Saturday, 30 April 2011

Domestic hazards

There are numerous potential electrical hazards in your home. We have listed some of them along with some simple suggestions to keep your home a safer place.
Flexible leads – what condition are they in? Damaged insulation increases the risk of the cable overheating and catching fire. It also increases the risk of electric shock. If the cable is damaged, replace it.
Hanging pictures on walls or partitions – without hitting pipes or cables. Hitting a live cable with a drill or nail is dangerous and could cause an electric shock, a fire or burns.
Do not drill holes or fix nails in walls or partitions where you are unsure what is behind the plaster. A cable and pipe detector can help you identify where cables and metal pipes lie in the wall.
Making electrical equipment safe – always unplug for peace of mind. Simple maintenance, like changing a belt on the vacuum cleaner, should only be attempted when it’s unplugged. This prevents the risk of injury from electric shock, hot or rotating parts. If parts have become hot while running, let them cool before you touch them.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Child safety

After a bath or shower, you should make sure your children are dried off thoroughly before they go anywhere near electrical things like games consoles – water and electricity can be deadly.
This also means not letting your kids run straight from the paddling pool into the house where there are plugs, sockets and switches. Get them dry first.
  • Keep drinks away from TVs, DVD players, stereos, speakers, computers, games consoles and anything else electrical.

  • Turning off electric games and appliances when they’re not in use is a good habit to get into. It is not only safer, but saves you money and is kinder to the environment.

  • There are many potential electrical hazards in the garden. For example, lawn mowers and hedge cutters can cut through their own electric cables, causing a risk of electric shock. It’s important to be vigilant at all times, especially if young children are nearby.

  • Ensure that, before children use any electrical equipment in the garden, they understand the dangers involved and use an RCD for mains powered equipment such as lawn mowers.

  • Keep appliance cords out of the reach of children, especially those connected to hot items such as kettles, irons, hair straighteners or hairdryers.

  • Never leave an unconnected appliance cord plugged in and switched on (for example, a mobile phone charger). Young children may be tempted to put the end of the cord in their mouths.
  • Thursday, 28 April 2011

    Algae genes could restore sight to the blind

    Researchers believe they may be able to replace damaged cells in the retina with similar ones found in algae.
    The technique has worked in mice and now scientists believe they can begin human trials within two years.
    "The idea is to develop a treatment for blindness," Alan Horsager, at the University of southern California, told the New Scientist.
    More than a million people in Britain suffer from vision problems caused by a damaged or malfunctioning retinas.
    The retina is the "business end" of the eye, where nerve cells convert light into electrical and chemical signals that are sent to the brain down the optic nerve.
    If it is not working then the eye is useless.
    Algae need to be sensitive to light so they can seek out sunlight for photosynthesis and it is the cells they use to do this that scientists hope to use to replenish damaged equivalents in the human eye.
    It involves injecting the gene into the retina.
    Early tests showed that blind mice were able to see light again after treatment and that the effect appears to be permanent

    Wednesday, 27 April 2011

    UK to probe extended warranties on electrical goods

    Britain's consumer affairs watchdog has launched a study into the 750-million-pound-plus ($1.2 billion) market for extended warranties on domestic electrical goods like televisions and washing machines.
    The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said on Thursday it would look at whether competition was limited by retailers' ability to sell warranties at the same time as selling domestic electrical goods, and at whether the warranties were good value for money.

    "Consumers buy millions of extended warranties on domestic electrical goods each year and we want to make sure they are getting value for money," said Claudia Berg, director in the OFT's consumer and goods group.

    Tuesday, 26 April 2011

    Changes to waste regulations which are due to come into force later this year will affect all businesses.

    Changes to waste regulations which are due to come into force later this year will affect all businesses. The main change is that the regulations require businesses to confirm that they have applied the waste management hierarchy when transferring waste. This requirement extends the existing Duty of Care for waste and treatment requirements to ensure that organisations consider, prevention, preparing for reuse, recycling, and recovery of waste prior to disposal. Whenever you pass waste on to someone else, you will now have to declare on the waste transfer, or hazardous consignment note, that you have applied the waste management hierarchy. The regulations also introduce a two-tier system for waste carrier and broker registration, including a new concept of a waste dealer, and make amendments to hazardous waste controls introducing a new category, H15 Sensitizing.
    The key changes that businesses need to be aware of are:
    • Waste producers or those handling waste must comply with the WFD waste hierarchy (prevention, prepare for re-use, recycling, recovery, disposal) - unless it can be justified on environmental or technical grounds that this is not appropriate.
    • From 1 Jan 2015, any business collecting waste containing waste paper, glass, metal or plastic must 'take all such measures to ensure separate collection of that waste'. This is to ensure this waste does not go to landfill.
    • From 1 Jan 2014, any business that carries their own waste will need to be registered as a waste carrier. However, once registered, they will not need to register again unlike other waste carriers who will still need to register every three years.
    • Transfer notes will require additional information including the 2007 SIC code of the transfer or and confirmation that they have applied the WFD waste hierarchy.
    • The new Regulations enable electronic transfer notes and signatures to be used.
    • The new rules will give the Environment Agency powers to apply Compliance, Stop and Restoration Notices.
    There are also a number of changes to the Hazardous Waste Regulations through this new legislation. These include:
    • The removal of Multiple Consignment Notes.
    • A consignor is also defined as a broker or dealer of hazardous waste.
    • A new Hazard Code is being added - H15 - Waste capable by any means, after disposal, of yielding another substance, e.g. a leachate, which possesses any of the characteristics above.
    • Some changes to the Environmental Permitting Regulations in relation to Hazardous Waste.
    • Some changes to the List of Wastes (EWC codes) for Hazardous Waste that are not yet clear.
    And finally, the new Regulations revoke many of the existing environmental regulations relating to England and Wales.

