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only the nuclear plants have the capacity to sustain such a high consumer demand and at the same time exhibit a small environmental footprint.

No, nuclear plants aren't the only ones capable of that, though the nuclear industry would like us to believe that. The ecological footprint of a plant itself may be small, but when we count the mines, the fuel factories and waste too, I don't think so. Furthermore, Europe doesn't have big uranium resources either - those have to be imported just like oil, and will face a shortage just like oil. (At least this is my opinion, I know some here at ET are of an opposed opinion.)

This news item should act as a warning that the European Union has to take seriously the need for an alternative fuel source, as we can see China trying to dampen the impact of any eventual fuel crisis.

Unfortunately, no. China is just trying to keep increase supply enough to keep up with rising demand for electricity, and doing so by building everything possible at breakneck speed (coal-fired power plants, giant dams, and wind power too). Unfortunately, at the same time, they facilitate a massive expansion of car traffic, which doesn't decrease their fuel dependency at all.

One such windmill is capable of generating about 500kW of power  (enough for a household), but fails as a serious power producer when compared to a nuclear power plant, which generates roughly 1000mW

The obvious solution: erect 2000 windmills 500kW(=0.5MW) each. Or 200 windmills 5 MW each. (Actually four times that many: average power is less than maximum power.) For scale: last year, 2450 MW of new wind power was erected in the USA, and 1800 MW in Germany; at the end of the year, Germany had a total of 18,000 MW working, Spain 10,000 MW, the USA 9,150 MW, India 4,430 MW, small Denmark alone 3,130 MW (this gives 15-20% of Danish electricity). Much more wind capacity is erected each year as nuclear coming on-line, and the rate of buildup could be raised by magnitudes.

It makes no sense to compare single units. In fact, there is an advantage to have power production in smaller units: when one unit breaks down or needs repairs, there is no need for a sudden massive replacement power.

On the other hand, big power plants are a nice basis for economic and political power: large companies that want to keep control of the market, as well as corruptable politicians hoping for some funds to get back into their pockets, will prefer them.

Although windmills were initially thought as harmless to the environment, many ornithologists reported windmills to disturb the annual migration of different birds.

Your Bulgarian example is an interesting addition, however, I note that the "bird problem" is rather 'well known' from the beginnings, and not ignored. Birdkills were observed to be a serious problem at Altamont Pass in the USA in the eighties.

However, later studies at other sites showed magnitudes lower birthkill rates. It turns out there are specific factors that enhance the danger: mountain passes (where birds fly through and fly low as they have to climb), bird migration routes, freshwater close by. Such danger zones can be (and, in form of a planning requirement, should be) identified beforehand. In EU countries with large wind power buildup, there is usually such a planning requirement, it would be good for Bulgaria to adopt one too.

Whatever the choice of an alternative fuel technology, it is high time for the European government to organize a strong policy towards promoting alternative fuel sources.

As the big rail advocate here, it falls on me to state: alternative fuels aren't enough, changing the transport system (e.g. a massive buildup of public transport/railfreight) would also be a good part of it. (In countries like Bulgaria or my home Hungary, that would mean that governments stop letting their state railways degenerate and its trains turning into unwashed foul-smelling rolling slums.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Feb 28th, 2006 at 06:14:19 PM EST

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