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I sincerely believe that this is a pivotal moment in United States History. The decisions, or non-decisions, made in the the next 10 to 15 years will produce 2 results.
We can lead ourselves away from the petroleum age into the next millennium of mankind. We could use the BP leak as a starting point for a united “race to the moon” national goal.
Or we can go out like a trembling addict, taking everything down around us. Because the fact of the matter is that we ARE addicted. Addicted in the worst way.
The present course offers nothing but more environmental disasters due to greater risks, more resource wars for flimsier reasons, and general decay of what most people think America should stand for.
Think about the last 30 years. Honestly think about what has happened. Now take oil completely out of the picture and ask yourself, “Would those same events have happened? Would we be in a battle to save the Gulf of Mexico right now?”
Think about that phrase, “SAVE THE GULF OF MEXICO”. It doesn’t even seem possible.
It requires a complete change in the country’s energy policy. Change away from this drug, oil, and the companies that are dealing it to us.
Massive amounts of dollars are needed to go into research of alternate energy sources. Not just millions but billions. NASA was created to grant JFK his dream of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Why couldn’t the same thing be done for alternate energy?
I am confident that technology in several areas such as wind and solar could be improved to such a degree that it will be economically feasible to supply all of our needs if given a chance.
But until those technologies are developed, one particular technology that is already proven could be used as a stop gap measure.
This technology is called a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor or LFTR. Now I am the first to be against Nuclear Energy because of it’s dangers but this is something completely different. It has already been done in a megawatt facility so it is proven to work. At the very least it deserves a look.
Compare a LFTR to the current Uranium fuel Reactors
Uranium reactor: (the current method)
1. It takes 250 tons of natural uranium with 1.7 tons of U-235 for a gigawatt year of energy. We do this by turning this uranium into 35 tons of enriched uranium containing 1.15 tons of U-235. This is the actual fissionable fuel.
2. This leaves about 215 tons of “depleted uranium”, the stuff called “DU” used in weapons. It has very low radioactivity but is dangerous as a heavy metal. This 35 tons of enriched uranium creates 1 gigawatt, (GW), of power for a year.
3. It leaves after generation of this power with the current crop of Generation II reactors (all the commercial reactors now used in the US) about 35 tons of spent fuel or what people who oppose nuclear energy call “waste”. This waste must be stored eventually in a Yucca mountain depository for about 10,000 years for safety. Very radioactive!
Thorium reactor: (LFTR)
1. For the same 1 GW year of energy, we use 1 ton of natural thorium. This is introduced into the liquid fluoride core of a LFTR. ONE ton folks, or about 7 lbs a day. That’s it…equals 1 GW a year of electricity.
2. This one ton of Th in turn produces 1 ton, IN A YEAR, of waste. This waste can be isolated from the fuel salt and contains no uranium, plutonium or other long-lived actinides.
3. Within 10 years, 83% of this waste can be sold to metal recyclers and used in other products. In only 10 years. The remaining fission products can be stored for 300 years after which it is less radioactive than natural uranium ore. There would be no need for the Yucca storage or the hazards of transporting to that location
4. There are 3200 metric tons of thorium nitrate, already processed, sitting buried in the Nevada desert. This Th can be used AS IS in a LFTR. It is enough to power 32 1 GW LFTR’s for 100 years each. In other words, the fuel is already available to start the initial phase of converting our economy to a thorium energy economy.
5. There are at least 160,000 metric tons of economically usable thorium in the US with reserves of up to 600,000 to 3 million tons.
6. The LFTR cannot runaway or meltdown like a Uranium Reactor. If you stop supplying it fuel, it will die out. Also the process operates with a pressure of 1 atmosphere. so a huge pressure vessel is not needed. Terrorists cannot steal the fuel, because it is basically molten salt, and bombs cannot be made from any part of the fuel or waste.
According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the energy produced by a LFTR would be 3 cents per KWHr, which is about a third of the cost of coal and natural gas.
The LFTR technology was first developed in the late 1960’s because of it’s vastly improved safety potential. A megawatt prototype was brought online and was working. Then the LFTR was promptly canceled by the AEC Atomic Energy Commission. Why? A clue is the Cold War and the need for bomb materials from Uranium Reactors. But that is next time on…
This was written by former MMA contributor David Williams. When posts get new comments, as did this one, they are re-marketed.