    Monday, 25 April 2011

    Hot news from Scunthorpe :)

    Gas from rubbish dump to help Tata Steel save money on electricity

    GAS generated from a rubbish tip is helping the loss-making Tata Steel works in Scunthorpe make big savings on its electricity bills.
    The 10-year deal struck with SITA UK will not only save the steelmaker at least £1.5 million but also make the 2,000-acre site cleaner.
    SITA, which owns the landfill site in nearby Dawes Lane, says the deal with Tata is significant and will reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the works by more than 4,000 tonnes a year.
    The landfill gas is used to power a gas engine which drives an electrical generator connected to the steelworks' coal handling plant.
    Tim Otley, the UK head of energy solutions for SITA, explained: "The gas arises when waste collected from local homes and businesses is buried at the site and degrades and breaks down over time.
    "This natural degradation of waste results in the production of methane and carbon dioxide.
    "These gasses have traditionally been captured through a network of gas wells and flared off.
    "However, by using the gas as a fuel to drive a series of engines, which in turn drive a generator, SITA UK is able to put the gas to better use in the production of electricity.
    "This is an excellent example of how we can put waste to good use.
    "In Scunthorpe we are helping Tata Steel to reduce the impact of its net carbon emissions and save money on the price of energy."
    The electricity supply from the landfill site to the steelworks will eventually be enough to power the equivalent of more than 1,800 homes.
    The Scunthorpe waste site, which opened in 2005, collects between 50,000 and 60,000 tonnes of rubbish a year and has the capacity to cope with a further 1.5 million cubic metres.

    Sunday, 24 April 2011

    Cannabis could be used to treat epilepsy

    Researchers at the University of Reading have discovered that three compounds found in cannabis leaves can help to reduce and control seizures in epilepsy.
    They are now using extracts from the plants grown in huge industrial-sized greenhouses in the south of England to develop new drugs that could ease the misery of millions of epilepsy sufferers around the world. In the UK alone there are more than 500,000 people who suffer from epilepsy.
    Dr Ben Whalley, who is leading the research at the department of pharmacy at the University of Reading, said tests in animals had shown the compounds effective at preventing seizures and convulsions while also having less side effects than existing epilepsy drugs.

    Epilepsy is caused by sudden bursts of electrical activity in the brain that disrupt the normal way in which messages are transmitted. This can cause debilitating seizures and fits that can lead to sufferers injuring themselves.

    Saturday, 23 April 2011

    Electric car-makers struggle for standardisation

    electric car manufacturers are trying to put their heads together to decide on a set of standards when it comes to electrical plugs and sockets that will be used to charge electric cars. BMW and General Electric are among those currently debating the issue. Instead of going the route of the cellphone industry, in which most cellphone makers have their own standard connections, the car industry has so far managed to keep the number of different power connections used down to about seven. The debate is now shifting to ways in which to help customers avoid recharging entirely, say by offering battery swop-out services at filling stations.

    Friday, 22 April 2011

    Why Fukushima Won't Kill Nuclear Power

    The accident at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station is still far from resolved. A major public health disaster seems to have been avoided, and the long-term impact on health and safety will be dwarfed by the devastating loss of life caused directly by the huge Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. However, the nuclear crisis has badly scared people around the world.

    Antinuclear activists are calling for an end to any further nuclear development. Equally predictably, representatives for the industry say the Japanese earthquake was a once-in-a-millennium event and point to the greater safety of newer reactors.

    In the wake of the accident is to assess the safety of existing nuclear power plants. Plans to extend the operating life of some 40-year-old reactors for another two decades should be reviewed, and costly upgrades may be required. We must also revisit the longstanding issue of how and where to store spent nuclear fuel. The sensible solution would be to store it in dry concrete casks at one or two central locations. Instead, decades of political dithering have produced only gridlock, so spent fuel remains in ­increasingly densely packed storage pools at dozens of sites around the country.

    Still, the overall impact of the accident will be small here. The so-called nuclear renaissance was not really going anywhere in the U.S. even before the Japanese earthquake. For most utilities, new nuclear plants are simply too big and expensive to contemplate. Only a few such plants would have been built over the next decade. Now some of those may be scrapped.

    This year is the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the atomic nucleus, and a little over 70 years since nuclear fission (when will we achieve fusion?????)

    No one today can foresee the future of nuclear energy technology at the end of the 21st century. All that can be said with confidence now is that the nuclear power plants of the year 2100 will have about as much resemblance to today's workhorse light-water reactors as a modern automobile has to a 1911 Model T.

    In the aftermath of Fukushima, some new technologies already in the pipeline look more promising. New fuel "cladding" materials are being developed that do not react with high-temperature steam to produce hydrogen—the cause of the shocking explosions in Japan. Other new plant designs rely on natural heat conduction and convection rather than electric-powered pumps and valves and human intervention to cool the fuel in reactors that have shut down.

    The innovators here will not be today's industry leaders or officials at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but rather the young men and women who for the last decade have been entering university nuclear engineering programs in growing numbers. They see great engineering challenges in designing new nuclear power systems that are safe and economical, and they see an opportunity to help ameliorate the grave threat of climate change. They know that nuclear energy is the only low-carbon energy source that is already generating large amounts of electricity and can meet the world's fast-growing appetite for power.

