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The U.S. May Soon Have the World’s Oldest Nuclear Power Plants

The U.S. May Soon Have the World’s Oldest Nuclear Power Plants

Preface. This is nuts. Sea level rise threatens many nuclear power plants and drought has shut plants down since they need cooling to operate.

As nuclear reactor age, they require more intensive monitoring and preventive maintenance to operate safely. But reactor owners have not always taken this obligation seriously enough. Given that older reactors require more attention from the regulator, not less, it is perplexing that the NRC wants to scale back its inspections of the aging reactor fleet and its responses to safety violations. Six years ago, the US Government Accountability Office pointed out that “NRC’s oversight will soon likely take on even greater importance as many commercial reactors … are reaching or have reached the end of their initial 40-year operating period.” (Lyman 2019).

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Natter, A. 2020. The U.S. May Soon Have the World’s Oldest Nuclear Power Plants. Bloomberg.


In December federal regulators approved Florida Power & Light Co.’s request to let the facility’s twin nuclear reactors remain in operation for another 20 years beyond the end of their current licenses. By that point they’ll be 80, making them the oldest reactors in operation anywhere in the world.

“That’s too old,” said Rippingille, a lawyer and retired Miami-Dade County judge who was wearing a blue print shirt with white sea turtles on it. “They weren’t designed for this purpose

With backing from the Trump administration, utilities across the nation are preparing to follow suit, seeking permission to extend the life of reactors built in the 1970s to the 2050s as they run up against the end of their 60-year licenses.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

High-level nuclear waste storage degrades faster than thought

High-level nuclear waste storage degrades faster than thought

Preface. Burying nuclear waste ought to be a top priority, now that it appears peak oil may have happened in November of 2018 (Patterson 2019) and perhaps even sooner if covid-19 crashes the world economy (Tverberg 2020). It won’t happen after oil production peaks, when it is rationed to agriculture and other essential services. Our descendants shouldn’t have to cope with nuclear waste on top of all the other destruction we’re causing in the world.

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OSU. 2020. High-level nuclear waste storage materials will likely degrade faster than previously thought. Ohio State University.

Study finds the materials — glass, ceramics and stainless steel — interact to accelerate corrosion.

The materials the United States and other countries plan to use to store high-level nuclear waste will likely degrade faster than anyone previously knew because of the way those materials interact, new research shows.

The findings, published today in the journal Nature Materials, show that corrosion of nuclear waste storage materials accelerates because of changes in the chemistry of the nuclear waste solution, and because of the way the materials interact with one another.

“This indicates that the current models may not be sufficient to keep this waste safely stored,” said Xiaolei Guo, lead author of the study and deputy director of Ohio State’s Center for Performance and Design of Nuclear Waste Forms and Containers, part of the university’s College of Engineering. “And it shows that we need to develop a new model for storing nuclear waste.”

The team’s research focused on storage materials for high-level nuclear waste — primarily defense waste, the legacy of past nuclear arms production. The waste is highly radioactive. While some types of the waste have half-lives of about 30 years, others — for example, plutonium — have a half-life that can be tens of thousands of years. The half-life of a radioactive element is the time needed for half of the material to decay.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Building a national super grid in America

Building a national super grid in America

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is national-grid.jpg

Preface. Renewables are not evenly distributed.  Just 10 states have 80% of hydropower (Homeland Security 2011), 10 states produce 75% of wind power (EIA 2017), and 10 states produce 79% of solar power (CE 2020).

With a national grid, instead of having to curtail power so the grid isn’t overwhelmed, the power could be sent places needing electricity, especially entire South East, which has very little commercial-scale wind year round (Friedemann 2015).

But there is no national grid in sight (St John 2020) for many reasons listed below — the extremely high cost, the chance that this would actually make the grid more unstable and lead to a national blackout, NIMBYism at every level, and bureaucracies.

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A national supergrid is seen as essential for integrating renewable power into the electric grid, since many regions of the US have limited renewable power options and a very large grid is needed to keep it in balance, since the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining everywhere at once, nor do vast regions have hydropower, geothermal, and other renewable power at all.

