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It may be a point of little attention, as the millennium bug came with a lot of hoo-ha and went out with a whimper, but the impact it had on business was small because of all the hoo-ha, not in spite of it. And so it is with some concern that I consider operating system rollover dates as a potential hazard by software malfunction at major industrial operations such as nuclear power stations and warhead controls, which in worst case scenario, could of course have disastrous implications due to out-dated control systems.

The main dates of interest are 19 January 2038 by when all 32-bit Unix operating systems need to have been replaced by at least their 64-bit equivalents, and 17 Sept 2042 when IBM mainframes that use a 64-bit count need to be phased out.

Scare mongering? Perhaps not. While all modern facilities will have the superior time representation, I question if facilities built in the 70s and 80s, in particular those behind the old iron curtain were or ever will be upgraded. This raises a concern that for example the old soviet nuclear arsenal could become a major global threat within a few decades by malfunction if not decommissioned or control systems upgraded. It is one thing for a bank statement to print the date wrong on your latest bill due to millennium bug type issues, but if automated fault tolerance procedures have coding such as ‘if(time1 > time2+N) then initiate counter-measures’ then that is quite a different matter entirely.

I believe this is a topic which warrants higher profile lest it be forgot. Fortunately the global community has a few decades on its hands to handle this particular issue, though all it takes is just one un-cooperative facility to take such a risk rather than perform the upgrades necessary to ensure no such ‘meltdowns’ occur. Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock…

It was with great satisfaction that I watched a recent (Horizon?) documentary on the wildlife, wolf population and introduced endangerd species flourishing in the Chernobyl district in the abandonment of the area by mankind 25 years ago — with most not willing to hunt in the area for fear of contracting radiation poisoning. One wonders if this will be the template for the future, that eco-disaster areas will be abandoned to become our new wildlife sanctuaries. Or is it morally wrong to designate such areas as wildlife sanctuaries and wilfully expose the animal kindom to such levels of radiation?

After Fukushima the world was reawakened to the real danger of fault tollerance at nuclear power plants — but as a relatively clean technology is surely here to stay. Is there a need for a more inclusive debate on the location of such reactors to areas that are a) less likey to suffer natural disasters but b) also provide a suitable follow-on purpose in the event of area abandonment due to radiation. Opinions welcome.

Despite bringing us “pollution free” power, one of the unfortunate side effects from the nuclear age is radioactive waste. This deadly byproduct has the power of not only destroying the land around it in our present age, but for thousands of years into the future.

Although there have been various discussions on how to “deal” with this deadly waste product, it seems that some Israeli scientists have found an ingenious way of not only removing it but providing an incentive along the way.

(Israel 21st Century) “It also makes a good recyclable material for building and paving roads,” he assures them. Earlier, Shrem told ISRAEL21c that EER can take low-radioactive, medical and municipal solid waste and produce from it clean energy that “can be used for just about anything.”

Using a system called plasma gasification melting technology (PGM) developed by scientists from Russia’s Kurchatov Institute research center, the Radon Institute in Russia, and Israel’s Technion Institute — EER combines high temperatures and low-radioactive energy to transform waste.

“We go up to 7,000 degrees centigrade and end at 1,400 centigrade,” says Moshe Stern, founder and president of the Ramat Gan-based company.

Shrem adds that EER’s waste disposal rector does not harm the environment and leaves no surface water, groundwater, or soil pollution in its wake.

What makes this technology really impressive is the cost factor compared to the current methods of dealing with nuclear waste. In order to keep citizens out of harms way, governments were forced to bury this material at a price tag of $30,000 a ton.

Moshe Stern’s technology on the other hand can permanently remove this deadly byproduct for about $3,000 a ton! Already countries like Ukraine seem very interested in using this technology to dispose of their wastes, and hopefully Stern’s invention will be used by other nations as well (as the less of a mess we can leave the future generation, the better off we will be).

Originally published on IsraGood and republished here for your enjoyment.

From Yahoo News:

RIYADH (Reuters) — Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter and a key U.S. ally, said on Wednesday that the kingdom does not see any obstacle to cooperating with Russia on developing a nuclear energy program.

“There is no obstacle to cooperate with Russia on… nuclear energy,” Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told a news conference.

Analysts said the plan by Sunni bastion Saudi Arabia is a warning shot to Shi’ite Iran that it could enter the regional arms race and start developing nuclear capability.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday during a visit to Saudi Arabia that his country would consider helping the kingdom with a possible atomic energy program.

“On nuclear energy, there was a (Russian) contact with the kingdom and the Gulf Cooperation Council,” he said when asked if Saudi Arabia and Russia had made any agreements.

Saudi Arabia and fellow GCC members Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, said in December they would study embarking on a joint civil atomic program.

The announcement by the GCC, a loose economic and political alliance, raised concern of a regional arms race with analysts saying the Arab bloc wanted to match Iran’s nuclear program.

The question of whether GCC members can develop civil nuclear power without spinning off a nuclear weapons program is a controversial one. Most analysts see nuclear programs as a threat to world peace, because the temptation of developing weapons is so great. As we saw in the recent deal with North Korea, nuclear programs can be used to bribe other countries for free energy. This may actually increase the incentive to start nuclear programs. Russia blames the United States for kicking off a global arms race, but seems to be participating in that arms race by offering nuclear support to GCC nations. A solution that would make everyone happy would be the development of thorium nuclear reactors, which can produce electricity without making the sort of enriched uranium that can be used in a bomb. Thorium reactors are a 50 year old technology, well within the reach of these countries, given Russian assistance.

The New Scientist discusses a recent study that advocates using of an ion beam generator on the moon to allow the use of far smaller rockets to move from the moon to other locations in space. The ion beam generator would need several hundred megawatts of electrical power from either a large solar cell array or nuclear power.

I have discussed the need on my website to make gigawatts of power on the moon and in orbit in order to begin serious development and colonization efforts.

An alternative to ion beams would be magbeam, a plasma based approach for accelerating spaceships

The Lifeboat Foundation supports space habitats and Asteroid shields

The beam approaches all require large power sources. The fastest way to achieve this would be to build a lightweight nuclear power source on the earth and launch it into a high orbit (a lagrange point) or the moon.

The power could also be used to power mining and industrial machinery on the moon which has uranium and thorium and the raw materials to make more nuclear reactors. Containment and waste issues on the moon would be less of an issue until colonization happened in a big way. The colonization is better place in rotating structures in orbit, so the moon could be a power and material source for primarily orbital colonization.

Large scale structures for solar power and for space stations could be made with mostly existing or near term technology using magnetically inflated cables Using superconducting wire a lightweight structure could be launched that would unpack from an existing rocket and then expand to be 1 kilometers in diameter or more.

The main points are large scale space architecture is possible in the near term. Large power sources are needed and can be built. We can create viable space habitats with large viable populations properly engineering the technology that we have now. This would be superior to the lunar program that NASA has proposed which lacks the scale necessary to establish viable Lifeboat colonies.