Another low sleep night. Through a long and unrepeatable browsing path involving the Chris Perillo show and Dave Ryder’s excellent web site, I came across this picture link, which made me remember that I had something to say about transmission lines. The joy of blogging and streams of random thoughts.
I recognize that electric power transmission lines are part of our comfortable and productive life. They carry enormous quantities of electricity from production plants to population and industrial centers.
However, those large power lines are flat out ugly. I have been more dependent on them than most people – my dad used to design them for a living, so one could say that my early life was financially supported by the need for transmission lines – but that does not make me like the visual and environmental impact that massive power paths produce. I hate gazing out the window at beautiful vistas whose impact is marred by hundred foot tall towers carrying rows of wires over ground kept clear through the use of herbicides.
For the most part, long distance high voltage transmission lines are an integral part of our electricity delivery system because engineers and accountants calculated that it is easier to generate power in massive central power stations whose location is governed more by easy access to cheap fuel than to the location of the ultimate electricity users.
That computation was definitely true when it was made – my dad told me a great deal about the decision making process that led to FP&L deciding to deliver “coal by wire” from north Georgia down to South Florida.
I think back to my days as a submarine engineer officer and realize that there is an alternative to dependence on transmission lines. Since nuclear power plants use a very concentrated fuel source that does not need regular resupply and since they do not produce any polluting gases, it is quite feasible to build them close enough to customers to make transmission lines unnecessary. We had no transmission lines out in the middle of the Atlantic; we also did not need fuel deliveries.
I am sure that there are some people out there that will ask some kind of safety question and react with shock at my suggestion to build nuclear plants close to people, but my response is simple and direct. Do you think that people smart enough to learn how to operate nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers are stupid because they are willing to live within a few hundred feet of an operating nuclear power plant? For those other people that object by stating that nuclear plants are huge, remember the size of a typical submarine and realize that the power plant on that submarine takes up less than half of the internal space and yet could provide enough electrical power to supply a town with 20,000-50,000 residents.