Just as many natural gas and oil deposits are stranded and unexploited because the cost to build pipelines to them is too high, many renewable resources are unable to generate enough power to justify building transmission lines to them, or they’re too far from cities.

If America tried to balance intermittent power over a wide area like Denmark and construct a national grid, there is the potential for a national blackout.

Although large regions can increase stability, this isn’t always true, since operators can’t see adjoining systems well enough to detect impending extreme events and take countermeasures quickly (CEC).

Size doesn’t always increase reliability because it provides multiple paths for local disturbances to propagate, which can lead to complex chains of cascading failures (Morgan).

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Human over-consumption causes far more biodiversity loss than climate change

Human over-consumption causes far more biodiversity loss than climate change

Preface.  Human ancestors began reducing biodiversity 4 million years ago, when large carnivores in Africa began disappearing, probably due to our ancestors stealing food predators had caught, starving them to death and eventually driving some of them extinct (Faurby, S., et al. 2020. Brain expansion in early hominins predicts carnivore extinctions in East Africa. Ecology Letters.)

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2016-8-13. Climate change isn’t the biggest danger to Earth’s wildlife, our thirst for natural resources is even more damaging

2016-8-10 “Biodiversity: The ravages of guns, nets, and bulldozers” Nature)

Even though climate change is going to have a very powerful impact on plants and wildlife world-wide, climate change has also become a scape-goat, with a “growing tendency for media reports about threats to biodiversity to focus on climate change.”

But scientists have found that over-exploitation, including logging, hunting, fishing and the gathering of plants is the biggest single killer of biodiversity, directly impacting 72% of the 8,688 species listed as threatened or near-threatened by the IUCN. Agricultural activity comes second, affecting 62% of those species, followed by urban development at 35% and pollution at 22%.  Species such as the African cheetah and Asia’s hairy-noes otter are among the 5,407 species that find themselves threatened by agricultural practices, while illegal hunting impacts several populations such as the Sumatran rhino and African elephant.

Climate change on the other hand comes in on a surprising, if somewhat unimpressive, 7th place in the 11 threats identified by the team. Even when you combine all its effects, it currently threatens just 19% of the species on the list, the team reports. Species such as the hooded seal, which the team reports has seen a population decline of 90% in the northeastern Atlantic Arctic over the past few decades as a result of declining ice cover, are part of the 1,688 species directly impacted by climate change.

Nuclear waste will last a lot longer than climate change

Nuclear waste will last a lot longer than climate change

Preface.   One of the most tragic aspects of peak oil is that it is very unlikely once energy descent begins that oil will be expended to clean up our nuclear mess.  Or before descent either.  Anyone who survives peak fossil fuels and after that, rising sea levels and extreme weather from climate change, will still be faced with nuclear waste as a deadly pollutant and potential weapon. 

According to Archer (2008): “… there are components of nuclear material that have a long lifetime, such as the isotopes plutonium 239 (24,000 year half-life), thorium 230 (80,000 years), and iodine 129 (15.7 million years). Ideally, these substances must be stored and isolated from reaching ground water until they decay, but the lifetimes are so immense that it is hard to believe or to prove that this can be done”.

Below are summaries of two articles on nuclear waste.

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Ro, C. 2019. The Staggering Timescales Of Nuclear Waste Disposal. Forbes.

This most potent form of nuclear waste needs to be safely stored for up to a million years. Yet existing and planned nuclear waste sites operate on much shorter timeframes: often 10,000 or 100,000 years. These are still such unimaginably vast lengths of time that regulatory authorities decide on them, in part, based on how long ice ages are expected to last.

Strategies remain worryingly short-term, on a nuclear timescale. Chernobyl’s destroyed reactor no. 4, for instance, was encased in July 2019 in a massive steel “sarcophagus” that will only last 100 years. Not only will containers like this one fall short of the timescales needed for sufficient storage, but no country has allotted enough funds to cover nuclear waste disposal. In France and the US, according to the recently published World Nuclear Waste Report, the funding allocation only covers a third of the estimated costs. And the cost estimates that do exist rarely extend beyond several decades.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change

Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change

climate-change-frog-jumping

Preface. This is a summary of the National Research Council 2013 study of abrupt changes of climate change.

