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Mechanical Engineering. 2007;129(10):26-30. doi:10.1115/1.2007-OCT-1.
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This article reviews that for the first time in a generation, utilities are starting the regulatory process to build nuclear reactors. There has been a virtual moratorium on new nuclear power plants in the United States during the past generation, and it has many causes. But one significant factor in the industry's decline was the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s licensing process. There are now dozens of applications being submitted and approved for 20-year license renewals for established nuclear power plants. But before the nuclear power industry truly can be said to be reborn, new reactors must be constructed. The new rules allow for an early site permit and for a separate combined construction and operating license. Although the commission invited the nuclear power industry to test the two new processes when they were first announced, no company volunteered. One of the thorniest technical issues faced by the early applicants so far involves a new way of calculating, for a specific plant site, the ground motion that would result from a seismic event. When older plants were designed and built, the best available technique for these calculations was deterministic.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2007;129(10):31-35. doi:10.1115/1.2007-OCT-2.
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This article discusses the best method to curb greenhouse gas emissions is to tackle the problem in a few medium-size chunks. The models that researchers use to predict changes in the global climate depend upon knowledge of atmospheric science, which has become increasingly sophisticated, and expected carbon emissions from human sources. That latter part is truly unknowable. Wars and plagues might well decimate the global population, and thus reduce its contribution to the atmosphere. Some unforeseen technological breakthrough could render coal, oil, and natural gas obsolete. The European Union has had a trial with a carbon-trading market that might be a means to support efficiency and carbon-avoidance programs. One of the most important places where the new realization has taken hold is in the engineering community, which is much more open to the idea of getting on board with solutions to climate change.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2007;129(10):36-39. doi:10.1115/1.2007-OCT-3.
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This article focuses on the fact that some developers say the best economic case for fuel cell mobility applications, may be found in the warehouse before cars and buses can make their mark. The automobile has become the poster child of the fuel cell revolution, but the exchange at Hanover Fair in Germany underscores the rocky road to commercialization. Until there are service stations where a driver can pull in and buy hydrogen, the personal automobile is irrelevant. Municipal buses avoid that problem. They circulate within driving distance of a central fueling station. It could contain hydrogen as well as any other fuel. Fuel cells pose a more easily solved problem. Although they take up as much space as lead-acid batteries, they weigh much less. The cell packs are so light that a truck can tip over when lifting heavy loads. Developers are still testing technology and economics. This can take place only in the real world, where people make decisions based on returns on their investments. Because forklifts make the best economic case for any fuel cell mobility application, they are likely to provide answers that may lead to the fuel cell cars and buses of the future.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2007;129(10):40. doi:10.1115/1.2007-OCT-4.
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This article highlights that there are plenty of hysterical headlines about how the world is about to run out of oil, and it is just as easy to find spokesmen who will say that there is petroleum enough for everyone, now and in the future. Indeed, while oil production may be approaching a peak, there are probably at least a trillion barrels left to be pumped. In contrast, no matter how much oil is around, it is found in increasingly difficult and expensive places to exploit. A more troubling pattern can be seen in the oil production and consumption figures for Indonesia. Overtime, a greater and greater share of oil produced is being used by the producers, and less is available for export. Even so, the international trade in petroleum is 50 percent bigger now than it was in 1980. But if, as seems likely, there will be fewer exporting nations in the coming decades, this could become a problem.

Topics: Matter , Petroleum
Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2007;129(10):41-43. doi:10.1115/1.2007-OCT-5.
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This article reviews modern-day computer numerically controlled machines are no longer modern enough. The 50-year-old G and M codes that drive those machines cannot transfer valuable geometric information from CAD and CAM systems, according to a group of experts who are advocating for widespread use of the recently approved STEPNC standard. With the new standard, CAD and CAM applications have the capability to send product information to CNC machines. Today’s global engineering companies commonly pass CAD files back and forth. There are a number of ways for suppliers to translate their own CAD files into a format that original equipment manufacturers can read. The STEP and IGES translation programs have the same problems as human translators. Sometimes, there just is not a one-to-one correlation between words or, in the case of CAD systems, pieces of product data, like geometry features or attributes. IGES and STEP standards have to evolve as fast as today’s engineering technologies are evolving.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2007;129(10):44-48. doi:10.1115/1.2007-OCT-6.
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This article discusses the steamboat has been described as America’s first great invention. The river steamboat helped shape the United States and the world we live in. Steamboats and engines came to define many disciplines of mechanical engineering, and ultimately led to mechanical engineering education and the formation of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. After two centuries of service, the steam engine created its own obsolescence as it provided the springboard technologies for internal combustion engines, turbo machinery, and electric power. Fulton’s steamboat was a dramatic success. Scheduled passenger and transport immediately followed the first voyage. It was named the Clermont, for the huge Hudson River estate of Robert Fulton’s partner, Robert Livingston, who had funded the project. Robert Fulton’s steamboat and steam engines became things of the past, but we feel their influence all around us. They were the machines that helped create many industries, and were forebears of the marvelous engines and machines of our modern world.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

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