    Thursday, 21 April 2011

    Fire safety and risk assessment

    Who is responsible for fire safety?

    Everyone who enters your business premises - employees, customers, contractors or other visitors - should ensure fire safety. However, each non-domestic premises now has a legally-designated 'responsible person' who must arrange for a risk assessment, identify any possible fire risks and deal with them. See the page in this guide on the duties of the 'responsible person'. 

    It will usually be obvious who the responsible person is, although sometimes several people will share the responsibility - for example in shared premises or larger

    businesses. The responsible person will be someone who has control over premises, or over some areas, departments or systems. For example, it could be:
    the owner, employer or manager of a business

    the owner or managing agent of premises which are shared between a number of businesses

    individuals within a multiple-occupancy building, such as self-employed people or voluntary organisations if they control someone within the premises
    You should establish who the responsible person is within your business or premises.
    • Where there is more than one person responsible for a premises, they are expected to:
    • co-operate with the other responsible persons so far as is necessary to comply with the regulations
    • co-ordinate with the other responsible persons' measures required to comply with the regulations
    • share information with each other

    Wednesday, 20 April 2011

    An Incredible Discovery: Graphene Transistors Self-Cool

    Graphene is an unusual single-atom thick carbon semiconductor.

    Researchers measured the heat of a graphene transistor for the first time using atomic force microscopy.

    The results were surprising -- the material significantly self-cools.

    Future computers may not need a heat-sink -- their thermal electric properties result in net-cooling effect

    Heat is a sad fact of life for current generation electronics.  Any Android, iPhone, or BlackBerry user can tell you that smartphones tend to get pretty hot at times.  And by today's standards a balmy 85 degrees Celsius, while hot enough to cook an egg, is a pretty "good" operating temperature for a high-powered PC graphics processing unit.

    But that could all soon change, according to the results of a new study by researchers at the University of Illinois.  Examining graphene transistors, a team led by mechanical science and engineering professor William King and electrical and computer engineering professor Eric Pop made a remarkable discovery -- graphene appears to self-cool.

    What is Graphene?
    Graphene is somewhat like a miniature "fence" of carbon.  The material consists of a single-atom thick layer composed of hexagonal units.  At each point of the hexagon sits a carbon atom that is bonded to its three close neighbors.

    Tuesday, 19 April 2011

    Nanotech Body Powered Gadgets

    Dr. Zhong Lin Wang, in conjunction with his School of Materials Science and Engineering colleagues at the Georgia Institute of
 Technology, has developed improved nanotechnology power generators that take mechanical energy from the body’s muscular motion and converts it into electrical power. The nanogenerator was unveiled at the 241st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.

    The power is sufficient to drive LCD displays or send a radio signal, with the objective of eventually powering electronic devices such as iPods, cell phones and internal medical devices. Embedded insulin pumps could be powered by heartbeats, and other medical sensors could be powered by these nanogenerators, using radio waves to send monitoring information from inside the body without using a battery or electrical connections.

    “Our bodies are good at converting chemical energy from glucose into the mechanical energy of our muscles ... These nanogenerators can take that mechanical energy and convert it to electrical energy for powering devices inside the body. This could open up tremendous possibilities," explained Wang.
    Nanogenerators use zinc oxide nanowires that produce electricity when mechanically stretched. The generated power can be stored in a capacitor, negating the need for a battery. This nanotech generator’s power output has been improved by 1000 fold, and the voltage output has also been increased 150 times compared to previous versions.

    Body movement like walking, a heartbeat or even blood flow, can provide mechanical power input to the nanogenerator. The nanowires, 500 of which fit inside the diameter of a human hair, can also generate electrical output from vibrating in the wind or from rolling car tires.
    Millions of nanoscale zinc oxide wires are placed on a polymer chip to make a nanogenerator, and five nanogenerators are connected together to produce around 1mA at 3V (0.003W), so many more nanogenerators would need to be strung together to power a cell phone or iPod.

    Monday, 18 April 2011

    Battery makes electricity from water

    researchers say they've developed a battery that can generate electricity from the difference in salinity between fresh water and seawater.
    Anywhere fresh water enters the sea, such as river mouths or estuaries, could be potential sites for a power plant using such batteries, Yi Cui, Stanford University associate professor of materials science and engineering, said.

    Cui's team says if all the world's rivers were put to use, their batteries could supply about 2 terawatts of electricity annually, about 13 percent of the world's current energy consumption, a Stanford release said Tuesday.

    The battery consists of two electrodes, one positive and one negative – immersed in water containing electrically charged ions of sodium and chlorine, the components of ordinary table salt.
    The battery is filled with fresh water and a small electric current is applied to charge it. The fresh water is then drained and replaced with seawater, which because it is salty contains 60 to 100 times more ions than fresh water.

    This increases the electrical potential, or voltage, between the two electrodes, giving back far more electricity than the amount used to charge the battery.

    Sunday, 17 April 2011

    Call for electrical safety regulations in rented homes

    The Electrical Safety Council (ESC) is calling for regulations to force landlords to improve electrical safety in rented homes.

    This is particularly urgent, it said, as the UK rental market is growing rapidly, with 3.28m privately rented homes in the UK – approximately an eighth of all homes.
    The ESC says that while landlords are legally obliged to provide an annual gas safety certificate, there is no equivalent legal obligation for electrical installations. But its research indicates that 78% of people in the UK think there should be the same safety rules for gas and electricity.
    The move is being supported by the family of Thirza Whittall, the mother of two young children, who died when an electrical fault in her rental home caused the taps on the bath to become live.
    The electrical wiring in the property hadn't been tested since 1981, and the ESC says that if an electrical report – known as a Periodic Inspection Report (PIR) – had been carried out, the faults leading to the tragedy could have been rectified and her death prevented.