Related:

2019-12-6. Research reveals past rapid Antarctic ice loss due to ocean warming.  “…the sensitive West Antarctic Ice Sheet collapsed during a warming period just over a million years ago when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were lower than today.”

2015-8-5. The Point of No Return: Climate Change Nightmares Are Already Here.  The worst predicted impacts of climate change are starting to happen — and much faster than climate scientists expected. Rolling Stone.

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NRC. 2013. Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating surprises. National Research Council, National Academies of Sciences press.

“Abrupt climate change is generally defined as occurring when some part of the climate system passes a threshold or tipping point resulting in a rapid change that produces a new state lasting decades or longer (Alley et al., 2003). In this case “rapid” refers to timelines of a few years to decades.

“Abrupt climate change can occur on a regional, continental, hemispheric, or even global basis. Even a gradual forcing of a system with naturally occurring and chaotic variability can cause some part of the system to cross a threshold, triggering an abrupt change. Therefore, it is likely that gradual or monotonic forcings increase the probability of an abrupt change occurring.

Climate is changing, forced out of the range of the last million years by levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases not seen in Earth’s atmosphere for a very long time.

It is clear that the planet will be warmer, sea level will rise, and patterns of rainfall will change. But the future is also partly uncertain—there is considerable uncertainty about how we will arrive at that different climate.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Were other humans the first victims of the 6th mass extinction?

Were other humans the first victims of the 6th mass extinction?

Preface. This article makes a good case that we did indeed wipe out other hominids. “…Yet the extinction of Neanderthals, at least, took a long time—thousands of years. While Neanderthals lost the war, to hold on so long they must have fought and won many battles against us, suggesting a level of intelligence close to our own.”

I seriously doubt we’ll drive ourselves extinct, though carrying capacity of the earth is at best 1 billion (pre-fossil fuels) or less (topsoil erosion, deforestation, pollution, climate change, etc).

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Longrich, N. 2019. Were other humans the first victims of the sixth mass extinction? The conversation.

Nine human species walked the Earth 300,000 years ago. Now there is just one. The Neanderthals, Homo neanderthalensis, were stocky hunters adapted to Europe’s cold steppes. The related Denisovans inhabited Asia, while the more primitive Homo erectus lived in Indonesia, and Homo rhodesiensis in central Africa.

Several short, small-brained species survived alongside them: Homo naledi in South Africa, Homo luzonensis in the Philippines, Homo floresiensis (“hobbits”) in Indonesia, and the mysterious Red Deer Cave People in China. Given how quickly we’re discovering new species, more are likely waiting to be found.

By 10,000 years ago, they were all gone. The disappearance of these other species resembles a mass extinction. But there’s no obvious environmental catastrophe—volcanic eruptions, climate change, asteroid impact—driving it. Instead, the extinctions’ timing suggests they were caused by the spread of a new species, evolving 260,000-350,000 years ago in Southern Africa: Homo sapiens.

The spread of modern humans out of Africa has caused a sixth mass extinction, a greater than 40,000-year event extending from the disappearance of Ice Age mammals to the destruction of rainforests by civilisation today. But were other humans the first casualties?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Movie review of Michael Moore’s “Planet of the Humans”

Movie review of Michael Moore’s “Planet of the Humans”

Preface. This documentary was made by Jeff Gibbs, a writer and environmentalist, with Michael Moore as the executive producer.

I watched the movie and then read 20 criticisms of it. None were any good, it is as if the reviewers had watched an entirely different movie. Most yell names at it and call it Bullshit, rather than offer legitimate criticisms as to what was wrong and criticize it for things it never said.  A lot of howling can be heard, like an ox who’s been gored.  McKibben is super angry that he’s been accused of taking corporate money.  If you watch the film, you’ll see that never happens.  The Guardian is more reasonable, but accuses the film of not offering a solution, and asks what about nuclear power, which is answered indirectly by the film in that any kind of contraption that needs to be made with fossil fuels is nonrenewable.

