Futurists Forum – Fukushima disaster explanation enlightening

The Forum held on May 26 was well received by the 15-20 attendees.  Thanks to Dr. Gordon Aubrecht of OSU for a thorough explanation of the events and the implications of the disaster with the Japanese Fukushima  nuclear power plants after the earthquake and tsunami in March.  Understanding the mechanics of what happened can help everyone understand what might be done in the future to avoid the problems experienced there.

But as Dr. Aubrecht pointed out, risk is always a factor.  It’s a factor with coal- and natural gas field power plants.  Better planning and improvements in the technology will help mitigate risk.  But in the US, the older designs – similar to the design of the Japanese plants – will be with us for many years to come.  Such facilities – and especially replacements – are expensive to build and current regulations make approvals difficult to obtain.  Given that the actual failure in Japan was rooted in the back-up power systems needed to run the pumps and other equipment that kept the reactors cool and would have enabled an orderly shut-down, it may be possible to look at some alternatives for strengthening the response at existing plants.

Lively discussion ensued, and the insights and questions from the group added to the overall success of the meeting.  Bottom line, Dr. Aubrecht said he could not imagine a robust power supply system that did not include nuclear power as a component, combined with renewable resources like wind and sun, and a declining contribution from traditional generation plants.

Then, Germany announced their plan to be out of the nuclear power generation business by 2022.  Just to prove that the US is not the only country with reservations about the technology, if not the strategy.

— Rich Bowers

May Forum: Future of Nuclear Power after Fukushima Dai-chi

The May Forum (May 26) of the Columbus Futurists will feature a presentation and discussion lead by Gordon Aubrecht, of the Ohio State University on the topic: “The Future of Nuclear Power after Fukushima Dai-ichi.”  Dr. Aubrecht is a recognized expert on the subject, and we look forward to a definitive description of the situation on the ground in Japan, and a discussion of the implications for US future forays into nuclear power.  As usual, the event will take place at Panera’s, 875 Bethel Rd., 6:30 – 8:30pm.   

— Rich Bowers

April Forum: Are America’s best days behind us?

The Columbus Futurists met on Thursday April 28, and discussed Fareed Zakaria’s article “Are America’s Best Days Behind Us?” (Newsweek, March 3, 2011).  One of the largest groups in recent times attended, and a lively discussion touched on key issues in the article, including: What is the definition of “best”?  Are we in a detectable cycle of history?  If there is a decline, what might be done to change directions?  A good part of the discussion also focused on changing attitudes in the political forum and among young people,  a new discovery of Ayn Rand and the decline of altruism – and do those attitudes impact the quality of life in society at large?

Further reading and resources:

Bob Letcher, offered a couple of links to blog posts he had written he felt were relevant even (if the current events discussed are a bit dated).  They are “Pendulum or Wrecking Ball: Which is the more apt image for the United States as the 2008 election approaches” and “Beyond Unemployment Insurance in the Face of Structural Job Loss.”  Both these articles incorporate substantial background and history related to the broad issues of the April discussion and Zakaria’s piece.  The “Pendulum” piece contains Bob’s  attempt to describe Olson’s “logic of collective action,” and it may be  as good as any of us will have opportunity to read.   Neither Olson’s logic nor Bob’s  explanation of it are dated at all.

— Rich Bowers