Vitamin D as COVID-19 fighter, a most important virus fighter!

The organization Grassroots health put out the results of 212 people that had the COVID-19 virus, roughly 50 each having a critical or severe or normal or mild outcome. The results were stunning. Nearly all with a high level of vitamin D level in the blood had a mild outcome, as opposed to those with a vitamin D deficiency.

Up to now vitamin D deficiency has mostly been a concern for the people with the following risk factors, but not as a virus fighter.

  • Osteoporosis or other bone disorder
  • Previous gastric bypass surgery
  • Age; vitamin D deficiency is more common in older adults.
  • Obesity
  • Lack of exposure to sunlight
  • Having a darker complexion
  • Difficulty absorbing fat in your diet

It should be fairly simple and fast to expand this analysis to a larger sample of people that also include people with antibodies to COVID-19 but never showed any symptoms.

If this holds true, we did the exact wrong thing by keeping people indoors in hope to slow the spread. Instead we should have encouraged people to be outdoors as much as possible, still practicing hygiene and social distance, give vitamin D to all over 65 (4000 IU), to all obese and people of dark complexion.

This is by no means the only suggestion, but it is one more weapon in the arsenal to combat this virus.

An Indonesian study indicates the link between Vitamin D Deficiency and death is even stronger:

 

It is correct special attention should be given African Americans and Native Americans, since they have a much higher rate of Vitamin D deficiency.

Conclusion: The AMA should start paying attention to food supplements and issue recommendations for Vitamin D that it is an  important therapeutic and prophylactic against COVID-19.

This also means that forbidding outdoor dining, forcing people to eat indoors in their own homes makes matters worse. This is also confirmed by the statistics of lockdown states, they do worse after lockdown than before. In contrast, states with less confinement are nearly all well past their peak.

 

 

Climate change and the Paris climate agreement. A Limerick.

Re-enter the Paris accord?

A folly we ill can afford.

We’ll help China pollute,

they won’t still give a hoot.

Re-sign is a Damocles sword.

I am a climate realist, that means I look at the totality of what is happening to the climate with increasing CO2 levels, and what it means for our future.

Climate alarmists and IPCC believe that the thermal response to increasing CO2 is a feedback gain from increasing water vapor that results from higher temperatures, leading to much higher temperatures. Current climate model averages indicate a temperature rise of 4.7 C by 2100 if nothing is done, 4.65 C if U.S keeps all its Paris commitments and 4.53 C if all countries keep their part of the agreement. In all cases, with or without Paris agreement we are headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.

As the chart indicates, implementing all of the Paris agreement will delay the end of mankind as we know it by at most 4 years.

The cost is staggering. The developing countries want at least 100 billion dollars a year to implement the Paris accord, all paid for by the developed countries. The most infuriating thing about that is that China is considered a developing country, and being a developed country The U.S., while reducing their CO2 footprint will be paying China until the year 2030 to further develop their coal burning electric plants until the China CO2 output is six times our output. They had plans to add 65 GW  (+6.5%) of coal-burning power plants this year alone to their grid. The china-virus delayed that by a few months, but their intent is still to dominate the world by 2025. They already consume 48% of the world’s output of coal, produce over half of the world’s steel and cement (it takes a lot of reinforced concrete to create multiple islands in the South China Sea).

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Myself and quite a few scientists, meteorologists, but mostly engineers believe the feedback loop in nature is far more complicated than what the climate models suggest, in fact, there is a large negative feedback in the system, preventing a temperature runaway, and we have the observations to prove it.  The negative feedback manifests itself in 2 ways:

Inorganic feedback, represented by clouds. If there were no clouds, the tropics would average a temperature of  140 F  thanks to the greenhouse effect. The clouds reflect back up to 300 W/m2 into space rather than the same energy being absorbed into water or soil. Clouds are highly temperature dependent, especially cumulus and cumulonimbus clouds. The figure below shows temperature at the equator in the Pacific Ocean.

Cumulus clouds are formed in the morning, earlier the warmer it is, and not at all if it is cold, thunderstorms appear when it is warm enough. The figure shows how temperature in the equatorial Pacific rises until about 8:30 a.m, then actually declines between 9 and 12 a.m. even as the sun continues to rise. The feedback, which was positive at low temperatures becomes negative at warmer temperatures, and in the equatorial doldrums, surface temperature has found its equilibrium. No amount of CO2 will change that. Equatorial temperature follows the temperature of the ocean, warmer when there is an el niño, cooler when there is a la niña. Here is a chart of temperature increases since satellite measurements began as a function of latitude.