    Her mother, Jane Andain, said: "Thirza had just moved down from Birmingham to Cornwall, which she loved, and had found work as an orthoptist in the local hospital. Everything seemed to be going perfectly. But the property she'd rented had no earthing in its wiring, and a faulty heater earthed itself through the taps on the bath instead. When Thirza ran a bath and got into it, she was electrocuted."
    The elderly landlady was prosecuted by trading standards for the faulty heater and received a fine, but no further action could be taken against her for the state of the wiring in the property.
    Andain said: "It is really important that the law is changed so this doesn't happen to other families. We are calling for regulations to be applied to rental properties, but everybody should think about the state of the wiring in their home, whether is is rented or privately owned."
    The ESC recommends rental homes should have a PIR carried out by a registered electrician at least every five years, or on change of tenancy. It has produced a leaflet – the Tenant's Checklist – to provide tenants with essential information to help protect themselves and their families by following a few simple steps.

    The leaflet explains what warning signs to look for and what essential safety checks to carry out, as well as the questions tenants need to put to their landlords.

    The advice includes checking:
    • that sockets, switches and light fittings are in good condition with no signs of damage such as cracking or burn marks.
    • that leads and flexible cables on appliances aren't damaged or frayed.
    • that any electrical appliances provided by the landlord have up to date Portable Appliance Test (PAT) stickers on them (although not a legal requirement it is recommended by the ESC).
    • that the fusebox has RCD protection. This is a life-saving device that protects against electric shock and reduces the risk of electrical fires.
    • for fuseboxes with a wooden back; cables coated with black rubber, lead or fabric; old, round pin sockets, light switches and sockets mounted in skirting boards; and light switches mounted on bathroom walls. All these things show that the electrics are old and the property may not have had sufficient safety checks.

    need a safety check -

    Saturday, 16 April 2011

    Women Gardeners More At Risk Than Male Partners

    Summer Garden Safety Campaign Urges ‘Take Five’ To Save Lives..
    A new survey commissioned by the Electrical Safety Council (ESC) shows that nearly half of women gardeners may be risking their lives this summer because they’ve never used or haven’t heard of an RCD (residual current device).

    An RCD is a life-saving device which is designed to protect you from getting a fatal electric shock if you touch something live, such as a bare wire.  RCD protection is particularly important whilst using mains-powered electrical equipment outdoors, where there is an increased risk of electric shock.
    Almost half of women surveyed have either never used or have never heard of an RCD (23% and 26% respectively) and women are also less likely than men to consider the potential dangers of electrical gardening equipment (47% vs 56%).  This is despite the fact a previous survey2 has shown that a quarter of women have experienced at least one electric shock during their lifetime while at home or in the garden.

    So, as the days get longer, the ESC is urging all gardeners and, in particular women, to take five minutes to check they are protected by an RCD and that wires and plugs for equipment such as lawnmowers and hedge trimmers - which have been languishing in the shed all winter – are all intact.

    Friday, 15 April 2011

    ‘Artificial leafs’ turn water and sunlight into electricity

    The sun is the biggest source of energy on our planet, and it’s all natural. It’s enough to realize that in one hour the sun produces enough energy to power all the electrical needs of the word for an entire YEAR! Naturally, research has been underway for many years now for means of practically and efficiently exploiting this remarkable natural resource, however progress is slow and so far solar energy accounts for a negligible percentage (around 0.05%) of the total electricity generating resources.
    Conventional photovoltaic solar panels are getting more popular and used, but rejoicing as it is, they’re highly inefficient and hard to deploy at a necessary mass scale. A very interesting alternative is the so called “artificial leaf” technology, which has been in the works for a decade now, but only recently it has come to a practical, efficient and cheap form out of MIT labs.

    What artificial leafs do is harness the power of nature just like nature does it, in this case by artificial photosynthesis. Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Daniel Nocera presented the results of his work and that of colleagues on the artificial leaf at this year’s National Meeting of the American Chemical Society. There, he showed how we can draw cheap and clean energy from water and the sun, by splitting water to get hydrogen fuel and oxygen.

    Thursday, 14 April 2011

    Fighting fire with volts: How water hoses could be replaced with electric wands

    Wands that shoot electricity into fires might largely extinguish the need for a water hose

    The idea exploits a scientific phenomenon first noticed  200 years ago – that electricity can affect the shape of flames, making them bend, twist, flicker and even  die out.

    Scientists connected a 600-watt amplifier to a wizard-style wand and used it to shoot beams of  electricity at a flame more than a foot high.

    The fire was snuffed out almost instantly, an American Chemical Society conference heard on Sunday

    Researcher Ludovico Cademartiri believes firemen could use the wands in the future, allowing them to work from safer distances than their predecessors, such as famed oil-well fighter Paul ‘Red’ Adair.
    The devices could also part flames, allowing the emergency services to enter burning buildings – and trapped occupants to escape them.Other possibilities include electric ceiling ‘sprinklers’ for use in buildings, primed to spark into action at the first sign of a fire.
    It is thought that an electric current makes the particles of soot in a flame move.

    This creates a flow of gas which weakens the flame and, if the current is large enough, can even make it die out.

    However, Dr Cademartiri suggested even a much weaker current than the one tested would have firefighting properties.

