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Cummins Con candidate comes to colossally incorrect clean energy conclusions

May 30, 2012

In recent weeks, the boys in the BCCGE mailroom have been diligently scouring the internet and newspapers looking for signs of the next outbreak of “public versus private” propaganda dressed up as environmental issues.

But the boys weren’t quite ready for what they encountered on Monday; namely, a highly misinformed opinion piece in the Vancouver Sun by Cummins Cons candidate Rick Peterson.

For those not fully up to speed on B.C. politics, it’s not completely true that all Cummins Cons are political extremists who believe the Earth is only 6,000 years old and that dinosaurs and humans once walked the Earth together. Only some of them appear to believe these things.

But we digress…

Rick Peterson’s opinion piece in the Sun starts off well enough: He states that the BC Liberal government “is pitching Asian investors and buyers on an ambitious plan for a string of proposed LNG plants on the province’s north coast,” with the first three plants to be up and running by 2020.

Everyone knows this is true and LNG is proving to be a great opportunity for B.C. to develop more of its untapped renewable energy resources.

Peterson then asks how the province plans to come up with “the huge amounts of electricity required to compress, cool, and liquefy the gas for these new LNG plants.”

That’s certainly a fair question and it’s one that we here at BCCGE asked when we first heard about the province’s LNG plans.

However, Mr. Peterson goes off the rails rather quickly after noting that “BC Hydro simply doesn’t have the capacity to provide even close to the amount of power required for these [LNG] projects.”

Yes, it’s true that BC Hydro does not currently — in the sense of “right now at this precise moment in time” — have the capacity with its existing energy generating and transmission infrastructure to provide the massive amount of electricity that will be needed to power the planned LNG plants .

But that won’t be the case by the time the LNG plants are actually up and running a few years from now.

And therein lies the deep flaw in Peterson’s whole argument.

As everyone knows, the Site C dam is actively being pursued by BC Hydro and it’s going to add a significant amount of new clean generating capacity to the province — and the energy will all be firm energy.

Moreover, there is already talk of another major BC Hydro Clean Power Call (CPC) as early as this fall — a power call directly resulting from the increased energy BC Hydro will need to power the planned LNG projects along with various other new industrial developments in B.C.’s north, notably new mines.

To say the least, Mr. Peterson seems to have a very poor understanding of B.C. energy issues and he’s completely wrong in claiming that BC Hydro and province have no plan for powering the planned LNG plants or for meeting the province’s other clean energy needs.

Mr. Peterson would have done well to do a bit of research before embarking on such a grossly misinformed opinion piece.

We could go on critiquing Peterson’s off-base oped, but suffice it to say that his opinion piece basically degenerates into a rant about the province’s carbon tax and suggestions of a BC Hydro conspiracy plan to import coal-fired electricity from Alberta and Washington State to power the planned LNG plants.

(News Flash for Mr. Peterson: BC Hydro has been importing coal-fired electricity for decades — some of it through routine energy trading and some of it, unacceptably, to meet B.C.’s own domestic electricity needs.  That’s partially why BC Hydro turned to the private sector and independent green energy producers decades ago to help expand B.C.’s domestic clean energy supply and get B.C. off a growing dependence on imported coal-fired electricity.)

So, contrary to what Mr. Peterson seems to believe, there is a clear plan for powering B.C.’s nascent LNG industry and that plan is very clearly built around B.C.’s unparalleled renewable energy resources not imported coal-fired electricity. In fact, B.C.’s unparalleled renewable energy resources are a big part of what makes B.C. so highly attractive to Asian markets as a supplier of LNG.

And just for the record: Humans and dinosaurs never walked the Earth together. That only happens on the Flintstones.


Meanwhile, back in the BCCGE mailroom…

March 13, 2012

Although it’s been fairly quiet on the green energy front for the past few months, the boys in the BCCGE mailroom have not been idle. They’ve been actively monitoring the various goings on in the energy sector and working through the piles of accumulated material tying up prime desktop real estate.