The tropics follow the ocean temperature closely, no long term rising trend, the extra-tropics are also stable.

Not so at the poles. the temperature record indicate a noticeable warming with large spikes up and down, up to 3 degree Celsius difference from year to year, especially the Arctic. So, how much has the Arctic melted? Here is a chart of Arctic ice cover for 31 May for the last 39 years.

If this trend continues, all ice may melt in 300 to 400 years, faster if there is further warming and nothing else is changing. Let’s take a look at the Arctic above the 80th latitude, an area of about 3,85 million square kilometers, less than 1% of the earth’s surface, but it is there where global warming is most pronounced. Here are two charts from 2016 and 2017.

meanT_2017

Starting at summer 2016, the Arctic was melting quite normally, but something else happened that is not shown in the chart. Every 5 years or so, the Arctic suffer a large storm with full hurricane strength during the summer. In 2016 there was no one, but two such storms, and as they happened late in the season when the ice is rotten they result in a large ice loss, making the ice minimum the lowest on record, and the ice volume nearly 4,000 Gigatons (Gt) less than the 30 year normal. Then the temperature from October thru April did run 7 degree Celsius warmer than normal with a spike as high as 20 degrees warmer. Yet today the deficit is down to 2,500 Gt. What happened? It snowed more than normal. In the Arctic, it gets warmer under clouds, warmer still when it snows. Take a look at Greenland and what happened during the freezing season. It snowed and snowed and Greenland accumulated 150 Gt more ice than normal. So, at that point in the season we were a total of 1650 Gt ahead of previous year, and this was with Arctic temperatures being seven degrees warmer than normal during the cold season. The counter-intuitive conclusion is that it may very well be that warmer temperatures produces accumulation of snow and ice, colder temperatures with less snow accumulates less. What happens during the short Arctic summer? With more snow accumulated it takes longer to melt prevous year’s snow, so the temperature stays colder longer. In 2017 the Arctic temperature was running colder than normal every day since May 1. If this melting period ended without melting all snow, multi year ice will accumulate, and if it continued unabated, a new ice age would start.

 

The second feedback loop is organic. More CO2 means more plant growth.  According to NASA there has been a significant greening of the earth, more than 10% since satellite measurements begun. This results in a cooling effect everywhere, except in areas that used to be treeless where they have a warming effect. The net effect is that we can now feed 2 billion more people than before without using more fertilizer. Check this picture from NASA, (now they can publish real science again) showing the increased leaf area extends nearly everywhere.

In addition, more leafs changes the water cycle, increases evapotranspiration, and more trees and vegetation reduces erosion and unwanted runoff. Good news all around.

In short, taking into account the negative feedback occurring the earth will warm up less than 0.5 degrees from now, not at all in the tropics, and less than 3 degrees at the poles. Without the Paris agreement there will be no increase in the death rates in the cities, except from the slight increase of city temperatures due to the urban heat effect. With the Paris agreement we will have to make draconian cuts in our use of electricity, meaning using much less air conditioning and even less heating, and life expectancy will decline.

We need energy. It takes a lot of energy to clean up the planet. Developing nations should be encouraged to use electricity rather than cooking by dried cow-dung. Coal is limited, and we should leave some for our great great grandchildren. Oil and gas should be preserved for aviation, since there is no realistic alternative with a high enough energy density. Therefore I am an advocate for Thorium based nuclear energy, being safer than Uranium based nuclear energy, and, properly implemented will produce about 0.01% of the long term radioactive waste compared to conventional nuclear power plants. And there is a million year supply  of Thorium available. Once the electricity power plants have fully switched away from coal and gas, then and only then is it time to switch to electric cars. The case for Thorium generated electric energy can be found here.

The many cases why Thorium Nuclear Power is the only realistic solution to the world’s energy problems.

 1. A million year supply of Thorium available worldwide.

 2. Thorium already mined, ready to be extracted.

 3. Thorium based nuclear power produces 0.012 percent as much TRansUranium waste products as traditional nuclear power.

 4. Thorium based nuclear power will produce Plutonium-238, needed for space exploration.

 5. Thorium nuclear power is only realistic solution to power space colonies.

 6. Radioactive waste from an Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor decays down to background radiation in 300 years compared to a million years for U-235 based reactors. A Limerick.

