Archaeology would meet the same fate. Archaeologists routinely distinguish manufactured objects (e.g., arrowheads, potsherds) from natural ones (e.g., stones), even when the differences between them are very subtle. ...

A second problem with limiting science to blind, natural regularities is that it confuses laws with explanations--an error that philosopher of science William Alston calls "a 'category mistake' of the most flagrant sort." Laws and explanations are often two different things.

Scientific explanations often invoke not only laws but causal events and actions. For example, consider the field of modern cosmology. Most cosmologists explain the features of our universe not only by reference to the laws of physics, but by reference to a single event: the Big Bang. The Big Bang explains why galaxies throughout the universe seem to be receding from each other. It also explains the presence of low-level radiation that seems to permeate space. These phenomena cannot be explained solely by reference to physical laws or natural regularities. Rather, the critical explanatory feature of (Big Bang) is a one-time event that established the conditions responsible for the phenomena that we now witness.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Hockeystick Hooey

Testimony of Michael Crichton before the United States Senate
Committee on Environment and Public Works, Washington, D.C.
September 28, 2005

... in 1998-99 the American climate researcher Michael Mann and his co-workers published an estimate of global temperatures from the year 1000 to 1980. Mann's results appeared to show a spike in recent temperatures that was unprecedented in the last thousand years. His alarming report formed the centerpiece of the U.N.'s Third Assessment Report, in 2001.

... Mann's work has since been dismissed by scientists around the world who subscribe to global warning.

Why did the UN accept Mann's report so uncritically? Why didn't they catch the errors? Because the IPCC doesn't do independent verification. And perhaps because Mann himself was in charge of the section of the report that included his work.

The flaws in Mann's work were not caught by climate scientists, but rather by outsiders-in this case, an economist and a mathematician. They had to go to great lengths to obtain data from Mann's team, which obstructed them at every turn. When the Canadians sought help from the NSF, they were told that Mann was under no obligation to provide his data to other researchers for independent verification.

German commercial interests kill African children

Africa Fighting Malaria NEWS RELEASE

German commercial interests kill African children: opposition to DDT increases malaria in Uganda

93% of Uganda's population is at risk from malaria, with millions of cases and thousands of deaths annually. But senior management within German chemical giant Bayer Crop Sciences is putting commercial profit above the lives of Uganda's children, by denying them use of the life-saving insecticide DDT.

Many poor countries with malaria use DDT to control the mosquitoes that carry the parasites. DDT is sprayed in tiny amounts on the inside walls of dwellings, in carefully controlled programs that save countless thousands of lives, mainly children, every year.

But Bayer sees things differently. "We fully support [the EU's decision] to ban imports of agricultural products coming from countries using DDT," Bayer vector control manager Gerhard Hesse proudly proclaimed in an email exchange with malaria scientists. Admitting that "DDT use is for us a commercial threat," Dr. Hesse went on to expound a series of half-truths and outright falsehoods, mostly denigrating the use of DDT.

Ugandan Health Minister, Jim Muhwezi is determined to use DDT. Speaking at a World Malaria Day commemoration in April 2005, Muhwezi noted that "DDT has been proven, over and over again, to be the most effective and least expensive method of fighting malaria."

Britain's leading malaria specialist, Professor Chris Curtis of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says of the threatened EU ban: "We are now informed that the ban is supported by a multi-national insecticide manufacturer. Such a ban would presumably be in the interests of the manufacturer, who could expect increased sales of its insecticides. However, it would not be in the interests of Ugandans, who wish to protect as many people as possible from malaria with the limited funding available for vector control."

Don Roberts, Professor of Tropical Public Health at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, said "there is overwhelming evidence that malarious countries are being pressed by rich countries not to use DDT. It is a chilling thought that rich and powerful countries are willing to trade the lives of poor rural people for reasons that have no basis in science."

Organic Farming System Yields 30 Percent Less Food

Organic Farming System Yields 30 Percent Less Food Than Conventional System

The research, by David Pimentel and researchers at the organic Rodale Institute, reveals that the food production deficit of the organic farming system is a result of needing to devote time and land to growing organic fertilizer rather than food.