Meanwhile, the usual anti-green-energy suspects have been doing… well, exactly what you’d expect them to be doing: Spreading misinformation about everything from run-of-river projects to smart meters.

But what caught the eye of the mailroom boys this week was the Wilderness Committee’s latest overblown FOI media stunt.

This time, Gwen Barlee and her WCWC crew worked with an apparently pliable reporter at the Vancouver Sun (Larry Pynn) and combed through 3,000 pages of FOI documents to find a small handful of selective quotes they could take out of context and build a sensationalized story around.

Of course, the boys in the BCCGE mailroom don’t have access to the 3,000 pages of FOI material that Barlee, the WCWC and their reporter friend at the Sun reportedly have, so we can’t provide the missing context for their cherry-picked quotes.  But based on previous experience we know that context is everything.

That’s what got the boys in the BCCGE mailroom wondering what the article in the Sun might have looked like if all of the cherry-picked, out-of-context FOI quotes were removed along with Gwen Barlee’s opinions and the various editorial comments inserted by reporter Larry Pynn.

When you remove all of that dubious material, what’s left over tells a very different story from the one cooked up by Barlee and Pynn.

The real story explains how run-of-river projects are required to ramp water levels up and down gradually when generating clean energy so that any young fish living downstream are not suddenly stranded or cut off from a river’s flow.

This is an operating parameter that run-of-river projects work with and there are regulations governing how ramping is to be carried out.

That doesn’t mean that accidents will never occur or that equipment problems can never happen. That would be contrary to Murphy’s Law and wholly unrealistic.  Accidents do happen and lessons are always learned from them.

There is also simple human error to be taken into account — something that can certainly be mitigated against but never completely eliminated from any sphere of life.

However, none of it comes anywhere close to the skewed picture of rampant death and destruction painted by Gwen Barlee and Larry Pynn.  Not even close.

So, while the boys in the BCCGE mailroom wait and watch to see if Gwen Barlee or the Sun make their 3,000 pages of FOI documents available to the public, we’ve taken a stab at rewriting the Sun article as it might have looked minus all of the dubious FOI material and minus the opinions masquerading as facts.

Here’s what that might have looked like:

Wilderness Committee tries to make mountain out of mole hill… again!

Gwen Barlee, whose Wilderness Committee group has been a leading critic of independent run-of-river projects over the years, is calling for a moratorium on further approvals of such projects and the laying of federal charges where fish and fish habitat have suffered.

“You have poor planning and low environmental standards,” claimed Barlee. “These projects shouldn’t be situated in fish habitat at all.”

Adam Lewis, president of Ecofish Research Ltd., a leading consultant to industry and government on run-of-river projects, said there is a potential for power plants to ramp down water levels too quickly and leave young fish stranded and dead for kilometres downstream.

The provincial and federal governments work together to set regulations for run-of-river projects, including general minimum stream flows and specific rates for short-term fluctuations – known as ramping.

Run-of-river projects produce electricity by diverting river water – typically in a steep canyon – and sending it through an underground pipe to a powerhouse. The water is then returned to the river.

During the ramping process, water levels rise and fall in the river, but power producers are supposed to ensure these changes are made gradually – a maximum 2.5 centimetres per hour to prevent stranding of fry that inhabit the shallow edges of the river downstream.

Ramping may occur for reasons such as the shutdown of a power plant for maintenance or an unanticipated failure.

Julia Berardinucci, the south coast’s director of resource management for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations says improved plant design standards and monitoring of operations along with continuing “learn-as-we-go” revisions to ramping guidelines are all improving the situation.

“The potential risk is always there for all the plants…,” she said from her Surrey office. “We’re seeing some incidents occurring, but relative to the number of [power] plant operations, it’s obviously a point of opinion as to whether it’s having obvious impacts.”

The government’s regulation of such projects and industry’s response are both improving, she noted.

For example, Innergex is conducting a formal five-year monitoring program to determine the effects on fish and to guide modifications as required.

“Innergex is fully committed and responsive to address these issues and is trying its best to avoid any incident,” said Richard Blanchet, the company’s senior vice-president.

