Before going nuclear, try geothermal energy
West Virginians have dodged a bullet — for now. The West Virginia Senate tabled a bill that would have allowed our industry-friendly Department of Environmental Protection to oversee radioactive waste.
This matters because the nuclear industry has just persuaded West Virginia to permit small nuclear reactors in this state.
Although the lobbyists claim small reactors generate less waste, Stanford and British Columbia University studies found that the volume of radioactive waste from small reactors will be two to 30 times more than that of large reactors and that small reactors create more spent fuel per unit of energy produced.
Stored in pools and casks at reactor sites around the United States, spent fuel rods are accumulating at a rate of about 2,000 metric tons per year. Should there be a prolonged cooling interruption, the water in these pools can boil off, releasing radioactive particles into the atmosphere. Further, for needed storage efficiency, U.S. regulations risk nuclear criticality by permitting rod rearrangement.
Though such facilities are carbon-free, they would take over 10 years to construct, and according to scientific consensus, climate change needs to be addressed immediately.
New research, however, suggests that the temperature of the earth beneath West Virginia is capable of supporting commercial-scale geothermal energy.
Enter Advanced Geothermal Systems, a new type of geothermal power using enclosed loops of horizontal wells in shallower rock. Only requiring temperatures of 150°F, AGS has no carbon footprint, no toxic emissions and supplies the essential 24/7 baseload missing from all other green energy technologies.
Also, the Department of Energy’s Wells of Opportunity Initiative plans to convert abandoned gas and oil wells — of which there are thousands in West Virginia — to geothermal energy, since most of the work has already been done.
Promoted by nuclear profiteers for 60 years yet still heavily dependent on subsidies and the ability to influence governments, the nuclear power industry continues to face unresolved, radioactive waste challenges.
Geothermal’s clean, baseload, energy can thus win the day.
Cool things happening at West Virginia Academy
I am the parent of a student currently enrolled at West Virginia Academy. With support and approval of the administration, I am writing to highlight some of the happenings at this school by spotlighting two of its many offerings to children in our community. Here are a few unique aspects of the school:
1. Direct Instruction: K-5 studies the subjects of Math, Reading, and Language at the same time each morning, and as a result, WVA can offer 12 different levels of instruction in each subject through a daily routine called, “Direct Instruction.” Students are evaluated every nine weeks to determine the best fit for each student, and groups are adjusted as needed. Sixth through ninth grade students are differentiated within the various classes offered.
Professor Rattan, a first grade teacher said, “Direct instruction provides an opportunity for students to excel based on their level and type of learning. Direct instruction also provides a rigorous schedule that scholars are expected to follow each day when they attend school.”
2. Piano Program: The piano program at West Virginia Academy is an opportunity for beginning and intermediate piano scholars in third through ninth grades. The classroom has 15 digital piano keyboards connected to computers that are used with a piano software called “Playground Sessions.” The software includes video tutorials and interactive lessons with real-time feedback allowing scholars to learn piano at their own pace. Scholars are able to perform for peers and parents in a recital at the end of each semester.
Professor Hyde, the music teacher, said, “The most enjoyable part of my job is witnessing students experience the spark of making music. Many of them quickly find that they love to play, and it provides a healthy outlet for them to express themselves. I love when students take what I teach them and run with it — they go home and practice without being required to and come back excited to show others.”
Don’t abandon the arts in pursuit of STEM
Readers opening The Dominion Post on Sunday, April 2, saw the headline “Mon BOE mulls over architects for STEM school.”
Specialty high schools exist, such as the Wexford Collegiate School for the Arts just north of Pittsburgh, and our MHS and UHS are identified as “West Virginia STEM schools,” reflecting increasing demand for engineers, scientists and computer professionals. STEM stands for “Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics,” but taken to the extreme, the concept is bad for students and society.
An excessive focus on STEM is bad because success in technical areas involves students being able to interpret questions such as the infamous word problems in high school, then writing up and explaining their results. Persuasive speech, communications, such as presentations, and visual arts, such as logos, are part of promoting one’s research and development work.
Students with skills in STEM should be in the same schools as other students as much as possible to increase intellectual interaction.
Also, the world is rapidly changing. Society has just been confronted with artificial intelligence-enabled chatbots, such as ChatGPT, that can fix our cars, send us to Mars and write our essays in the meantime.
We are faced with AI that could replace all the scientists, computer scientists, engineers and mathematicians. AI and other computer algorithms beat humans at chess and GO, and they can be used for self-driving vehicles and satisfying elderly folks’ need for conversation.
The answer is certainly not to learn less STEM. Rather, the answer is to also learn foreign languages, English literature, philosophy, music, art and, yes, even gym! We need the humanities and arts to make us feel more human, but also to know when to pull the plug on these robotic automatons that are increasingly intruding into our lives.
So, Mon BOE, go build a school and outfit rooms of local schools for STEM, but don’t forget the humanities and the arts. That’s the only way to educate well-rounded students.
Support EPA rule cutting methane emissions
I am writing in support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed updated draft rule to cut methane and other harmful pollutants from the oil and gas industry.
Cutting methane pollution from the oil and gas industry is the most effective way to combat climate change and protect our communities. Methane emissions accelerate the pace of climate change, which will change our current way of life.
Also, the toxic emissions from the oil and gas industry can worsen asthma and other respiratory diseases, as well as increase the risk of cancer and heart disease.
As most know, there are a lot of oil and gas wells in Appalachia, so it is our communities that are being affected. However, the EPA’s proposed draft rule will reduce these harmful emissions to protect our local, regional and national communities’ health. The EPA must enact solutions for pollution and finalize the strongest possible protections.
Now, it is vital for West Virginia to get behind the new methane rule to support our communities’ health.
Environmental health is public health, and we need federal legislation that reflects that.