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Intelligence Brief: Brazil's Nuclear Ambitions''
Power & Internet News Report (PINR)
Brazil's Science and Technology Minister Sergio Rezende told the press on May 6 that Brasilia has launched a uranium enrichment center for fueling its power plants. Brazil's first nuclear enrichment facility, located in Resende (about 140 kilometers (87 miles) outside Rio de Janeiro), will "save Brazil millions of dollars it now spends to enrich fuel at Urenco, the European enrichment consortium," the minister said. Brazil's move has great industrial, geopolitical, and financial significance.
...Brasilia is wagering on a combination between alternative fuels like ethanol and nuclear power. Such a mix is similar to recent French plans to launch a new generation of nuclear plants while boosting renewable energies and bio-fuels.
(18 May 2006)
'Wonder plant' to fuel India
Siddharth Srivastava, Asia Times
NEW DELHI - Runaway crude oil prices have lent new urgency to India's quest for alternative and renewable fuels, and biofuels, especially biodiesel using the jatropha plant and, to a lesser extent, ethanol, are increasingly being seen as an appealing option.
Recently, private sector giant Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) set aside US$500 million to set up a biodiesel refining plant and earmarked 200 acres of land at Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh as a pilot project to cultivate jatropha shrubs.
Jatropha, a tree originating in the Western hemisphere (species name Jatropha curcus), produces fruit which, though inedible, contains a nut with a very high oil content; once extracted, the oil can be used as a fuel without further refining.
...Indian Railways, one of the biggest diesel guzzlers, has planted jatropha on thousands of acres of land along rail tracks. The railway is preparing a "bio-locomotive" to run on August 10, International Biodiesel Day.
Siddharth Srivastava is a New Delhi-based journalist.
(18 May 2006)
Japan warned over its energy security
David Pilling, Financial Times
Japan’s very “existence as a state” could be compromised if it does not develop a more strategic approach to energy security, according to a report presented to Junichiro Koizumi, prime minister, on Thursday.
The report from the Japan Forum on International Relations, an independent think-tank, says: “Japan’s overall approach lags behind the changes occurring in the world. The strategic importance of energy has a far greater importance than is appreciated in Japan.”
Big changes in the global energy balance - including the voracious appetite of China and India, geopolitical uncertainty in oil-producing regions, and dwindling oil and gas reserves in advanced nations - mean Japan can no longer view energy as a mere commodity to be bought on the international market.
“This shift has caused national interests to start colliding in the international energy market,” the report says, alluding to energy diplomacy by suppliers such as Russia and Venezuela, as well as disputes over resources, such as that between Japan and China over gas reserves in the East China Sea.
(18 May 2006)
Taking Wind Mainstream
Karl Stahlkopf, IEEE Spectrum
... one often hears questions related to wind power's intermittent nature; unavoidably, electricity is generated only when the wind blows. Can the power grid handle massive amounts of variable production? Can wind energy be delivered where it's needed when it's needed? Can wind energy harnessed at times of low demand be stored for high-demand periods? Can new storage technologies be devised so that wind energy would become, in effect, dispatchable? The answer to all of these questions is yes, and in some cases the answers are already in practice.
Wind-energy and power-transmission technologies are already adapting to accommodate the impressive growth of wind power. Large semiconductor devices referred to collectively as power electronics are, for example, enabling wind farms to provide rapid response to fluctuations in grid frequency and voltage. This is one of many reasons why grid studies consistently estimate that the cost of integrating wind power will be low. However, integration costs will rise when one considers small power grids or high proportions of wind power in a grid. In such cases, power electronics devices can be combined with energy storage technologies that operate over a range of time scales to manage the shifts in wind power production. In fact, a growing number of innovative energy storage options are providing grid operators ways to dispatch wind power in the same way they do with thermal generating plants. Continental supergrids eventually will help, too, by distributing wind-generated power across whole regions, balancing regions where the wind happens to be blowing with those that may be becalmed, while simultaneously spreading the burden of providing backup power.
What follows is a taste of the technology and policy strategies that are already helping to give wind power new strategic importance, and which will be critical to sustaining its growth in coming decades.
Recommended by Walter Derzko at Smart Economy.
Texas Could Accelerate to 80 MPH
Larry Copeland, USA TODAY via Yahoo!News
The nation's top legal driving speed soon could rise to a long-forbidden 80 mph as Texas moves toward increasing the limit on parts of two interstate highways.
The proposed increase on Interstates 10 and 20 in West Texas is opposed by some national traffic safety advocates, who say speed contributes to many crashes.
...The move comes amid soaring gas prices. The
Department of Energy says that gas mileage drops sharply at speeds over 60 mph, and that drivers can assume that each 5 mph over 60 is like paying an additional 20 cents per gallon of gas.
American drivers have not seen a "Speed Limit 80" sign in more than three decades. The Kansas Turnpike had an 80-mph limit beginning in 1956, and Nevada and Montana had no numeric limits on some rural highways at times in the past. In 1974, Congress instituted a national 55-mph limit, which it lifted in 1995. States now set speed limits, even on federal highways. Thirteen states in the West and Midwest have 75-mph limits.
(17 May 2006)
Related: On speed (Gristmill)