The only legitimate criticism, if it is every offered, would need to come from scientists, who understand that you can’t rant, rave, and call a film names, you have to actually state what was wrong and cite peer-reviewed evidence to back it up.  You can’t cherry-pick some random fact that makes wind or solar look good. You can’t say a 100 minute film should have covered nuclear and dozens of other topics. If Science, Nature, or other top journals write about this film, then I’ll look at what they have to say and add it to this post.

I’ve been writing about peak oil, the coming energy crisis, and the other death by a thousand cuts that will eventually lead to collapse since 2001. What the movie is saying is the same as this website. I couldn’t find any flaws in it, and it’s worth watching, and an entertaining and quick way to understand why renewables aren’t green at all.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How sand transformed civilization

How sand transformed civilization

Preface. No wonder we’re reaching peak sand. We use more of this natural resource than of any other except water. Civilization consumes nearly 50 billion tons of sand & gravel a year, enough to build a concrete wall 88 feet (27 m) high and 88 feet wide right around the equator.    

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Vince Beiser. 2018. The World in a Grain. The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization. Riverhead Books.

Riverbeds and beaches around the world are being stripped bare of their precious grains. Farmlands and forests are being torn up. And people are being imprisoned, tortured, and murdered. All over sand.

In 1950, some 746 million people—less than one-third of the world’s population—lived in cities. Today, the number is almost 4 billion,

The overwhelming bulk of it goes to make concrete, by far the world’s most important building material. In a typical year, according to the United Nations Environment Programme, the world uses enough concrete to build a wall 88 feet high and 88 feet wide right around the equator.    

There is such intense need for certain types of construction sand that places like Dubai, which sits on the edge of an enormous desert in the Arabian Peninsula, are importing sand from Australia.

Sand mining tears up wildlife habitat, fouls rivers, and destroys farmland.

Thieves in Jamaica made off with 1,300 feet of white sand from one of the island’s finest beaches in 2008. Smaller-scale beach-sand looting is ongoing in Morocco, Algeria, Russia, and many other places around the world.

The damage being done to beaches is only one facet, and not even the most dangerous one, of the damage being done by sand mining around the world. Sand miners have completely obliterated at least two dozen Indonesian islands since 2005. Hauled off boatload by boatload, the sediment forming those islands ended up mostly in Singapore, which needs titanic amounts of sand to continue its program of artificially adding territory by reclaiming land from the sea.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Far out power 1: human fat, playgrounds, solar wind towers, perpetual motion, thermal depolymerization

Far out power 1: human fat, playgrounds, solar wind towers, perpetual motion, thermal depolymerization

Preface. Plans for power to gas, hydrogen, wind, solar, wave and all other alternative energies are equally silly as the ideas below, because they depend on fossil fuels for every single step in their life cycle, yet these  schemes with negative energy return make it into respectable scientific journals, unlike the proposals below.

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Liposuction fat

Mr. Buthune thinks the use of human fat as an energy source has some potential.  “There’s an interesting business model: link a biodiesel plant with the cosmetic surgeons,” says Mr. Bethune. “In Auckland we produce about 330 pounds of fat per week from liposuction, which would make about 40 gallons of fuel. If it is going to be chucked out, why not?” (Schouten 2005)

At an Exxon conference, the Yes Men pulled a prank of giving a presentation of making a new fuel, Vivoleum, out of humans killed by climate change. Hundreds of candles made of human hair that smelled like dead people were handed out (Yes Men 2015).

Auckland, New Zealand, adventurer Peter Bethune plans to break the round-the-world powerboat speed record in a boat powered by biodiesel fuel partly manufactured from human fat. The lean Mr. Bethune had about three ounces of fat extracted from his body yesterday in a lipsuction procedure, and he is seeking volunteers to donate more (Schouten 2005).

Playground power

The only place I could find this actually existing is in Ghana, Africa, where Empower Playgrounds provides merry-go-rounds to schools that generate and store electricity as they are spun around (Brownlee 2013).