-- the organic system lost 32 percent of the nitrogen added to its system compared to only 20 percent for the conventional, demonstrating greater nitrogen use efficiency in the conventional system
-- organic system required 35 percent more labor
-- contrary to claims made in the paper, no evidence is given to support claims of lower soil erosion in the organic system

Critically, the Rodale research does not compare organic farming to the latest no- and low-tillage farming systems increasingly adopted by non-organic farmers with the advent of herbicide-tolerant biotech crops. These no- and low-tillage farming systems reduce soil loss rates to near zero and improve soil quality, porosity, and water-holding capacity.

Claims of equal yields by organic researchers and organic groups must be analyzed in the context of the whole farm and when this is done, no organic farming system has ever shown equal food production.

No More Chicken Run

No More Chicken Run

Factory farming is healthier: for animals and people. That's the take-home message as Dutch health authorities this week ordered free-range poultry farmers to bring inside their five million outdoor birds. There the birds will be less vulnerable to catching or spreading the deadly avian flu virus that's made its way from Southeast Asia to the doorstep of European Russia in recent weeks.

Southeast Asia has been the origin of all pandemic flu strains and the less deadly annual flu varieties. The new H5N1 flu strain has killed more than 60 people in Asia and destroyed Asia's poultry industry. Why? Free-range farming.

To lower the risk of a deadly pandemic, Asian authorities are instituting several immediate steps: First, they have shut down the traditional live poultry markets in the major cities—a brewing virus-swapping cauldron. Second, they are encouraging farmers to confine their animals and to separate them by species. Ducks are being emphasized because of their interaction with wild waterfowl and because they are silent carriers of the flu virus.

Raising poultry in confinement also makes our food directly safer. Research in the U.K. and Denmark has shown that free-range poultry is three times more likely to be contaminated by salmonella and campylobacter bacteria—two of the most common illness-causing, food-borne bacteria. Why? They're exposed to far more of these pathogens from wild bird droppings.

Will the Greens Apologize to New Orleans?

Will the Greens Apologize to New Orleans?

When will the environmentalists apologize to the people of New Orleans? For decades, the Greens have sued to stop virtually every effort to strengthen the city's levees. They also prevented the construction of floodgates at the sea entrances of Lake Pontchartrain that could have stopped the storm surge from reaching the city at its historically most-vulnerable point.

In 1977, U.S. District Judge Charles Schwartz Jr. issued an injunction against the Army Corps of Engineers' project to install floodgates on Lake Pontchartrain. He wrote, "plaintiffs herein have demonstrated that they, and in fact all persons in this area, will be irreparably harmed if the barrier project . . . is allowed to continue."

I wonder if "all the persons in this area" would today agree with the judge that the floodgates would have caused them "irreparable harm."

Zimbabwe to import maize to feed citizens

"Zimbabwe to import maize to feed citizens"

HARARE, Zimbabwe --The Zimbabwean government plans to assist at least 2.2 million people it says are incapable of feeding themselves until the next harvest, due in April 2006, according to the country's director of Social Welfare.

President Robert Mugabe has so far refused to appeal for assistance but said foreign donations would be permitted, providing they carried no conditional demands for political or economic reform, and contained no genetically modified foodstuffs.

Mugabe's leading human rights critic, Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo, alleges the authorities have widely abused access to food, through the state monopoly Grain Marketing Board, as a weapon of political intimidation. Pro-government tribal leaders were required to exclude families of suspected opposition sympathizers.

Independent experts say shortfalls result from destruction of commercial agriculture, through Mugabe's seizure of 5,000 white-owned farms, and a resulting economic collapse causing lack of seed, fertilizer, fuel, equipment and chemicals for small-scale farmers.

Swedes Develop Anti-allergy Apple

"Swedes Develop Anti-allergy Apple"

Swedish scientists have developed an apple with a reduced amount of the protein Ma1 d 1, which is known to cause allergic reactions.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Hungry for Biotechnology

Hungry for Biotechnology

The European Union and fellow traveling anti-biotech activists may well succeed in bottling up the next wave of genetically improved crops that aim directly at helping poor farmers in the developing world. How? Anti-biotech European regulations are spooking the governments of poor countries into preventing their farmers from growing the new genetically enhanced crops.

