James Conca

 
Articles by James Conca:

James Conca: "I have been a scientist in the field of the earth and environmental sciences for 31 years, specializing in geologic disposal of nuclear waste, energy-related research, subsurface transport and environmental clean-up of heavy metals.

"I have found that important societal issues involving science and technology are rarely made on the basis of science, but on people's perception of science. Science is necessary but insufficient. It seems to be more important to understand Fareed Zakaria than Stephen Hawking, although you better understand both if you want to solve issues like sustainable energy development.

"Prior to my present position, I was Director of the New Mexico State University Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center, the independent and academic monitoring facility for the Department of Energy's WIPP site, a little-known deep geologic nuclear repository for bomb waste.

"I came to NMSU from Los Alamos National Laboratory where I was Project Leader for Radionuclide Geochemistry and its input into the Yucca Mt Project. Before that, I was on the faculty at Washington State University Tri-Cities. At the California Institute of Technology, I obtained a Ph.D. in Geochemistry in 1985 and a Masters in Planetary Science in 1981. I received a Bachelor's in Science in Geology/Biology from Brown University in 1979."

Pronuclear demonstrators in Albany celebrating New York’s adoption of a clean energy standard that supports nuclear instead of just a renewable energy standard. Shown are members of Mothers for Nuclear, Save Vermont Yankee, Environmental Progress, Students for Nuclear, among others. Source: Environmental ProgressYesterday, the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) voted to approve a provision within the Clean Energy Standard (CES) that would value the emission-free energy that Upstate New York’s nuclear energy plants provide, finally recognizing that these plants are essential to meeting the state’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030.

Since everyone agrees that this goal would be impossible to achieve without retaining the state’s existing nuclear power, this provision was critical.

The last two weeks of September was quite the time for news – the Pope’s visit, the Speaker’s exit, the Chinese President’s visit, the United Nations General Assembly, huge Hurricane Joaquin, weird House committee rants, flowing water on Mars, more Trumpeting, the new Daily Show.

But the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Seattle on his way to the East Coast was little heralded. Disputes over computer hacking, cyber-plundering and limits on U.S. firms’ access to Chinese markets have tensions high between the two federal governments, to the point where unleashing economic sanctions on Chinese businesses is a definite possibility (WP).

by James Conca

Over the last fifty years, nuclear energy has proven to be the safest and most efficient of all energy sources, from both the human health and environmental perspectives. In total, to produce a trillion kWh of electricity, nuclear takes less land, uses less steel and concrete, has less emissions, kills fewer people, and has lower life-cycle costs than any other energy source.

America has 62 nuclear power plants with 99 operating reactors comprising over 100 thousand MW of installed capacity that produces 800 billion kWhs of electricity each year – about a fifth of America’s power.

So what about nuclear power isn’t good?

 

It turns out that building a combination of new natural gas and new nuclear plants, while maintaining existing hydroelectric and nuclear plants as long as possible, gives us the cheapest and most reliable energy future.

Every branch of the United States Military is worried about climate change. They have been since well before it became controversial. In the wake of an historic climate A United States Navy Carrier Strike Group in the South China Sea. Every branch of the United States Military is worried that climate change is a significant threat multiplier for future conflicts. And the Navy may bear the brunt of these effects.  Source: United States Navychange agreement between President Obama and President Xi Jinping in China this week (Brookings), the military’s perspective is significant in how it views climate effects on emerging military conflicts.

China will be our biggest military and political problem by the middle of this century. It would be nice to understand what issues will exacerbate our struggles.

An article in Forbes by James Conca

Physician group's claims on nuclear energy are wrong

The Columbia Generating Station’s nuclear power plant in Richland, Washington that, together with hydroelectric power, gives Washington State the lowest carbon, cleanest energy footprint in America, delivered with the lowest cost per kWhr of any state. Photo credit: Energy Northwest

The Columbia Generating Station’s nuclear power plant in Richland, Washington that, together with hydroelectric power, gives Washington State the lowest carbon, cleanest energy footprint in America, delivered with the lowest cost per kWhr of any state. Photo credit: Energy Northwest

According to a report by Physicians for Social Responsibility, shutting down the Columbia Generating Station in Washington state and building a natural gas-fired facility as its replacement could generate $1.7 billion in savings for ratepayers over a 17-year span, but the claim isn't backed up, writes scientist James Conca. "[W]hile this report supposedly says it's all about cost, it's really all about anti-nuclear politics," he argues. Forbes (12/15)

Looking out the window from my hospital bed last week, I marveled at the clarity of Rattlesnake Ridge almost 30 miles away. The air quality was amazing.Smog in Beijing has reached dangerous levels and resulting health costs have overshadowed positive effects of the energy. Credit: images.forbes.com

I then looked down at an article I was reading in The Week that reported how the air quality in Beijing was so bad, the visibility so low, that a downtown factory building burned for three hours before anyone noticed!

The American public first became aware of Beijing’s bad air issue during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Coaches were having a hard time allowing our athletes to go to Beijing to train prior to the Games because the air was so toxic. The City responded by shutting down coal plants in the area, implementing forced-reduction in traffic and halting many industrial activities.  It worked pretty well for the duration of the Games.

But it’s gotten worse since then...