Blanchet said that almost five per cent of the $130-million cost of the Ashlu Creek project is related to meeting ramping requirements.

Innergex did encounter a problem after its 50-megawatt Ashlu plant started operations in November 2009, but has improved operations to ensure compliance.

Matt Kennedy, the company’s vice-president of environment, described the May 8, 2010 event involving 166 salmon and trout fry that became stranded due to rapidly dropping water levels as an “unfortunate incident” that occurred in the early stages of the commissioning of the plant.

“We don’t feel it’s acceptable for our company to have those sorts of things going on. So we’ve changed our policies and procedures,” he said. “We essentially operate the plant differently.”

Innergex also developed 60,000 square metres of spawning channels below the dam as compensation for construction of the plant.  The company estimates these channels produce 100,000 fry per year.

“We’re very pleased with that, it’s a very important part of our project,” Kennedy said.

Clean Energy B.C. executive director Paul Kariya acknowledge that it is “probably for sure that every hydro project ever developed in B.C. has killed fish,” be it private or public. “Sadly all developments like this have impacts.”

The run-of-river industry says its projects have fewer environmental impacts on fish than traditional BC Hydro dams. They also do not emit the greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide associated with power production from burning fossil fuels.

“Isn’t the bigger question, how are we going to power our province in the future? We need electricity and this demand will grow in excess of what we can do through conservation,” Kariya said.

In collaboration with industry and the B.C. government, the federal fisheries department is developing a ramping guide to reduce impacts to fish and fish habitat and developing monitoring procedures to improve the assessment of impacts from run-of-river projects.

At present, there are 50 private hydro projects in operation and selling power to BC Hydro, half of them in the south coast region and built over several decades.

BCCGE presents to the SSCFG

October 12, 2011

Yesterday, David Field (one of our BCCGE co-spokespersons) made a short presentation to the all-party Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services.

The Committee has been holding province-wide public consultations based on the Ministry of Finance’s Budget 2012 Consultation Paper and is also accepting responses via an on-line survey as well as by written and video submissions through their website.

The deadline for submissions is Friday, October 14, 2011.

David reports that his presentation was well-received and that it generated a lot of good questions from committee members.

Specifically, David spoke to the revenue side of the provincial budget and the revenue contribution that developing B.C.’s renewable green energy resources has in the present and for the future.

David applauded the vision of the recently unveiled BC Jobs Plan and its focus on taking the strengths of British Columbia, converting them into competitive advantages, and turning opportunity into lasting economic benefit for all British Columbians.

As David noted, for BCCGE, that means developing B.C.’s wealth of renewable energy resources and supporting what we’ve already started in this province in terms of the clean energy investment we’ve attracted and the tax revenue it generates.

As David said: “Now is not the time to abandon the goal of electricity self-sufficiency and the jobs that renewable energy development creates and supports and the investment it brings; developing B.C.’s renewable clean energy resources creates jobs all over the province.”

In his presentation, David also referenced a recent report commissioned by The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CANWEA) in which a number of very likely new electricity loads for B.C. are identified.

Notable among these likely new industrial loads are the eight new mines by 2015 referenced in the BC Jobs Plan and the expansion of at least nine existing mines.

The CANWEA report shows that the additional demand from new industrial activity in B.C. will hit 12,000 gigawatt-hours in 2017 and 24,000 gigawatt-hours by 2025.

These new load forecasts are more than double BC Hydro’s forecast of only 5,800 gigawatt-hours by 2017 and only 6,500 gigawatt-hours of additional electricity load by 2025.

So the question the boys in the BCCGE mailroom have all been asking is “how” are we going to power the increased electricity load from all of the industrial activity the Jobs Plan envisions for the province?

As always, everyone here at BCCGE believes we need to do it right and serve new load growth the right way with clean energy from renewable sources.

As we’ve learned from the example of W.A.C. Bennett, no matter how we build it, or how much it costs, our power will be the cheapest in North America 20 years from now.