 7. Thorium based nuclear power is not suited for making nuclear bombs.

 8. Produces isotopes that helps treat and maybe cure certain cancers.

 9. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors are earthquake safe, only gravity needed for safe shutdown.

10. Molten Salt Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors cannot have a meltdown, the fuel is already molten, and it is a continuous process. No need for refueling shutdowns.

11. Molten Salt Nuclear Reactors have a very high negative temperature coefficient leading to a safe and stable control.

12. Atmospheric pressure operating conditions, no risk for explosions. Much safer and simpler design.

13. Virtually no spent fuel problem, very little on site storage or transport.

14. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Nuclear reactors scale beautifully from small portable generators to full size power plants.

15. No need for evacuation zones, Liquid Fuel Thorium Reactors can be placed near urban areas.

16. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors will work both as Base Load and Load Following power plants.

17. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors will lessen the need for an expanded national grid.

18. Russia has an active Thorium program.

19. India is having an ambitious Thorium program, planning to meet 30% of its electricity demand via Thorium based reactors by 2050.

 20. China is having a massive Thorium program.

21. United States used to be the leader in Thorium usage. What happened?

22. With a Molten Salt Reactor, accidents like the Three Mile Island disaster will not happen.

23. With a Molten Salt Reactor, accidents like Chernobyl are impossible.

24. With Molten Salt Reactors, a catastrophe like Fukushima cannot happen.

25. Will produce electrical energy at about 4 cents per kWh.

26. Can deplete most of the existing radioactive waste and nuclear weapons stockpiles.

27. With electric cars and trucks replacing combustion engine cars, only Thorium Nuclear power is the rational solution to provide the extra electric power needed.

28. The race for space colonies is on. Only Molten Salt Thorium Nuclear reactors can fit the bill.

29. President Donald J. Trump on Jan.12 issued an Executive Order on Promoting Small Modular Reactors for National Defense and Space Exploration. Only Liquid fluoride thorium reactors can meet all the needs.

Climate change and droughts and wildfires.

History shows us there has always been climate change, from ice age to the Minoan temperature optimum to the Roman warm period to the dark ages to the medieval warm period to the little ice age to now. The question is, where does the climate go from here, how much will it warm from here, or will it start cooling again? One question is; will wildfires contribute to global warming, or will the smoke act as a cooling agent? The only way to give an answer as a scientist is to look at what the wildfire trends are. Wildfires have decreased 25% worldwide in the last 15 years!  This is according to NASA:the full article is in https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145421/building-a-long-term-record-of-fire

One recent confession from the governor of California!

 

The question is then: Why are wildfires decreasing?

One possible exclamation, droughts are decreasing. Let us check:

No, there is no discernible trend in droughts.

Since the beginning of industrialization CO2 has risen about 50%. CO2 is the feed-stock for all plants and indeed the earth is getting greener!

Yes, most areas are getting greener. There are a few areas that are getting less green, such as the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, the South American Gran Chaco, the American South West and the edges of the Gobi desert. The global environmental challenges are still enormous, but thanks to the overall increased vegetation the earth can now feed an additional 2 billion people, not to mention provide livable habitat for many more animals.

What increased CO2 does to global temperatures will come in future installments.

The case for Thorium 20. China is having a massive Thorium program.

China is having a massive Thorium program. The People’s Republic of China has initiated a research and development project in thorium molten-salt reactor technology. The thorium MSR efforts aims not only to develop the technology but to secure intellectual property rights to its implementation. This may be one of the reasons that the Chinese have not joined the international Gen-IV effort for MSR development, since part of that involves technology exchange. Neither the US nor Russia have joined the MSR Gen-IV effort either.
China is currently the largest emitter of CO2 and air pollutants by far, and according to the Paris accord was allowed to emit six times as much pollutants as the U.S. by 2030, being a “developing nation”. Their air quality is already among the worst in the world so something had to be done if they were to achieve world dominance by 2025 and total rule by 2030. Only Thorium can solve the pollution problem and provide the clean energy needed for the future. Regular Uranium Nuclear reactors require large amounts of water and Molten Salt Thorium reactors require little water to operate.