Perpetual motion

Violates all the laws of physics and thermodynamics, even the patent office got wise and won’t accept any applications (Wikipedia, Park 2000).

Thermal depolymerization

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How a pandemic could bring down civilization

How a pandemic could bring down civilization

Preface. Some excerpts from the article below:

“The fact is that the best way for people to avoid the virus will be to stay home. But if everyone does this – or if too many people try to stockpile supplies after a crisis begins – the impact of even a relatively minor pandemic could quickly multiply.

Especially vital are “hubs” – the people whose actions link all the rest. Take truck drivers. When a strike blocked petrol deliveries from the UK’s oil refineries for 10 days in 2000, nearly a third of motorists ran out of fuel, some train and bus services were cancelled, shops began to run out of food, hospitals were reduced to running minimal services, hazardous waste piled up, and bodies went unburied. Afterwards, a study by Alan McKinnon of Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, UK, predicted huge economic losses and a rapid deterioration in living conditions if all road haulage in the UK shut down for just a week.

What would happen in a pandemic when many truckers are sick, dead or too scared to work?  Even a small impact on road haulage would quickly have severe knock-on effects [because of] just-in-time delivery. Over the past few decades, people who use or sell commodities from coal to aspirin have stopped keeping large stocks, because to do so is expensive. They rely instead on frequent small deliveries.

Cities typically have only three days’ worth of food, and the old saying about civilizations being just three or four meals away from anarchy is taken seriously by security agencies such as MI5 in the UK.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Fall of Akkadian empire due to climate change

Fall of Akkadian empire due to climate change

Preface. Any civilization or region that survives energy decline must then survive climate change for many centuries. As far as the wind systems that collapsed the Akkadian empire, it’s already happening:

“Greenhouse gases are increasingly disrupting the jet stream, a powerful river of winds that steers weather systems in the Northern Hemisphere. That’s causing more frequent summer droughts, floods and wildfires, a new study says. The findings suggest that summers like 2018, when the jet stream drove extreme weather on an unprecedented scale across the Northern Hemisphere, will be 50% more frequent by the end of the century if emissions of carbon dioxide and other climate pollutants from industry, agriculture and the burning of fossil fuels continue at a high rate” (Berwyn 2018).

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Bressan, D. 2019. Climate Change Caused the World’s First Empire To Collapse. Forbes

The Akkadian Empire was the first ancient empire of Mesopotamia, centered around the lost city of Akkad. The reign of Akkad is sometimes regarded as the first empire in history, as it developed a central government and elaborate bureaucracy to rule over a vast area comprising modern Iraq, Syria, parts of Iran and central Turkey. Established around 4.600 years ago, it abruptly collapsed two centuries later as settlements were suddenly abandoned. New research published in the journal Geology argues that shifting wind systems contributed to the demise of the empire. 

The region of the Middle East is characterized by strong northwesterly winds known locally as shamals. This weather effect occurs one or more times a year. The resulting wind typically creates large sandstorms that impact the climate of the area. To reconstruct the temperature and rainfall patterns of the area around the ancient metropolis of Tell-Leilan, the researchers sampled 4,600- to 3,000-year-old fossil Porites corals, deposited by an ancient tsunami on the northeastern coast of Oman.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Nuclear reactor issues

Nuclear reactor issues

Preface.  There are half a dozen articles below. Although safety and disposal of nuclear waste ought to be the main reasons why no more plants should be built, what will really stop them isbecause it takes years to get permits and $8.5–$20 billion in capital must be raised for a new 3400 MW nuclear power plant (O’Grady 2008). This is almost impossible when a much cheaper and much safer 3400 MW natural gas plant can be built for $2.5 billion in half the time or less.

U.S. nuclear power plants are old and in decline. By 2030, U.S. nuclear power generation might be the source of just 10% of electricity, half of their 20% production of electricity now, because 38 reactors producing a third of nuclear power are past their 40-year life span, and another 33 reactors producing a third of nuclear power are over 30 years old. Although some will have their licenses extended, 37 reactors that produce half of nuclear power are at risk of closing because of economics, breakdowns, unreliability, long outages, safety, and expensive post-Fukushima retrofits (Cooper 2013).