Golden rice was the first crop developed specifically as a nutritional enhancement for hundreds of millions of vitamin A–deficient poor people whose main staple is rice. In the developing world some 500,000 people per year go blind due to vitamin A deficiency. Conventional rice produces almost no vitamin A. Golden rice has a yellow hue because it has been genetically engineered to produce beta-carotene, the yellow precursor molecule that is turned into vitamin A by the body. ... A new version released this year, containing genes from corn (maize) has boosted the amount of beta-carotene per serving to 50 percent of the RDA.

EU politicians and bureaucrats have built an all but impenetrable wall of anti-biotech regulations around themselves. Wielding these onerous crop biotechnology regulations, the EU, on specious safety grounds, has essentially banned the importation of most biotech crops and foods. But these regulations do not only have consequences for European farmer and consumers.

Anti-Biotech Film a 'Crockumentary'

Anti-Biotech Film a 'Crockumentary'

An infamous biodiversity scare featured in the movie involved Monarch butterflies. The scare occurred during 1999-2000 when the media trumpeted alarmist results from two laboratory studies reporting that biotech corn might harm Monarch butterfly larvae. Subsequent field studies soon debunked the scare, reporting that Monarch larvae actually fared better inside biotech cornfields than in natural areas because of less pressure from predators. Needless to say, Monarchs in biotech cornfields also did much better than those in conventional cornfields sprayed with insecticides.

A commercial variety is now available for planting, but it will be at least five years before Golden Rice will be able to work its way through the Byzantine regulatory system that has been set up as a result of the activists campaign of misinformation and speculation, [Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore, now a vociferous critic of the activist group] said. So the risk of not allowing farmers in Africa and Asia to grow Golden Rice is that another 2.5 million children will probably go blind.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The End of Homeopathy?

The End of Homeopathy?

In its current issue, The Lancet published a massive study that compared the results of 110 trials of homeopathy with the same number of trials of conventional medicine. The conclusion: benefits attributed to homeopathy were, at best, placebo effects.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

No scientific evidence that low-level radiation is harmful

Science Panel Finds Low-Level Radiation Unlikely to Harm Health

New York, New York -- September 23, 2005. Low-level radiation -- from natural or man-made sources -- is unlikely to pose a threat to human health, according to scientists associated with the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH).

Scientists understand how exposure to high doses of radiation -- for example, those experienced by survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs -- increases the risk of illness and cancer. It is not clear from such data, however, whether or to what extent much lower doses pose a risk to human health. Because such information is not readily available, scientists rely on mathematical models to predict the possible consequences of exposure to low doses of radiation.

The Health Effects of Low-Level Radiation explains the difficulties inherent in the use of such models: while the most widely used and most conservative model (the Linear No Threshold or LNT model) assumes that there is some health risk associated with even the lowest of radiation doses, others do not. Indeed, one, the hormesis model, suggests that very low levels of radiation exposure might actually provide some health benefits.

15 year refinery project

Would More Refineries Lower Gas Prices?

"Everybody has come to recognize in the last six to eight months that there is a significant shortage of refining capacity in this country," said Glenn McGinnis, chief executive officer of Arizona Clean Fuels.

Analysts say just a few new big refineries could produce enough extra gasoline to make a dent in prices. But building even a small refinery in the United States is a monumental task just ask McGinnis.

He's been trying to build a refinery on a patch of Arizona desert for a decade, and at this point hopes to be operational in early 2010. It's taken five years to get the air quality permits the site had to be moved from Phoenix to Yuma and they still won't break ground for another year.

"By the time we're completed, it will have been 15 years since the project really got started until we got product to the market," McGinnis said.

Enough chlorine gas to kill 400 trillion people

The Nuclear Energy Option

If nuclear power was used to the fullest practical extent in the United States, we would need about 300 power plants of the type now in use. The waste produced each year would then be enough to kill (300 x 50 million =) over 10 billion people. ...

We [also] produce enough chlorine gas each year to kill 400 trillion people, enough phosgene to kill 20 trillion, enough ammonia and hydrogen cyanide to kill 6 trillion with each, enough barium to kill 100 billion, and enough arsenic trioxide to kill 10 billion.

All of these numbers are calculated, as for the radioactive waste, on the assumption that all of it gets into people. I hope these comparisons dissolve the fear that, in generating nuclear electricity, we are producing unprecedented quantities of toxic materials.