Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Nuclear Theddlethorpe 03

Geology is what counts.

Useful summaries of the Theddlethorpe area’s geology are to be found in RWM’s own reports, commissioned from the British Geological Survey, ‘Eastern England Regional Geology’ (EERG)

and ‘Eastern England Subregion 2’ (EES2).

It’s worth noting that we do know quite a lot about the geology of the region. This from page 3 of EERG:

There are more than 690 boreholes drilled to more than 1,000m depth in search of coal, oil and gas, water and mineral salts (evaporites). This information is also supplemented by extensive geophysical investigations including studies of the Earth’s gravity and magnetic fields and seismic surveys. The distribution of rocks in this region is therefore reasonably well known at the national scale. There are a number of shallower boreholes that provide information on groundwater above 200m, but very little information within and deeper than the depth range of interest for a GDF, 200 to 1,000m below NGS datum.”

The sequence of rocks is summarised in Figure 2, page 8 of EERG. The sedimentary rocks comprise various layers of pervious rocks such as sandstones and impervious clays and mudstones. Nuclear waste would need to be stored within a sufficiently thick layer of impervious rock and even if too thin to hold a depository, thinner impervious layers higher in the sequence might help seal lower layers from groundwater movement.
There are various possibilities but the mudstones of the Triassic, such as the Mercia Mudstone Group, are probably the most obvious target for a GDF.

It is one thing finding a rock layer that is sufficiently impervious to movement of water (and hence radionucleotides) and might therefore provide a safe location for a GDF, but the issue in our area is what else is present. If there is a likelihood that material useful to a future civilisation is present, such as oil, gas or coal, the location will be unsuitable, as a future search for these resources could inadvertently breach the integrity of a nuclear waste depository.

There are hydrocarbons in rocks at a number of horizons right down to the underlying Carboniferous rocks where we find the Coal Measures. Gas has been found in commercially exploitable quantities at Saltfleetby, 7km from the old Theddlethorpe Gas Terminal, and oil at Keddington. Coal underlies the whole area and although too deep to be mined by conventional means, underground coal gasification has been seriously considered. There is currently no commercial interest in exploiting this resource and the climate crisis demands an end to burning fossil carbon but we cannot know what the people in future centuries may do and what technologies they may have. It is not enough to say that while there is gas at Saltfleetby, the gas field does not extend to Theddlethorpe. A future civilisation may have technologies that make our enhanced recovery methods appear primitive. They may exploit resources that we would consider worthless.

The existence of fossil carbon in the rocks below Theddlethorpe must mean that this is rejected as a location for a GDF.

But don’t just take my word for it. These two passages are from EES2:

Page 1. "There are known gas resources at Saltfleetby north of Mablethorpe. In this area the drilling is likely to have affected the way in which water moves through the rock. Also possible exploration in the future in this area means that it is more likely that future generations may disturb a facility. Parts of this subregion have Petroleum Exploration & Development Licences to allow companies to explore for oil and gas. This exploration is currently at an early stage and it is not known whether oil or gas in these licence areas will be exploited. RWM will continue to monitor how this exploration programme progresses. Parts of this area, immediately off the coast and in the Humber estuary, are Coal Authority Licence Areas allowing companies to explore for coal. It is not known whether coal in these licence areas will be exploited. RWM will also continue to monitor how this exploration programme progresses."

Page 4. "Resources There is a small gas field at Saltfleetby, just north of Mablethorpe (Figure 4a). It is less likely that this area would be suitable to host a GDF because borehole drilling associated with oil and gas exploration affects the way in which water moves through the rocks. It also presents a higher likelihood of inadvertent human intrusion in the future. These known resources would be taken into account in the siting of a GDF. Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences3 are currently held for much of the onshore part of this subregion and a small part of the inshore are (Figure 4a). There are also Coal Authority Licence Areas, in 2 inshore parts of this subregion off Hornsea and Mablethorpe (Figure 4b) and the Humber estuary between Kingston upon Hull and Grimsby. It is not known whether coal, oil or gas in these licence areas will be exploited, but they would need to be considered in the siting of a GDF."

It is clear that RWM have a policy of rejecting a site where there is a likelihood of fossil carbon resources. It is also clear that RWM know that there are fossil carbon resources beneath Theddlethorpe. Which begs the question why are they even bothering here?