Geneva, Switzerland, 21 August 2018 – As the world struggles with a record-breaking heatwave, China correctly places its trust in the fuel Thorium and the Thorium Molten Salt Reactor (TMSR) as the backbone of its nation’s plan to become a clean and cheap energy powerhouse.
​​The question is if China will manage to build a homegrown mega export industry, or will others have capacity and will to catch up?
For China, clean energy development and implementation is a test for the state’s ability. Therefore, China is developing the capability to use the “forgotten fuel” thorium, which could begin a new era of nuclear power.​
The first energy system they are building is a solid fuel molten salt reactor that achieves high temperatures to maximize efficiency of combined heat and power generation applications.
However, to fully realize thorium’s energy potential and in this way solve an important mission for China – the security of fuel supply – requires also the thorium itself to be fluid. This is optimized in the Thorium Molten Salt Reactor (TMSR).
The TMSR takes safety to an entirely new level and can be made cheap and small since it operates at atmospheric pressure, one of its many advantages. Thanks to its flexible cooling options it can basically be used anywhere, be it a desert, a town or at sea. In China this is of special interest inland, where freshwater is scarce in large areas, providing a unique way to secure energy independence.
“Everyone in the field is extremely impressed with how China saw the potential, grabbed the opportunity and is now running faster than everyone else developing this futuristic energy source China and the entire world is in a great need of.”
– Andreas Norlin, Thorium Energy World
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China is not telling all they are doing on Nuclear Energy.

The case for Thorium. 18. Russia has an active Thorium program.

Russia has an active Thorium program This is a self-contained Thorium Nuclear Reactor on a barge. Coolant readily available. Hoist it a couple of cables and the town to be serviced will have all the power it needs. This is especially useful in the Arctic. Russia is trying to establish Arctic domination, both commercially and militarily. They have over 30 ice breakers, some of them nuclear. U.S. has two, only one of which are operational.
Russia is also trying to commercialize hybrid fusion-fission reactors:
Nuclear Engineering International: 29 May 2018

Russia develops a fission-fusion hybrid reactor.
A new fission-fusion hybrid reactor will be assembled at Russia’s Kurchatov Institute by the end of 2018, Peter Khvostenko, scientific adviser of the Kurchatov complex on thermonuclear energy and plasma technologies, announced on 14 May. The physical start-up of the facility is scheduled for 2020.The hybrid reactor combines the principles of thermonuclear and nuclear power – essentially a tokamak fusion reactor and a molten salt fission reactor. Neutrons produced in a small tokamak will be captured in a molten salt blanket located around tokamak. The facility will use Thorium as a fuel, which is cheaper and more abundant than uranium. Moreover, unlike a fusion reactor, a hybrid will not require super high temperatures to generate energy.

  • A new paper describes computer simulations of a hybrid fusion-fission reactor that runs on thorium.
  • Thorium has benefits compared with uranium reaction and has been endorsed by Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
  • In the reactor, plasma fusion generates neutrons that fuel subsequent fission.

 

Hybrid reactors reduce the impact of the nuclear fuel cycle on the environment. The concept combines conventional fission processes and fusion reactor principles, comprising a fusion reactor core in combination with a subcritical fission reactor. The results of the fusion reaction, which would normally be absorbed by the cooling system of the reactor, would feed into the fission section, and sustain the fission process. Thorium in a molten salt blanket will enable breeding of uranium-233.

Some of the expected advantages include:

  • Utilization of actinides and transmutation from long-lived radioactive waste;
  • An increase in energy recovered from uranium by a large factor;
  • The inherent  safety of the system, which can be shut down rapidly; and
  • High burnup of fissile materials leaving few by-products.

The hybrid fission-fusion reactor is seen as a near-term commercial application of fusion pending further research on pure fusion power systems.

This is very interesting, and I will follow up when I get more information.

The case for Thorium. 17. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors will lessen the need for an expanded national grid.

Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors will lessen the need for an expanded national grid. The National Electric grid is at the breaking point. It needs to be expanded, but neighborhood resistance is great in many areas where they need an expanded grid the most. The grid is also sensitive to terrorism activities.

As we can see the national grid is extensive. It is also under severe strain at peak demand. Wind power will only increase the strain since most wind power is generated where few people live and work. A way to lessen the dependency on the national grid is to sprinkle it with many small to medium sized Thorium Nuclear Power generators. They can be placed on barges in rivers and along the coast where the need is greatest, giving the grid maximum flexibility to respond in  case of an emergency. LFTR’s do not depend on water for their cooling, so they can be placed anywhere, even in extreme arid areas. Since LFTR can be placed very close to urban centers, transmission losses are kept low. (The Texas grid is separately controlled from the rest of the grid.)

The case for Thorium. 15. No need for evacuation zones, Liquid Fuel Thorium Reactors can be placed near urban areas.