If B.C. wants to be a “climate change leader” as the Jobs Plan states, then we need to stay the course with all renewable energy development and our self-sufficiency plan, and not miss the opportunity we have to meet future electricity load growth in our province the right way with renewable clean energy — today’s renewable energy is tomorrow’s cheap electricity.

For those who are interested, here’s a link (click here) to the BCCGE presentation David made to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services.

Time to support what we’ve already started

October 6, 2011

If ever there was a time for supporters of renewable green energy development in B.C. to write to their MLAs to voice their support, now would be the time.

Particularly if your MLA sits on the government side of the legislature; because it’s the government side MLAs who will soon render a decision to either accept, reject or modify the recommendations contained in the recent BC Hydro rate review report (including the recommendation to redefine “self-sufficiency” in a way that waters down the current policy and the clear economic, environmental and social objectives it embodies).

To make it really easy to send an email message to all of the government side MLAs at the same time, we’ve put together the following list of email addresses for the government MLAs which you can copy and paste as a block into the “To” or the “Bcc” or the “Cc” field of whatever email program you use.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Even if your MLA doesn’t happen to sit on the government side of the legislature, it’s still very important for renewable energy supporters to send a quick email to the government MLAs to let them know that renewable energy development is important to you and to our province and inextricably intertwined with our economic, social and environmental objectives (e.g., jobs and economic opportunities for First Nations).

There are far-reaching consequences to the recommendations currently being considered by the government side MLAs, not the least of which is the prospect that renewable energy investment in this province could vanish in a flash if the province’s commitment to renewable energy is not clear and unequivocal.  And fleeing investment capital would very obviously take untold numbers of jobs and economic opportunity with it.

We need to support what we’ve already started in this province with renewable energy development.  Now is not the time to abandon the goal of electricity self-sufficiency and the jobs that renewable energy development creates and supports province-wide.

If B.C. wants to be a “climate change leader” as the Jobs Plan states, then we need to stay the course with renewable energy development and self-sufficiency and not miss the opportunity we have to meet future electricity load growth in our province the right way with renewable clean energy — because today’s renewable energy is tomorrow’s cheap electricity.

Beware the dark side — coal power’s allure

September 20, 2011

The recently released review of BC Hydro’s proposed rate increase has generated a fair bit of discussion over the past couple of weeks.

In fact, we may be a little guilty of understatement in characterizing things that way, because in some quarters the review has stirred the pot considerably and garnered a significant amount of public attention and media commentary.

Of course, as the boys in the BCCGE mailroom will readily confess to you, there is always a tiny little cloud hanging over spirits in the BCCGE mailroom around the fact that the public rarely ever take notice of energy issues unless hydro rates threaten to go up.  But such is life.

And as mailroom stalwart, Scotty, says: “If something raises energy issues to prominence and draws public attention to these issues, even for a brief moment, then we have to see it as a good and positive thing.”

For anyone not fully up to speed on the BC Hydro rate review, the review panel basically suggested that BC Hydro’s proposed 32 percent rate increase could be reduced by postponing infrastructure renewal projects and importing cheap electricity from outside the province; even though much of that imported power would be coming from dirty coal-fired generating plants.

And, although initial reaction to the review mostly focused on a) BC Hydro’s multibillion dollar infrastructure upgrade plans, b) BC Hydro’s strong aversion to risk, and c) BC Hydro’s reputed “gold standard” corporate culture, the focus of public discussion has now shifted to the province’s electricity self-sufficiency policy which is enshrined in the Clean Energy Act.

Adopting a more relaxed definition of self-sufficiency, the review panel suggested, was one way for BC Hydro to reduce its proposed rate increase by giving BC Hydro more flexibility in meeting its customer’s electricity needs at a lower cost.

Yes, abandoning self-sufficiency and relying on cheap imported power from coal-fired generators would certainly keep BC Hydro rates down.  But is that really the route we want to go in this province?  After all, we’ve got a wealth of renewable energy resources in B.C. we could be tapping into, and these resources are virtually unparalleled in their quality, quantity and diversity.