    He said his team’s findings had shown ‘that by applying large electric fields we can suppress flames very rapidly’.

    Wednesday, 13 April 2011

    embracing the Green Agenda

    Solihull Community Housing who have embraced the green agenda by introducing a corporate-wide initiative across all departments. One aspect was to reduce postal correspondence and communicate via email for residents that agreed.  In 2010, they sent out 2,874 emails instead of letters, saving themselves almost £2,000 in postal costs alone, proving that a simple action can have a considerable impact.

    Tuesday, 12 April 2011

    Brain Stimulation Might Help Stroke Patients With Swallowing Problems

    Electrical stimulation of the brain could help stroke patients avoid potentially dangerous problems with swallowing, preliminary research indicates.

    The treatment has only been tested in a small number of patients and needs further exploration. Still, the findings published online March 24 in the journal Stroke are "encouraging," said Dr. Larry B. Goldstein, director of the Duke Stroke Center at Duke University Medical Center.

    An estimated 795,000 people suffer a stroke each year in the United States, and most of them survive, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But many lose some of their ability to swallow, a problem known as dysphagia.

    Monday, 11 April 2011

    Electrical Safety Council forms partnership with Makita

    Safety charity, the Electrical Safety Council (ESC), has formed a new collaboration with power tool manufacturer Makita UK to raise consumer awareness of the importance of RCD (residual current device) protection.
    Supporting the ESC's Plug into Safety campaign , thousands of Makita products will include important safety information about RCD protection on their packaging. There will also be a free giveaway of RCDs for the first thousand customers who register online at
    Lorraine Carney, Head of Campaigns at the ESC, says: Every year in the UK, around 70 people die and 1.2 million are injured by electrical accidents in and around the home. For our Plug into Safety campaign to succeed, we need to establish effective partnerships which allow us to directly engage with consumers. We are very happy to be collaborating with Makita, as it provides us with exactly the opportunity we need to do just that.
    As part of the campaign, a new film - Consequences - will also be launched this spring. Among the case studies highlighted, it includes the story of a young mother who died while using an incorrectly wired hedge trimmer without RCD protection. For more information about Consequences please visit

    Sunday, 10 April 2011

    Hotel company admits fire safety breaches

    A Yorkshire company that owned a hotel in Cornwall which was destroyed by fire in 2007 has admitted two charges of failing to meet fire safety standards.

    Three people died as a result of the fire at the Penhallow Hotel in Newquay.
    O&C Holdsworth Ltd admitted at failing to provide proper fire detection and alarm systems and failing to make a proper risk assessment.

    Two employees, who pleaded not guilty to similar charges, were discharged by the judge at Truro Crown Court.

    The company, which admitted the charges brought by Cornwall Fire & Rescue Service and Cornwall Council, is to be sentenced in May.

    The two senior Holdsworth staff, John McMillan and Nichola Burfitt, denied six offences. Their pleas were accepted by the prosecution.

    'Absolute hell'
    The fire broke out on 18 August 2007. Flames reached 30ft (9m) into the sky and the building, in Island Crescent in the town, was later demolished as result of the damage.
    The fire, which was fought by more more than 100 firefighters, was described as the worst in the UK for nearly 40 years.
    About 90 people managed to escape from the 54-bedroom hotel, but Joan Harper, 80; Monica Hughes, 86; and her 43-year-old son, Peter - all from Staffordshire - died as a result of the fire.
    Mr Hughes, a teacher from Cheslyn Hay, jumped from the third floor of the hotel after trying in vain to save his mother but died in hospital.
    Joan Harper, Peter Hughes and Monica Hughes Joan Harper, Peter Hughes and Monica Hughes died in the blaze
    An inquest into their deaths held last year returned an open verdict.

    Saturday, 9 April 2011

    The Nuclear Power debate

    an approach to atomic energy that may not have been the best.

    Through the magic black box of science, nuclear energy would be transformed into American soft power throughout the world. With unlimited power, all the world could be a Monticello--open for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Wealth would not have to be redistributed because there would be enough for everyone to live an American lifestyle.

    As in the original Dwight D. Eisenhower "Atoms for Peace" speech, the specter of nuclear destruction--which, like it or not, was an American invention--was redeemed by the utopian visions of a perfect power. "We now can join knowledge to faith and science to belief to realize in our time the ancient hope of a world which is a fit home for all," Johnson concluded. "The New Testament enjoins us to 'Go ye therefore and teach all nations.'"

    Thus, nuclear power, long-supported by the American government with subsidies, was officially enshrined as the American energy technology of the future. The reactor was a cheap, clean, necessary answer to the problem of the bomb and the opportunity of the future. Or so Johnson's story went.

    It was a grand American narrative: Science! Technology! Progress! Economic growth! Unlimited everything! What's not to love? It's more than a bit like the one we are telling ourselves about green technology.

    Unfortunately, the kernel on which it was built--the "economic breakthrough" of nuclear power--was more truthy than true. 

    Coal officials told the Wall Street Journal that GE had "priced the Oyster Creek plant at less than cost." A GE executive denied that, claiming the company would "make a slight profit unless we run into some unforeseen difficulties." British and Russian engineers also called the estimates into question--and French officials unsuccessfully tried to get details out of GE. But American news accounts, though they reported those foreign doubts, always made sure to note the bias that national competition could introduce into other countries' expert opinion. None questioned the U.S. expert corps' own Cold War sympathies.