If you’ve read the nuclear reactor hazards paper or my summary of it, then you understand why there will continually be accidents like Fukushima and Chernobyl.  That makes investors and governments fearful of spending billions of dollars to build nuclear plants.

Nor will people be willing to use precious oil as it declines to build a nuclear power plant that could take up to 10 years to build, when that oil will be more needed for tractors to plant and harvest food and trucks to deliver the food to cities (electric power can’t do that, tractors and trucks have to run on oil).

And if we are dumb enough to try, we’ll smack into the brick wall of Peak Uranium.

Nuclear Safety in the news

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Energy Slaves: every American has somewhere between 200 and 8,000 energy slaves

Energy Slaves: every American has somewhere between 200 and 8,000 energy slaves

Source: https://www.homesthatfit.com/how-precious-is-energy-ask-your-slaves/

Preface.  To give you an idea of what energy slaves are, consider what it would take to use human power to provide these:

How much energy does it take to toast a single slice of Bread? Olympic Cyclist Vs. Toaster: Can He Power It?

Human Power Shower – Bang goes the theory – BBC One

And as the article below points out, if you tried to bicycle to power your TV,  that free electricity is not free at all. Since food costs money it may even end up being more expensive produced by cycling than from the grid — you’ll end up paying for it all the same, just not in utility bills, but in food.

Slav, I. 2019. Why Powering A City With Bicycles Is Impossible. oiprice.com

Many people have taken a crack at estimating how much muscle power the energy contained within oil represents.  Although there are different results, they all show how powerful oil is and how angry our descendants will be that we wasted it driving around in 4,000 pound cars for pleasure as they’re sawing wood and heaving hundred-pound sacks of grain onto horse-drawn wagons.

As I was writing my book “When Trucks Stop Running”, I came up with this (but didn’t include it since there are too many numbers):   A class 8 truck can carry 50,000 pounds of goods 500 miles in one day. This would take 1,250 people carrying 40-pound backpacks walking 16 miles a day for 31 days. If the people ate 2,000 kcal of raw food a day, they’d burn 77.5 million kcal (and even more energy if the food is cooked). The truck needs 31 times less energy: at 7 mpg, that’s 71 gallons of diesel containing 35,000 kcal per gallon. Trucks carried over 13.182 billion tons of goods, equal to 329 million people each carrying 40 pound packs.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Hydrogen fuel cell cars are a waste of time and money, and explosive

Hydrogen fuel cell cars are a waste of time and money, and explosive

Preface. Below are several articles about hydrogen.  Today in 2019 it is still far from commercial.  A massive amount of infrastructure needs to be in place before people will consider buying hydrogen fuel cell cars, and because of explosions in South Korea, Norway, and California, building this infrastructure is going slowly.

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Reuters. 2019. Explosions and subsidies: Why hydrogen is struggling to catch on in Korea. Accidents and infrastructure are holding it back. Reuters.

SEOUL — Aiming to cash in on a major push by South Korea to promote fuel cell vehicles, Sung Won-young opened a hydrogen refueling station in the city of Ulsan last September. Just one year on, he’s thinking about closing it down. Sung’s new hydrogen station is one of five in Ulsan.

The government paid the 3 billion won ($2.5 million) cost – six times more than fast charging equipment for battery electric cars – and the two pumps, located next to Sung’s gasoline stand, see a steady flow of Hyundai Nexo SUVs daily.

EvSung hasn’t been able to turn a profit, hamstrung as the equipment can only refuel a limited number of cars each day.  Refueling takes about 5-7 minutes, but the next driver must wait another 20 minutes before sufficient pressure builds in the storage tank to supply the hydrogen or the car’s tank will not be full.

That means only about 100 fuel cell cars can be fueled a day, compared to up to 1,000 at his gasoline stand. Many drivers can also not be bothered to wait 20 minutes and leave without a full tank.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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