Antarctic oil, electric grids and the challenges of new nuclear

Jason Ford

News editor

A week of energy related events begins with Aberdeen University’s Prof David Macdonald discussing the issues that surround prospecting for oil in Antarctica.

According to the university, Prof Macdonald will examine the fact and fiction surrounding claims that oil and gas reserves could exist in this area.

Taking place this Wednesday, Prof Macdonald’s Frozen Eldorado? will deliver an insight into the political, media and scientific viewpoints on the subject.

‘What we know at the moment suggests that any oil and gas would either be under kilometres of ice, or in areas of the continental shelf that are constantly scoured by giant icebergs. The task of uncovering the resources would be mammoth and unlikely to be economically viable,’ said Prof Macdonald in a statement.

Clickhere for more information.

London this week hosts the 3rd Electric Infrastructure Security Summit. Taking place over the next two days, the summit will see attendees addressing the issues that surround securing electric grids against electromagnetic threats.

The organizers say the US and its allies risk severe consequences and unprecedented, continent-scale damage from electromagnetic threats to critical infrastructures. 

These threats could come from severe, century-class solar flares (Severe Space Weather) that was reported as recently as March this year.

The organizers add that if key infrastructures are not hardened, the next such flare could have serious, worldwide impact. They add that a malicious EMP attack could result in nationwide or even continent-scale damage. 

At the recent annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, scientists, planners and emergency managers were said to be unanimous in calling for protection of critical infrastructures, and for new and cost-effective mitigation strategies.

Tomorrow sees the Commons Energy and Climate Change Select Committee take evidence from power company chief executives – RWE npower’s Volker Beckers and EON UK’s Dr Tony Cocker, followed by DECC minister Charles Hendry for its inquiry into ‘Building new nuclear: the challenges ahead’.

All but one of Britain’s nuclear power stations are scheduled to close within the next 11 years, if their lifetimes are not extended.

The industry had set out plans to develop up to 16GW of nuclear power in the UK by 2025, but this outcome may now be in question following RWE and E.ON’s recent decision to withdraw from new nuclear investment.

Similarly, the election of Francois Hollande to the French presidency has caused some to query whether EDF will continue its plans for nuclear new build in Britain.

The Royal Society of Chemistry inform us that Nathan S Lewis is delivering a lecture this Thursday on the latest advances in solar fuels research.

Prof Lewis, of the California Institute of Technology, is said to lead a major new hub whose goal is a commercial technology to make fuels using sunlight, water and CO2.

Prof Lewis will be principal speaker at the May 17 event, Solar Fuels and Artificial Synthesis: Global Initiatives and Opportunities.

According to RSC, the event will bring together leading international researchers, business-people and policymakers to celebrate recent scientific progress and to discuss the potential opportunities in sustainable energy and the economy associated with solar fuels. 

On May 18,  Imperial College London will host a scientific discussion meeting dedicated to the latest advances and challenges in solar fuels research. Both events are held in partnership with the UK government’s Global Science Innovation Network.

A team of Middlesex University students is set to take on some of the world’s top engineers after making the final of UAVForge, an international competition for unmanned air vehicles.

Run by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic, the competition sees 12 finalist teams taking part in a series of competition fly-offs at Fort Stewart military base that finish on May 19.

Led by Dr Stephen Prior, the university has got two UAVs into the final, namely the HALO and SQ-4 Recon.

HALO and SQ-4 Recon will need to impress in tasks such as observing a target for three hours, relaying information back to base and vertical takeoff and landing if they are to win the $100,000 top prize.

The winner’s package includes work with a manufacturer to create up to 15 systems which will shown at an exclusive DARPA operational military demonstration.

Click here for a recap on the work done by Dr Prior and his students at Middlesex.

Finally, Rockingham hosts Arrive ‘N’ Drive, where attendees will be able to see demonstrations of low and zero missions cars and commercial vehicles that could help lower fleet emissions.

Sponsored by EDF Energy, the Arrive ‘N’ Drive will have vehicles available for test drive, with Citroen, BMW, MINI, Vauxhall, Volvo, Honda, Renault, Peugeot, Kia, Toyota, Nissan, Ford, Alfa Romeo, Lexus, Volkswagen and Fiat confirmed to attend.

Attendance is free to qualifying individuals in fleet management and associated industries, but places are limited and registration is required.