As Kumar in the BCCGE mailroom recently commented with penetrating insight, what the self-sufficiency question really boils down to is an archetypal battle between the temptations of cheap coal power imported from the states and Alberta versus the development of B.C.’s own renewable, clean energy resources.

But which path will we choose?

Okay… let’s get an obvious Star Wars reference out of the way right here and now: The lure of the dark side is very seductive, and it easy to see the attraction that cheap coal power has for politicians wanting to keep the voting masses happy with low electricity rates.

There aren’t any coal-fired electricity plants here in B.C. at present (barring any miraculous technical breakthrough that suddenly makes carbon sequestration any more realistically viable and cost-effective than the Holy Grail of clean energy sources, i.e., fusion power). However, there are plenty of coal plants nearby in the USA where half the electricity they generate is produced by burning coal.

There are also plenty of coal plants in Alberta where they also generate most of their electricity by burning coal, and where they are also talking about building at least one more coal-fired generating plant.

With such a ready supply of coal power sitting right there on our provincial doorstep, it must be a very tantalizing option for politicians to consider.  And resisting the siren call that constantly beckons them to indulge in the decadence of coal must be very difficult.

However, a big part of what makes coal power so cheap (aside from the obvious fact that coal plants get to spew GHGs and other pollutants into the atmosphere free of charge) is the simple physics of thermal generation: It takes hours to ramp up a thermal generator and hours to ramp it back down again.

As well, as various engineers have told the boys in the BCCGE mailroom, there are also thermal stress issues to be considered from any rapid heating or cooling of a thermal plant.

So, given these thermal limitations (which hydroelectric plants don’t share) it means coal-fired plants are kept running most of the time, even at night when there is little demand for the electricity they generate.

And, as we all know, when there is lots of supply of something and little demand for it prices tend to go down.

Another factor in the apparent cheapness of coal power is the fact that coal-fired generating plants are typically older, which means their capital costs are generally paid down (kind of like B.C.’s aging mega dams).

So, that’s the basic recipe for cheap coal power: A cheap, abundant fuel source; greater supply than demand; mortgage-free generating facilities; and no costs attached to the GHG waste products emitted or to the impacts these GHG emissions have on the environment.

Clean, renewable energy clearly faces a tough opponent in any one-on-one competition with coal power, especially during economically troubled times.

One might even say that (and, yes, we can hear the groans already) coal fights dirty.

However, the supposed disadvantages that clean energy has against dirty coal need to be put into proper perspective and viewed through the lens of a meaningful context.

For starters, most renewable energy facilities happen to be fairly new which is unlike most coal-fired plants.  The capital costs of renewable energy facilities therefore tend to be a significant factor in the cost of the electricity they produce.

However, capital costs would be a factor for any newly built energy generating facility regardless of whether it was a new coal-fired plant, a new hydro dam such as the proposed Site C dam, or a new wind, solar, geothermal, run-of-river or biomass plant.  You simply can’t build something new and then just give the energy away for free (even though that appears to be the business model subscribed to by most opponents of independent renewable energy projects).

As Scotty in the BCCGE mailroom often says: “As a general rule of thumb, the cost of the electricity generated by any facility is largely a function of its age and the number of years it takes to pay down the original capital costs.  That’s why BC Hydro’s mega dams, which were built in the 1950’s through to the 1980’s, are able to generate what appears (on paper at least) to be fairly cheap electricity.”

And, as Scotty also recently pointed out, if wind farms had been built 50 or 60 years ago instead of coal-fired plants, coal might just as easily have ended up being the chronologically disadvantaged energy source instead of the renewable energy sources currently being built.

Another important factor to consider, one that favours renewable energy sources, is the fact that you can’t beat cost-free renewable fuel sources like the sun, the rain, the wind, the tides, and the heat from the earth’s crust.

So, the long-term recipe for renewable clean energy is clearly much tastier and more nutritious than the recipe for cheap coal power: a completely free and abundant fuel source that is endless; greater demand than supply; the prospect of essentially mortgage-free generating facilities once capital costs are paid down; plus, no GHG or other waste products being emitted into the atmosphere.