    Newspaper reporters, with the help of sources within the nuclear industries, came up with stories to explain how prices could have fallen so far, so fast. But like a trend piece about raising chickens in Manhattan, they were little more than anecdotes strung together by plausibility and the public's desire to believe. Although they reported doubts about the breakthrough, they were often run deep inside the paper whereas the optimistic pieces led the sections of the paper. Even the most skeptical piece, a September 1964 article by Washington Post reporter Howard Simons, noting that "not all experts accept General Electric's figures," only questioned the figures within 12 percent. In reality, nuclear power would end up costing not $104 or $1,040 per kilowatt of capacity but more than $3,750 per kilowatt by the mid-1980s.

    Perhaps Lewis Strauss, then-chairman of the AEC, overstated the case when he told a crowd of science writers in 1954 that "Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter," but his optimism was obviously widely shared within the nuclear establishment. The country's political leaders were more than willing to believe and promote these technical promises. It was a wonderfully convenient solution to an America battling Communist agitation across the world.

    Yet from the early 1950s until the energy crises of the 1970s, politicians accepted as gospel truth nuclear proponents' overblown visions of America's energy needs emanating from the nation's national laboratories and the AEC. Legislators continually delivered high-levels of steady funding to nuclear research.

    Of course, the political relationship ran both ways. The AEC knew what the government needed and the government knew what the AEC needed. In both cases, the answer was: Don't stop believing!
    Despite the occasional call for the free market to work, the opposite happened. For example, nuclear power plant operators are indemnified by the U.S. government for catastrophic disasters (the Price-Anderson Act), thereby lowering their insurance rates. They were given preferential access to markets for borrowing money. There was plenty of informal and regulatory help to go with the R&D and commercialization boosts. In effect, the government socially engineered the cost structure of the industry so nuclear could compete with coal, which got to dump all its extra costs, such as air and water pollution, into the environment.

    But even then, convincing utilities that they needed to go nuclear wasn't easy until General Electric hit on the genius idea of guaranteeing a fixed price to risk-averse utilities, effectively subsidizing the cost of the construction. And Oyster Creek was born. If they could just build a ton of plants, they could learn and scale and standardize: Costs would drop. Westinghouse matched GE's pricing, and what came to be known as the "turnkey" plants were built. In the bandwagon market that followed until 1973, utilities ordered more than two hundred nuclear reactors. Nuclear power had arrived.

    But the turnkey plant prices did not reflect the actual costs of building a nuclear power plant. As the years wore on, that nuclear power was not as cheap as coal and other fossil fuels became increasingly clear: The prestige of the nuclear authorities began to fall; nuclear whistleblowers came forward; environmental risks were reassessed, perhaps too stringently; the protest movements of the 1960s turned their attention to nuclear power and all the centralization of power it represented. It turned out that Americans were ready to extend democracy to technocratic decision making, and they did not like what they saw from the nuclear industry.

    The nuclear industry operated as a closed network of thinkers and analysts, disregarding outside critiques of their methodologies and not taking the serious issues of nuclear power seriously enough. "One result of the regulators' professional identification with the owners and operators of the plants in the battles over nuclear energy was a tendency to try to control information to disadvantage the anti-nuclear side," a former AEC commissioner admitted in the early 1990s. The very agency charged with regulating the industry--the Atomic Energy Commission--was also charged with promoting it, and that's just the most obvious conflict of interest. Nearly everyone involved in assuring the public of the economics, safety, and environmental wisdom of atomic power was also involved in promoting atomic power. Not all of them had economic interests at stake, but few were disinterested observers.

    The coalition of scientists, reactor builders, and utilities neglected the social aspects of their technology. A more subtle type of blindness to the effects of actual success afflicted the nuclear crew as well: Success surprised them. Though they believed in the engineering idea of scale--bigger is better, bigger is more efficient, bigger is cheaper--with unerring faith, they tended to ignore the problems that scale would bring. The complexity of local and global politics, safety, construction, waste management, and plant siting were all underestimated. And that all cost money. The cost of the plants rose for many reasons, not just those that pro- or anti-partisans like to highlight.

    Learning to run the plants well also took a long time. The capacity factors of those huge nuclear plants--how often the plants were actually generating electricity--were shockingly low. They hovered in the 58 percent range, which means that if we visited a plant on ten random days, it would not have been running for four of them. Since then the capacity has improved and is now over 90 percent, which is a testament to how good technology can become over time.

    Higher-than-expected costs, worse-than-expected operation, the meltdown at Three Mile Island, and the Chernobyl disaster all obviously hurt the industry with the public. A less well-known event might have changed history as much when on October 5, 1983, Cincinnati G&E announced that its Zimmer nuclear station would need 2.8 to 3.5 billion more dollars and two to three years of further construction time. Previously, the utility had claimed the reactor was 97 percent complete. "That news was the first of many disastrous nuclear crises that followed," wrote Leonard Hyman, an investment banker who worked with the utility industry. "Utilities tottered on the brink of bankruptcy, scrambling for funds to complete troubled projects, or to salvage what they could from huge investments in projects that had to be cancelled despite the billions that had been sunk in them."

    Investors got the message: Nuclear power was not a good investment, so they scurried away. The First Nuclear Era, as Weinberg called it, was over. No new reactors would be built in the United States for more than twenty-five years.