Part One of this topic.

Monday, September 06, 2021

Coronavirus 57 Is It Over?

First thing I heard on the radio this morning was that the London Metal Exchange was going back to open-outcry trading. First email I opened was from my granddaughter's school explaining that 'bubbles', staggered arrival times and spaced out seating were no longer required. It seems that the nation's hive-mind of popular opinion now holds that the pandemic is over and everything is getting back to nearly the old normal.

Later we learned that 41,192 new cases were reported today, covid related hospital admissions are averaging almost a thousand per day and deaths are averaging over a hundred per day.

The pandemic, despite any wishful thinking by a great many people, is very much not over.

Vaccination is a bonus, of course, reducing the death rate dramatically, though infection, transmission and long-term disease, while reduced, are not prevented. JCVI argued against covid vaccination for children because they are not directly very much at risk. Rubella causes only a mild illness in children yet we vaccinate them all to protect pregnant women and their babies from what is often a disastrous illness. The vaccination reluctance of some members of the JCVI is inexplicable. 

As I've been saying to anyone who would listen (not many) since February 2020, if nobody met anybody else outside their own household for about a month the pandemic would be over.

Of course that's hard to achieve; folk like to eat and have the light on. We do need a very strict lockdown, with every security and mitigation measure we can think of for the few who do have to meet others. That will drive R down well below 1, and prevalence will soon drop to the level at which an effective track, trace, isolate and support system can work. Then the pandemic will be over and the virus eliminated in short order.

All of that is as true now as it was in early 2020, before 150,000 avoidable deaths occurred. (To date Covid-19 has been named on the death certificate of 156,119 people.) Politically it is now harder to achieve than first time round.

Tragically, our government has not the slightest intention of doing what is required to eliminate the virus and end the pandemic. Instead it will muddle along, avoiding the complete collapse of the NHS as its primary goal, and, as the Prime Minister indicated, taking it on the chin and letting the bodies pile high.

The stark choice before us is between:

1. A few weeks of very strict lockdown and other appropriate measures that will end the pandemic in weeks, or

2. Allowing the pandemic to continue indefinitely, with repeated cycles of new variants, booster jabs and the inevitable extra death, disease and suffering it will cause.

Tragically, our government will again make the wrong choice. Because popular opinion trumps science.

At least the men (yes, all men) of the LME will be able to shout at each other to fix the day's prices for copper and aluminium. So that's all right.


Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Quantum Mechanics and the Penrose Rose

The illustration in my previous article was not just to look pretty. It's an oil painting I did a few years ago inspired by Roger Penrose, physicist and creator of aperiodic 'Penrose Tilings'. 

Creating the picture involved cutting out a lot of pieces of card in three shapes of rhombus, with point angles of either 18, 36 or 72 degrees. The cards were then arranged to make a tiling, no gaps or overlaps, to create the design. The pattern has five-fold rotational symmetry (ignoring the colours) but is aperiodic in that the pattern will never repeat itself going outwards, not to the ends of the Universe. It would never work for printing a roll of wallpaper.

But laying out the little pieces of card is no simple matter. It's easy enough to begin with, starting at the centre and adding tiles round the circle to grow the pattern, but one soon finds something going wrong. Add a ring of tiles and the last one turns out not to fit without gap or overlap. One has to undo recent work and start with a tile oriented in a different direction. There is a choice of orientation at each step but it is impossible to know which is the 'correct' way round until one has worked all the way around the growing pattern and discovered whether or not it fits. There's a long process of trial and error involved.

To create the pattern quickly and efficiently one would need to lay tiles on opposite sides of the pattern simultaneously, each 'knowing' the orientation of the other since they are interdependent. There needs to be instant communication. And that's spooky action at a distance, as Einstein may have said.

With a bit of imagination one might conceive a three dimensional version, with each rhombus a rhomboid to fill the space. The pattern then forms a solid, which, if the rhomboids were arrangements of atoms, would form a sort of crystal. For such a crystal to grow, however, there would need to be that spooky action at a distance. Before a new atom settles into position, with the correct orientation, on a growing crystal face it would have to know the orientation of an atom settling down on the opposite side.

Roger Penrose postulated that such things could exist. And then it was found that they do. Read about quasicrystals here.