So, although the dark side beckons us to coal, the spark of hope for the future clearly rests with the development of renewable clean energy resources.

So, rather than hitching our wagons to coal out of fear for angry, pissed off voters, B.C. needs to get back to thinking long-term and continue to push forward with its world-leading clean energy agenda.

As they say, today’s clean energy is tomorrow’s cheap energy.

BC Hydro review riles frantic COPE 378

August 17, 2011

The eagerly awaited BC Hydro rate review report released last week has created quite a stir.  And especially so over at COPE 378 headquarters where they’re fuming mad, stomping their feet, and generally reacting like a swarm of angry hornets whose cosy nest just got whacked with a major league baseball bat.

Faster than you can say “public versus private,” the indignant folks at COPE 378 have pushed the COPE 378 myth machine into overdrive — and mobilized their legions — in a desperate attempt to deflect attention away from themselves and what the review report calls BC Hydro’s “gold standard” corporate culture.

What COPE 378 wants the public to believe, instead, is that independent green energy producers are to blame for BC Hydro’s rising rates.

Well, hornets may be able to fly, but what COPE 378 is trying to float here isn’t going to get very far off the ground.

Basically, COPE 378 is dishing up the same old self-serving anti-private-sector rubbish and misinformation we’ve come to expect from them and their various affiliated entities, hive mates and known associates.

The only difference this week is the accelerated intensity of their misinformation efforts which, to us, greatly resemble frantic efforts to bail water out of a sinking rowboat.

In fact, COPE 378’s diversionary tactics in the wake of the rate review remind us an awful lot of that famous scene in the Wizard of Oz where Toto pulls back the wizard’s curtain and exposes Professor Marvel working the controls.

As everyone knows, Professor Marvel wasn’t able to re-conceal himself once he was exposed by Toto, and nor was he successful in getting people to look the other way, which is essentially what COPE 378 is currently attempting to do.

However, COPE 378’s diversionary tactics are clearly proving to be just as futile as Professor Marvel’s, and neither the media nor the public appear to be buying any of it.

As we’ve previously written, the facts surrounding BC Hydro’s proposed rate increases are readily available to the public and fairly easily understood (especially if someone familiar with the material is able to point you to where it can be found).

Of the total 32 percent rate increase originally proposed by BC Hydro over the next three years, only 2.6 percent was attributable to green energy purchases from independent producers.

This information comes straight from BC Hydro’s rate increase application to the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC).

Based on the interim 8 percent rate increase approved by the BCUC this past spring (which BC Hydro estimated will result in a $5-6 per month increase on an average residential customer’s bill), no more than 40-48 cents per month is attributable to purchases from independent green energy producers.

Of course, this also means that $4.60 to $5.52 of that $5 to $6 monthly increase is directly related to BC Hydro’s own operating costs, and primarily to the renewal of the crown utility’s aging energy generating and transmission infrastructure (precisely as the rate application indicates).

What COPE 378 is disingenuously attempting to do in blaming independent producers for BC Hydro’s rate increase is deflect attention away from the $4.60 to $5.52 that makes up the bulk of BC Hydro’s proposed rate increase: i.e., the portion of the rate increase that relates to COPE 378.

COPE 378 then wants the public to believe that the minor 40-48 cents per month portion of the proposed rate increase (i.e., the portion that is attributable to electricity from independent green energy producers) is going to have more impact on hydro rates than the $4.60 to $5.52 per month that is directly related to the renewal of BC Hydro’s own aging energy generating and transmission infrastructure.

COPE 378 must really think people are stupid if they believe they can fool the public into believing that up is down and down is sideways.  But, then again, that’s what the COPE 378 myth machine was designed and built for: i.e., to baffle with bullshit and shamelessly misinform the public.

So, the key question that every critically thinking person should be asking COPE 378 right now (in the face of their desperate claims) is how BC Hydro can invest $14 billion to rebuild and upgrade the province’s aging hydroelectric generating and transmission infrastructure and not have it affect hydro rates.

If COPE 378 can find a way for BC Hydro to spend $14 billion dollars and not pass that cost onto its customers then we’ll gladly eat our words.