    Friday, 8 April 2011

    Quantum computing device hints at powerful future

    It uses the strange "quantum states" of matter to perform calculations in a way that, if scaled up, could vastly outperform conventional computers.
    The 6cm-by-6cm chip holds nine quantum devices, among them four "quantum bits" that do the calculations.
    The team said further scaling up to 10 qubits should be possible this year.
    Rather than the ones and zeroes of digital computing, quantum computers deal in what are known as superpositions - states of matter that can be thought of as both one and zero at once.
    In a sense, quantum computing's one trick is to perform calculations on all superposition states at once. With one quantum bit, or qubit, the difference is not great, but the effect scales rapidly as the number of qubits rises.
    The figure often touted as the number of qubits that would bring quantum computing into a competitive regime is about 100, so each jump in the race is a significant one.

    Thursday, 7 April 2011

    IBM Offers Its Cloud To Watch The UK’s Electrical Grid

    Computing giant IBM and the British telecom concern Cable & Wireless say they’re collaborating to build a cloud computing system that would monitor the power usage of some 50 million smart electrical meters in the UK.

    The idea, they say, is to use cloud computing to monitor and analyze power use at British homes and businesses, as part of an overall plan to reduce the country’s energy use and therefore its carbon footprint.

    Several existing wireless players have tossed their hats in the ring to build smart meter systems, including BT, Telefonica and Vodafone. They all want a piece of a big UK government contract that could be worth as much as $14 billion to install smart meters in every home by 2020 as part of a wider plan to reduce its carbon emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050.

    IBM and C&W say their plan, which they call the UK Smart Energy Cloud, will gather data many times a day from smart meters around the country and store it in a cloud hosted in the UK. The data would then go to power utilities for analysis, to make sure customers are billed according to their usage.

    Wednesday, 6 April 2011

    Testing, Testing, Testing

    We provide a comprehensive electrical inspection and testing service throughout Beds Herts & Bucks.

    We offer the following services to residential & commercial clients, including homebuyers, landlords and letting agents.
    • Portable Appliance Testing PAT.
    • Mortgage Electrical Survey Inspections / Testing.
    • Landlord Electrical Safety Certificates.
    • Periodic Inspection Reports.

    Tuesday, 5 April 2011

    Electrical Safety Tools

    Being safe around electricity is a necessity for workers. Loose wires or mishandling electrical equipment will seriously injur or kill a person. Even with modest protective gear, such as gloves or goggles, injuries from electricity can still occur. Nevertheless, recommended or advised electrical safety tools will help increase a worker's chances of avoiding electrical shocks. Tools may include handheld devices used during electrical maintenance or gear worn while working around electricity.

    Insulated Tools
    One of the best preemptive tools against being electrocuted are insulated tools. Insulated tools are usually insulated with non-metallic products that minimize the chance of electrical shock. Tools such as drills can be insulated or even double-insulated with plastics. However, caution is still needed, as electrical sparks may occur from handling electrical wires haphazardly.

    Electrical Cords
    How an electrical cord is handled will determine the safety of a worker. Like insulated tools, electrical cords should be insulated with plastic. Any exposure, such as a cut on the insulation, increases the likelihood of an electrical shock. Also, workers must use cords carefully. Never unplug the cord of a device if the device is on since this could cause an electrical shock. Also, never pull a cord too violently, since this can cut internal wires in the cord.

    RCD - Earth Trip
    Another electrical safety tool is the RCD / Earth trip, when it detects that electrical flow is unbalenced it turns off all electrical activity to your tool. This minimizes the chances of severe electrical shock,

    Inspect Tools Consistently
    Probably the biggest tip for any worker is to consistently inspect their tools before using them. Making sure all cords are still insulated properly is a good way to avoid shock. Also, if any moisture or water is on a tool, wipe off the water and wait for the tool to dry before plugging it into any electrical outlet.

    Monday, 4 April 2011

    Rolls-Royce 102EX - Phantom Experimental Electric

    an Electric Roller??????????? nah! it cant be???

    Reinvention is part of being timeless and Phantom EE is the latest in a line of experimental vehicles from Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. It builds on a legacy which dates back to 1919 and 1EX.
    PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
    Rolls-Royce Phantom 102EX - experimental electric

    Experimental models are used to test and evaluate new technologies and applications which could shape future Rolls-Royce products. Unlike a concept car, Rolls-Royce experimental models are always fully functioning, drivable vehicles using tangible materials such as wood, leather and metals rather than clay and foam or other concepts.

    They present engineers and designers with the opportunity for real-world innovation and are used not only to showcase new components and engineering techniques but also to evaluate them.

    The latest in this line of experimental projects began with a Rolls-Royce Phantom, a strikingly modern and immaculately proportioned car in which high technology and hand-craftsmanship combine to produce something extraordinary.

    Phantom EE features the car’s ground-breaking aluminium spaceframe, so important to dynamic prowess, as well as the sense of calm and tranquillity enjoyed by occupants. However, the naturally aspirated 6.75-litre V12 petrol engine and 6-speed gearbox have been replaced by a lithium ion battery pack and two electric motors mounted on the rear sub-frame. These motors are connected to a single speed transmission with integrated differential.

    Each motor is power rated to 145kW, giving Phantom EE a maximum power output of 290kW and torque of 800Nm available over a wide band. This compares with 338kW for standard Phantom with maximum torque of 720Nm, delivered at 3,500rpm.

    The Nickel Cobalt Manganese battery chemistry holds around 230Wh/kg,a high energy density which is important in achieving an acceptable range between re-charges. Pre-launch tests suggests Phantom EE should run to a range of up to 200km. Delivered on an effortless wave of torque, 0-60mph will be achieved in under eight seconds (5.7 seconds in standard Phantom), with top speed limited to 160kph.