No need for evacuation zones, can be placed near urban areas. Molten Salt Thorium reactors operate at atmospheric pressure and have a very high negative temperature coefficient, so there is no risk for a boil-over. They are easily made earthquake-safe and no pressure vessel is needed. This will greatly simplify the approval process, no need for elaborate evacuation plans have to be developed. Since the Three Mile Island accident there was a thirty year gap in approvals for new nuclear plants. The “not in my backyard ” mentality reigned supreme, and delay and denial was the rule of the years. But the lawyers still got their share, leading to escalating cost for new nuclear power. In the early days of nuclear power France took the approach of building some of their nuclear plants near the Belgian and German border, so they only had to develop half of an  evacuation plan, leaving the other half to their understanding neighbors. It also leads to placing the nuclear plants where there is the least resistance, not where they are needed the most, adding to the strain on the electric grid. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors have one additional advantage. They do not need access to water, so they can be placed even in desert areas.

The case for Thorium 13. Virtually no spent fuel problem, very little on site storage or transport.

 Virtually no spent fuel problem, very little on site storage or transport. I have been following the events at Fukushima Nuclear Power plants disaster with great interest. How ironic that one of the greatest problems was with the spent fuel, not with the inability to shut down the working units. The spent fuel issue is the real Achilles’ heel of the Nuclear Power Industry. The cost of reprocessing and storing spent reactor fuel will burden us for centuries after the reactors themselves have been decommissioned after their useful life. Molten Salt Thorium nuclear power works differently from  conventional Uranium fueled Reactors as  the fissile fuel gets generated in the breeding process itself and nearly all fuel gets consumed as it is generated. When the process shuts down, that is it. Only the radioactivity that is en route so to say will have to be accounted for, not everything generated thus far in the process. The difference is about ten thousand to one in the size of the problem. It is high time to rebuild and expand our Nuclear power generation by switching to Thorium.

The case for Thorium. 7. Thorium based nuclear power is not suited for making nuclear bombs.

 Thorium based Nuclear Power does not produce much Plutonium-239, which is the preferred material used in nuclear bombs. The higher Plutonium isotopes and other TRansUraniums are about as nasty as they get, need expensive protection against terror attacks, and need to be stored for a very long time.

One anecdote from my youth. The time had come to apply to University, and to my delight I was accepted to Chalmers’ University in Sweden as a Technical Physics major. I felt, maybe I can do my part by becoming a Nuclear Engineer and help solve the energy needs of the future. The Swedes at that time championed the heavy water – natural Uranium program together with the Canadians. Sweden is a non-aligned country, so it was not privy to any atomic secrets, it had to go it alone. They settled on the heavy water moderated natural Uranium process because Sweden had an ambition to produce its own nuclear bomb. Officially this was never talked about, and I was not aware of it at that time. They could have gone with Thorium instead, but a Thorium based nuclear reactor  produces very little Plutonium, and what it produces is nearly all Pplutonium-238, not fissile and as such not suitable for bomb making.

I was excited to learn about all the possibilities and signed up for a couple of nuclear classes. One lab was to design a safety circuit, then run the heavy water research reactor critical and hopefully watch the reactor shut down from the safety circuit before the system safety circuit shutdown. About that time the word came that U.S. will sell partially enriched uranium at bargain basement prices if Sweden agreed to abandon the heavy water project and sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, a treaty being formulated by U.N.

Sweden was in awe about U.N, all the problems of the world were to be solved through it, and it had such a capable General Secretary in Dag Hammarskjöld, a Swede. I looked at the light water, partially enriched Uranium nuclear power plants being developed and decided to have no part with it, not due to safety concerns but it was the design that produced the most nuclear waste of any of the available designs. At that time there was still optimism that fusion would be ready by about the year 2010 or so. The cost of maintaining spent fuel in perpetuity was never considered, so light water reactors became the low cost solution.

India on the other hand refused to join the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, kept their heavy water program going and had by 1974 produced enough plutonium for one nuclear bomb, which they promptly detonated. They still use heavy water moderated reactors, but since India is low on Uranium but rich in Thorium they have now converted one heavy water reactor to Thorium with a Plutonium glow plug. It went on-line in 2011.

They are also developing molten salt Thorium reactors, but full production is still a few years off.

There we have it. We could have gone with Thorium from the beginning, but the cold war was on, and the civilian peaceful use of nuclear energy was still all paid for by nuclear weapons research and development. Once all the bombs we could ever wish for were developed the greatest asset of nuclear power became its greatest liability.