Building a kitchen nuclear reactor ‘for fun’

August 8, 2011

Some people are so desperate to find a source of clean, non-emitting energy that they’ll do just about anything to obtain it.

Take, for example, the news item we just read about a man in Sweden who apparently tried to build a nuclear reactor in his kitchen.

That’s right: he tried to build a nuclear reactor in his kitchen.  And he appears to have come close to succeeding!

When the Swedish authorities caught up with him he told them he was just a hobbyist with an interest in “nuclear physics and particle physics” who wanted to see “if it’s possible to split atoms at home” — not for the electricity but rather “just for fun.”

Now we’ve seen some pretty strange definitions of “fun” before, but this one really is out there (even for the boys in the BCCGE mailroom who frequently come up with some really weird and whacky stuff).

But before we all write this eccentric Swedish nuclear hobbyist off as some sort of certifiable loon, we should remember that the history of technological innovation is filled with accidental “kitchen table” discoveries that ended up changing the world, or at the very least changed significant incremental pieces of it.

Vulcanized rubber and penicillin are just two examples of such accidental discoveries; and if some accounts are to be believed, Charles Goodyear literally discovered (or perfected) vulcanized rubber in his home kitchen.

So we should never discourage idle tinkering and unrestrained curiosity, even by hobbyists, because one man’s loony can sometimes end up winning a Nobel Prize or getting a leg up on the future in a way that benefits everyone.

So now, as the boys in the BCCGE mailroom wait patiently and eagerly for video of the Swedish nuclear reactor guy to get posted on YouTube, or at least for a short clip to run on America’s Funniest Home Videos, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the creative thinkers, engineers, tinkerers and modern-day blacksmiths of the world who are busy working on the clean energy puzzle and helping get us to a 100 percent renewable energy world.

You never can tell where or when brilliance will strike in a way that radically changes our world for the better.

Having said that, and having applauded the creative eccentrics among us, please read and enjoy the article below about the Swedish guy who tried to build a nuclear reactor in his kitchen.  Truth really is stranger than fiction.

STOCKHOLM – A Swedish man police detained two weeks ago for trying to build a nuclear reactor in his kitchen said Thursday he had started the experiment “just for fun”.

Richard Handl, 31, from Aengelholm municipality in southwestern Sweden, said police had briefly detained him at the end of July for attempting to build a nuclear reactor in the kitchen of his flat.

He had meant no harm and had started the project as a hobby, he told AFP.

“I have always been interested in nuclear physics and particle physics,” he said.

In May, he launched an English-language blog, “Richard’s Reactor” in which he charted his progress in the project, complete with picture.

His plan, he said, was “to build a working nuclear reactor. Not to gain electricity, just for fun and to see if it’s possible to split atoms at home.”

Just to make sure everything was above board, he sent an email to Sweden’s Radiation Safety Authority.

“Hi! I’m really interested in nuclear physics and radiation,” he wrote.

“As a hobby, I have … gathered the basic materials (and) planned a project to build a very primitive nuclear reactor. You can see my plans here,” he added, complete with a link to his blog.

“I’m now wondering if I am breaking a law with this,” he asked in the email, a copy of which he forwarded to AFP.

At that point, his experiment came to an abrupt end.

Two days later “the police and the radiation safety authority came to my apartment,” Handl said.

He wrote in his blog: “I was ordered by the police to get out of the building with my hands up, then three men came, with geiger-counters and searched me.”

Police questioned him for about half an hour, before releasing him, he told AFP.

The radiation authority confirmed in a statement that it had conducted a search of a private residence on July 20.

“The authority seized the radiative material that was in the apartment and forbade the person to handle radioactive materials,” it added.

But they had not detected high levels of radiation in the apartment and neighbours had not been exposed to radiation.

On his blog however, Handl wrote that he “was still suspected of a crime against the radiation safety law.”

“So, my project is canceled!” he lamented.

Handl’s blog can be found at

by Ola Awoniyi

(c) 2011 AFP

Source : AFP