    Sunday, 3 April 2011

    Electricity – a powerful force

    Electricity is found in just about every workplace, from offices and shops to factories and on construction
    sites. It powers office machinery, computers, hand tools and all types of machine tools. It is clean, quiet,
    efficient and usually safe, making it the most common method of powering machinery.
    But it can be dangerous too, with around 1,000 electrical accidents reported each year, causing 25 deaths.
    So remember to treat electricity with respect and use it sensibly.
    Key Facts about Electricity
    What’s the problem?
    Electricity causes fires and can injure people if mis-used.
    These risks can be controlled by ensuring that:
    Electrical installations and wiring are fit for purpose
    The correct safeguards and precautions are used e.g. circuit breakers (RCDs)
    All people who work on or with electrical equipment are trained and aware of the risks
    The additional risks associated with portable equipment are managed
    • Plugs and sockets
    Plugs, sockets and wiring should be designed and installed for the use in question and not overloaded.
    They should be inspected at regular intervals to ensure they remain in good condition and keep a record
    of your inspections.
    • Electrical work and wiring
    Work on electrical installations should only be undertaken by experts.
    Ideally, no work should be carried out on live equipment.
    Electricity should be isolated (switched off) and made safe before work commences.
    • Portable equipment
    Portable equipment needs more frequent checking - set up a Portable Appliance Testing PAT
    Keep records of your inspections - they are essential for managing the regular inspections of portable
    Train employees to inspect portable tools every day.
    Use circuit breakers whenever electric tools are used outside, in wet or similar higher risk environments.
    Consider whether the risks of using portable electrical equipment are too great. Can the risks be
    controlled by use of reduced voltages e.g. 110v supplies? Are there alternative means of working?
    • Special risks
    Treat all overhead cables as “live”. Contact with overhead live wires can prove dangerous. When
    digging, check for the presence of underground cables. Contact with a buried cable can prove fatal and
    will cause massive interruption to the work being carried out.

    Saturday, 2 April 2011

    Recycling company fined for illegal exportation of e-waste

    An electrical recycling company faces prosecution costs of £8,200 for illegally shipping old computers and electrical waste to Afghanistan.

    The owner of recycling company Quest International, Naveed Sohail, has been convicted at Bradford Magistrates' Court and fined £1,000 for each of four offences breaching waste regulations after the Environment Agency discovered a container bound for Afghanistan contained broken computer monitors and electrical equipment.
    Electrical waste can contain toxic materials, such as mercury, copper, arsenic and lead. Louise Azmi, prosecuting counsel for the Environment Agency, said the broken computer monitors were classed as hazardous waste, which could not be shipped for disposal or recovery to a non-OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) country such as Afghanistan.

    Waste shipments abroad are subject to the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations 2007. The UK must also comply with the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive 2007.

    Roy Howitt from the Environment Agency said, "It is illegal to export electrical waste from the UK to developing countries. The last thing we want is our electrical waste causing harm to people or the environment overseas; and Afghanistan does not have the infrastructure to recycle electrical items safely."

    The case forms part of a larger investigation by the Environment Agency into the illegal exportation of electrical waste.

    Friday, 1 April 2011

    Facts about Electricity

    Although we modern persons tend to take our electric lights, radios, mixers, etc. for granted, hundreds of years ago people did not have any of these things, which is just as well because there was no place to plug them in.

    Then along came the first Electrical Pioneer, Benjamin Franklin, who flew a kite in a lightning storm and received a serious electrical shock. This proved that lightning was powered by the same force as carpets, but it also damaged Franklin's brain so severely that he started speaking only in incomprehensible maxims, such as, "A penny saved is penny earned." Eventually, he had to be given a job running the post office.

    After Franklin, came a herd of Electrical Pioneers whose names have become part of our electrical terminology Myron Volt, Mary Louise Amp, James Watt, Bob Transformer, Jim Diode etc.

    These pioneers conducted many important electrical experiments. For example, in 1780 Luigi Galvani discovered (this is the truth) that when he attached two different kinds of metal to the leg of a frog, an electrical current developed and the frog's leg kicked, even though it was no longer actually attached to the frog, which was dead anyway. Galvani's discovery led to enormous advances in the field of amphibian medicine. Today, skilled veterinary surgeons can take a frog that has been seriously injured or killed, implant pieces of metal in its muscles, and watch it hop back into the pond just like a normal frog, except for the fact that it sinks like a stone.

    Thomas Edison, who was a brilliant inventor despite the fact that he had little formal education and lived in New Jersey. Edison's first major invention, in 1877, was the phonograph, which could soon be found in thousands of American homes, where it basically just sat until 1923, when the record was invented.

    Edison's greatest achievement came in 1879, when he invented the electric company. Edison's design was a brilliant adaptation of the simple electrical circuit. The electric company sends electricity through a wire to a customer, then immediately gets the electricity back through another wire, then (this is the brilliant part) sends it right back to the customer again. This means that an electric company can sell a customer the same batch of electricity thousands of times a day and never get caught, since very few consumers take the time to examine their electricity closely. In fact, the last year in which any new electricity was generated was 1937. The electric companies have been merely re-selling it ever since, which is why they have so much free time to put up the prices.

    Today, thanks to men like Edison and Franklin, and frogs like Galvani's, we receive almost unlimited benefits from electricity. For example, in the past decade scientists developed the laser, an electronic appliance that emits a beam of light so powerful that it can vaporize a bulldozer 2,000 yards away, yet so precise that doctors can use it to perform delicate operations on the human eyeball, provided they remember to change the power setting from "VAPORIZE BULLDOZER" to "DELICATE."

    What astronauts do when they’re not in outer space